Showing all posts tagged: literature

That time Douglas Adams unofficially signed copies of his books in Sydney, Australia

22 July 2024

If you enjoyed the novels of late British author Douglas Adams, you may enjoy this in-depth article about his later life, by Jimmy Maher.

Adams, it seems, did not restrict his particular brand of humour to the written word. A regular customer at a coffee shop I used to go to, told me about an encounter (of a sort) with Adams, in Sydney, Australia, sometime in the late 1990’s. My friend at the coffee shop once worked at a large bookshop in Sydney’s CBD.

He told of the day that Adams — who was presumably in Australia promoting his latest work — arrived at the shop unannounced, and made his way to the sci-fi section. Apparently, his most recent book, plus a selection of others, were on display in a promotional cardboard gondola, similar to what you see on this webpage.

Adams, without saying a word to anyone, pulled a pen from his pocket, and proceeded to sign random copies of his books. Before turning to leave, he scrawled his name across the top of the gondola, and walked out of the shop, again, without saying a word to anyone.

My friend told me how a huddle of bewildered bookshop staff quickly gathered at the gondola, trying to make sense of what had just happened. “Was that him?” was a phrase uttered numerous times apparently. Signed copies of Adams’ novels must have been a windfall for those who bought them…


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Australian bookseller Booktopia in voluntary administration

3 July 2024

This is sad and concerning news.

The Melbourne based bookseller had become well ensconced in the Australian literary realm, since being founded about twenty-years ago. The company, which is also listed on the ASX (though trading of shares has been suspended), had been struggling financially in recent years though.


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The Honeyeater, the new novel by Australian author Jessie Tu

1 July 2024

Cover image of The Honeyeater, the new novel by Jessie Tu.

The Honeyeater is the second novel by Sydney based Australian writer Jessie Tu, and will be in bookshops on Tuesday 2 July 2024. That’s tomorrow.

I read Tu’s 2020 debut A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing almost four years ago. It was the story of a once child prodigy musician, who wasn’t always successfully navigating life as a twenty-something adult. It often made for difficult reading. In contrast, The Honeyeater seems more like a thriller:

Young academic and emerging translator Fay takes her mother on a package tour holiday to France to celebrate her birthday. It’s a chance for the two of them to take a break from work and have a little fun, but they both find it hard to relax. Her mother seems reluctant to leave their room in the evening, and Fay is working on a difficult translation. On their last night in France, Fay receives the shattering news that her former lover has suddenly died.

Back in Sydney, Fay seeks solace from her mentor, Professor Samantha Egan-Smith, who offers her a spot at a prestigious translation conference in Taipei. But can she trust her? Does the Professor know more than she is admitting, or is Fay being paranoid? When a shocking allegation is made, Fay chooses to keep it secret. Is she protecting the Professor or exercising power over her?

Fay arrives at the conference in Taipei. Career opportunities abound, but it’s ghost month in Taiwan. Her mother had begged her not to go at that time, warning that she would be susceptible to dangers and threats. And there is almost nothing a mother won’t do to protect her child.

And coincidentally, Tuesday 2 July 2024 is also when the shortlist for Australian literary prize, the Miles Franklin, will be announced. Not that The Honeyeater will feature on that list, though who knows, it may in 2025.


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Are more first time authors struggling to get published?

18 June 2024

Kate Dwyer, writing for Esquire:

Almost everyone mentioned that debut fiction has become harder to launch. For writers, the stakes are do or die: A debut sets the bar for each of their subsequent books, so their debut advance and sales performance can follow them for the rest of their career.

It might be harder today to launch a debut novel than in past decades, but people still succeed in doing so. What sort of sales might be generated by a “successful” debut novel, is another matter though. Spoiler: probably not a whole lot, unless the title is the next Harry Potter, or has enjoyed some sort of celebrity endorsement.

Promotional channels are more fractured, and maybe the number of people who want to write a book is greater. Everyone has a book has in them, after all. It could be tools such as word processors, and access to helpful resources online, empower more to try getting published.

So what to do, to help debut authors? Encourage more people to read newer fiction? Place less emphasis on the classics? Why not? If people are reading books that are centuries old, when is there time to read contemporary work? For my part, I rarely look at anything over ten years old nowadays.

I tried though. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. Both cornerstones of Western literature, no doubt. How many novels feature a key character, having been out of the country on a prolonged absence, returning home, unexpectedly, late at night? We can thank Mansfield Park for that.

But despite my interest in these novels, I finished neither. I’m sure they’re both great books, but they’re just not for me. Ditto Vanity Fair. So contemporary fiction it is. Call me shallow and uncultured, but hopefully I’m helping a new or emerging author at the same time.


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Intermezzo by Sally Rooney, on bookshelves in September 2024

17 June 2024

Cover image of Intermezzo, the new Sally Rooney novel.

