Thursday, March 31, 2011

ABR launches new online edition

The Australian Book Review is Australia's steadiest and most prestigious vehicle for the discussion of books, and in its pages is the closest thing to a national literary conversation about books. Under the editorship of Peter Rose, accomplished poet, memoirist, and novelist (his Roddy Parr is really worth checking out, for fans of biting satire and observant novels of manners with a political kick) it has achieved new heights. The only difficulty with ABR is that it has been expensive for those outside Australia to read ( I know someone from Calgary who flew across Canada to read it in the Toronto library rather than pay the subscription rate as the flight to Toronto was cheaper). I paste below part of peter:s announcement about the online edition:

ABR OE is an enhanced version of the magazine accessible to subscribers on the Net.
ABR OE can be read on any device with web-browsing capabilities, including desktop
computers, laptops, iPads, tablets and smart phones.
ABR OE in no way jeopardises the print version. Everyone at ABR is absolutely committed
to its long-term continuance. ABR OE – reaching new markets and generating useful revenue –
will only enhance the print edition.
Access to ABR OE is available by annual subscription, or by purchasing single issues
(one month access). Subscribers will have full access to digital content, including back issues,
extended information on contributors, and a planned comments section.
Individuals will pay $50 for one year
Adding ABR OE to a print subscription – $20
Access to the current issue – $8
Subscribe online from April 4:
Peter Rose
Australian Book Review
PO Box 2320, Richmond South VIC 3121
T: (03) 9429 6700 F: (03) 9429 2288

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Malouf nominated for international Booker

David Malouf is one of thirteen nominated for the Man Booker Prize International.

That the award is to be announced in Sydney implies he is the front runner. If he wins this, he would be even more for the conversation vis a vis the Noble than he already is.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Great Australian Novel: A Panorama

Jena-François Vernay, perhaps the leading French-language Australian scholar, has now published an English version of the French-language survey of the Australian novel that came out last year. The Great Australian Novel is sure to excite Australianists worldwide and provoke new disquisitions about the canonical preferences and narrative is literary history within the Australian textual sphere. It is very difficult to write narrative with any coherent through-line  in a national literature as heterogeneous as Australia's, and Vernay, at least in the French version, did a splendid job of it. The English-language version should spread this edification far wider.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Will an Australian writer win the Nobel Prize anytime soon?

First of all, let’s begin by noting that both Australia and the Nobel Prize for literature have had their profiles affected by the geopolitical changes of the past thirty years. The end of the Cold War, as Australian ambassador to Washington The Hon. Kim Beazley noted at the AAALS/ANZSANA conference dinner in Austin, has brought new visibility to Australia, which now seems more central than peripheral in a more networked and globalized world where the portability of the English language counts for more--and where Australia's position on the rim of the Indian Ocean littoral matters more geopolitically. The Nobel Prize, if anything, has become a bit less important. In the Cold War, it was watched as a signal for whether a pro-American or pro-Soviet writer would get the prize; Sweden's proclaimed neutrality made the Prize that much more of a barometer (more than the peace prize, always located in US-allied Norway). Also, many other international prizes have emerged, some, lay the Booker catering more specifically to the preferences of an Anglophone readership.

Nonetheless, no one doubts that the Nobel Prize is still tremendously important, the world' sliding award in both monetary value and prestige a writer can earn. Is it time for an Australian writer to win it? Of course, Patrick White won in 1973. That was one if not two generations ago. over and above that, though, there is a sense that the award to White is not 'enough' for Australia, that another Prize is deserved by virtue of what Australian literature has achieved. White, so definitively a modern rather than postmodern writer, sits uneasily with contemporary prize culture, The Vivisector failing to win the 'lost Booker' for 1970, awarded in 2010, even though he was the only Nobel laureate on the list. The generation after White may be said to have produced a 'new Australian' literature', at once more national and more portable than White's vision, and also a far larger audience, both within and outside Australia, is interested in 'Australian writers’ as a concept. The speculation about an Australian Nobel Prize winner that comes up every year may be read as an index both of the sense there are deserving Australian writers and that, if there is such a thing, world literary opinion would find an Australian winner congenial.

But is it Australia's turn? For those who believe Nobel Prize winners are awarded on a political or sentimental basis, Australia does not seem the most promising candidate.  From the Japanese earthquake to the Arab revolts, other places in the world have made more news than Australia--an echo of Australia’s handicap during the Cold War era, its perceived lack of "relevance." Of course, writers, not nations, win prizes, and some recent winners, such as J. M. Coetzee (now living in Australia--so in a loose sense we may have already had our second Aussie laureate!), Mario Vargas Llosa, Gao Xingjian, Herta Müller are, in different ways, transnational figures who evade a simple national definition. Of course, Australian literature has itself become more transnational--there is no possibility, for instance, of Peter Carey not getting the Prize because he lives in New York--but that a writer would win out of simple affirmation of their nation is less likely than before, especially as, once again, the Prize is not used to tell which way the wind is blowing politically the way it was during the Cold War.