Intermezzo, the fourth novel by Irish literary fiction author Sally Rooney, will be published on 24 September 2024*. The synopsis is classic Rooney:

Aside from the fact that they are brothers, Peter and Ivan Koubek seem to have little in common.

Peter is a Dublin lawyer in his thirties — successful, competent and apparently unassailable. But in the wake of their father’s death, he’s medicating himself to sleep and struggling to manage his relationships with two very different women — his enduring first love Sylvia, and Naomi, a college student for whom life is one long joke.

Ivan is a twenty-two-year-old competitive chess player. He has always seen himself as socially awkward, a loner, the antithesis of his glib elder brother. Now, in the early weeks of his bereavement, Ivan meets Margaret, an older woman emerging from her own turbulent past, and their lives become rapidly and intensely intertwined.

For two grieving brothers and the people they love, this is a new interlude — a period of desire, despair and possibility — a chance to find out how much one life might hold inside itself without breaking.

I’ve liked all of Rooney’s novels, with Conversations with Friends, her 2017 debut, being my favourite so far. I’m yet to see the TV adaptation, but am told the book/screen crossover didn’t quite work.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find many of Rooney’s male characters not to be all that driven, certainly when it comes to the women in their lives. The men are flawed (as are all of Rooney’s characters), and that’s ok, but they just don’t seem to have much motivation.

But said women are usually the lead protagonists, so maybe Peter and Ivan, especially since they are Intermezzo’s main characters, will be less plodding, less non-committal?

* that’s 24/9/24. Obviously not a palindrome… but does the date have some sort of significance, or was it chosen solely for its, um, numerical symmetry?


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People may not read longer novels, but they do win literary awards

4 June 2024

Tangentially related to the last post. Longer novels might pose a challenge to certain readers, especially those who require apps to do the reading for them. But, longer titles are more likely to win literary awards:

Judgment and decision-making research suggests several causes of the apparent bias. One is the representativeness heuristic: longer novels resemble the tomes that constitute the foundations of the Western canon, and this similarity may subconsciously sway judges.

Winning a prize is obviously great for the author in question, but are they left wondering just how many people read their book, cover to cover? Especially those on the award judging panel


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Conquer your TBR with apps that read books in fifteen minutes

4 June 2024

Such apps don’t exactly read novels in fifteen minutes, but they scan through them, and produce relatively short summaries. Seems like cheating to me, don’t we read books to be taken along on a journey? Still, I imagine these apps have their uses.

Like, where were they when I was at high school? Especially when assigned to read Vanity Fair. With all respect to William Makepeace Thackeray. I did like the last chapter though. Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum!


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Jon Fosse wins 2023 Nobel Prize for literature

6 October 2023

Norwegian author and playwright Jon Fosse has been awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize for literature, for what judges describe as “his innovative plays and prose which give voice to the unsayable.”

Fosse’s work spans over seventy novels, poems, children’s books, essays and theatre plays, which have been translated to over fifty languages. Fosse is one of the most played contemporary playwrights on earth, having being set up on over a thousand stages worldwide. His minimalist and deeply introspective plays, with language often bordering on lyric prose and poetry, have been noted to represent a modern continuation of the dramatic tradition established by Henrik Ibsen in the 19th century. Fosses work has often been placed within the tradition of post-dramatic theatre.


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The 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize shortlists

27 September 2023

The shortlists for the 2023 ARA Historical Novel Prize were announced earlier today. The award is presented in two categories, Adult, and Children and Young Adult. The three finalists in each category are as follows:


Children and Young Adult

Presented in association with the ARA Group, the ARA Historical Novel Prize, which is awarded annually, recognises excellence in historical fiction writing by Australian and New Zealand authors. The winners of both award categories will be named on Thursday 19 October 2023.

This year’s shortlist also marks the second year in a row that Katrina Nannestad has featured on the shortlists. Nannestad went on to win the Children and Young Adult category in 2022 with her book Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief. Will it be two a row for her this year?


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Is book social cataloguing website Goodreads still relevant?

4 September 2023

Canadian author Tajja Isen, writing for The Walrus:

Gradually, things started to go off the rails. My to-read list ballooned alarmingly, not from titles I felt drawn to out of genuine desire but ones the algorithm pushed on me. The thrill of discovery, too, felt compromised: every time my feed told me a friend had added a book that I’d found first, I felt a frisson of annoyance. Have some imagination.

Amazon bought the social cataloguing website in 2013, which some book industry pundits saw as an attempt to stifle potential competition, should the then owners have decided to sell books through the site. Goodreads has remained little changed since Amazon took over.

While I have a page there, I don’t used it a whole lot at the moment. In terms of reading recommendations though, I’ve just about always obtained them from other sources, as I think my reading interests fall way outside the purview of the Goodreads’ algorithms.


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