There are some impediments in the way of a new Aussie winner. Canada and New Zealand, the two countries with which Australia is most compared, have obvious candidates in Margaret Atwood and Witi Ihimaera; Atwood's candidacy seems to be especially strong and I am honestly surprised she has not got it yet. Several important countries or constituencies--Israel, the Arab world, Japan, Spain--have also not had a Nobel literature laureate for over a generation. No writer who composes in the Korean, Dutch, or any of the Baltic languages has ever won the Prize. Moreover, several elderly writers long seen as candidates--Yves Bonnefoy, Philip Roth, Carlos Fuentes--may be sentimental favorites in their final years on the scene. The Nobel Prize is not an efficient prize, i. e. not everybody who deserves it gets it. Some do not for political or personal reasons, but some do not simply because the clock runs out on their candidacy--the Prize cannot be given posthumously. Such deserving writers as Jaan Kross, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Bo Carpelan, and Vizma Belševica did not win simply for this reason.

Australian writers who have been mentioned recently as Prize candidates include Peter Carey, David Malouf, Gerald Murnane, and Les Murray. Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, Shirley Hazzard, and Brian Castro also might be thought to have plausible chances. I will assess each of these candidates in the months ahead but please feel free to suggest your own possibilities by commenting below!

Friday, March 18, 2011

2011 Miles Franklin Award longlist

The 2011 Miles Franklin Award list has been announced. From the ones I have read, it seems a strong grouping.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Les Murray Reviewed in The New York Times

In today's New York Times, Les Murray's Taller When Prone is reviewed by Dwight Garner. The review also discusses Murray's memoir, Killing The Black Dog. You can read the full review here:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Antipodes 2012, CFP

The 2012 issue of Antipodes, to be printed in June of that year, will be a double issue, marking the 25th anniversary of the journal and a transition to a new, more compact format and a new emphasis on imaginative prose (whether fiction or nonfiction) and on transnational analysis. Our 2011 special issues, on Asian Australian Literature in June 2011 and Transnational Antipodeanism in December 2011, will prepare for the 2012 issue, which will be partially a general issue on any Australian or New Zealand topic, partially a special issue on the idea of “Late Style” in the Antipodes. Books like Edward W. Said's On Late Style and Nicholas Delbanco's Lastingness have proposed that the later part of an author’s career has distinctive emphases and attributes in literary terms. Essays are welcome that inquire into the later works of Antipodean authors in these terms, or contesting these terms. Are there specific aspects to careers Down Under that inflect these Northern Hemisphere paradigms? Is there a difference between literature of old age and that of old old age? Is the entire notion of late style too psychobiographical? Too organic? Is there or can there be, a connection between late style and postcolonial approaches over and above the biographical one provided by Said? Do old men and old women write differently? Do sexuality, ethnicity, financial comfort, international reception impact how age is articulated as a matter of style? Do the geological age of Australia, the relation of pre-European New Zealand to the development of Polynesian culture in the Pacific, or the different temporal claims made by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have relevance here? Any approach extending, refuting, or circumnavigating any of the above is welcome. We also welcome creative nonfiction and fiction dealing with this theme of the latter part of life and its literary consequences; fiction submissions should be sent to Jack Bennett at; creative nonfiction to Nicholas Birns as specified below. Please note that fiction and creative nonfiction are paid, whereas refereed articles are not paid.  Academic article submissions should be under 6000 words, done in MLA style and US spelling, and submitted to Nicholas Birns at, by 1 December 2011.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hazel Rowley (1952-2011)

The very gifted writer Hazel Rowley died in New York a few days ago. She is widely known for her biographies of Christina Stead and Richard Wright, and more recently completed a book on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. I met her only once, but she impressed me as someone who was intensely and completely happy. A death notice in The Australian newspaper is linked here:

Nick reports that a memorial service for Hazel Rowley will be held in New York at the Church of the Transfiguration, 1 E. 29th St. (bet. Madison and Fifth Aves.), on March 12 at 2:00.

Kim Scott Wins Commonwealth Prize

Kim Scott has won this years regional Commonwealth prize and is a candidate for the big prize to be announced later this year. It has been somewhat of a constitutive condition of the state of Australian literature that there has been on Indigenous writer with a huge profile outside Australia, with the problematic (in identity terms; I greatly admire his work) exception of Mudrooroo; Scott's becoming more prominent is not only important for his own career but for how Australian literature is perceived worldwide, just as Christos Tsiolkas's new worldwide prominence has changed ideas of who writes Australian literature.....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Patrick White manuscript

An item in the Sydney Morning Herald today announced the publication of a new Patrick White manuscript in 2012. No sense is given of the nature or date of the manuscript, but I infer it is a novella-length work from roughly the era of Three Uneasy Pieces, in other words very late work. It is always wonderful to have a new work--however flawed or problematic--from such a great writer, but particularly auspicious in that, given that the major conferences on White have been most likely already held in advance of his centenary, and that he disappointingly fid not win the 'lost' man Booker Prize for 1970, the publication of the manuscript furnishes an opportunity for White to make 'news' in 2012 and therefore for all the more attention to be drawn to the anniversary. The two scholars involved Elizabeth Webby and Margaret Harris, are longtime pillars in Australian Literary Studies; I have met Elizabeth numerous times including last year in Sydney, and she has beeb a guiding force in the ongoing journey of Antipodes and of the intellectual life of Australianists everywhere  I only met Margaret once, at our conference in Florida in 1990, but it was an important and influential meeting for me, and her work on a variety of topics--not just Australian--has beeb illuminating. So we can look forward to a well-edited and no doubt intriguing White book next year.