Chinese Gold: Mo Yan’s Nobel Win

Some of the names thrown around were Haruki Murakami from Japan – author of Norwegian Wood and, most recently, 1Q84, a novel about a woman who slips into an alternate reality; Margaret Atwood or better yet Alice Munro from Canada; Syrian poet, Adonis; and Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, best known for his magnum opus, Things Fall Apart, the most widely read novel in Africa. Australia’s best bet to win the Nobel Prize in literature remains Les Murray. Widely acknowledged as one of the best poets writing in English today, his name is perennially linked to three postcolonial poets – all Nobel laureates – Derek Walcott from Saint Lucia, Seamus Heaney from Northern Ireland and the late Joseph Brodsky who hailed from the USSR. Each year America hopes, however unlikely, Bob Dylan might be their winner, but novelist Philip Roth is a more serious contender. In European eyes, contemporary American authors, it must be said, are considered too insular and unworldly to be strong contenders.

New Queensland literary award

Campbell Newman might have hoped the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards were dead, buried and cremated: the allocated prize pool of $230,000 shared across 14 categories had been scratched from his budget and any mention of the awards, including past winners since 1999, was thoroughly wiped from his website. But miraculously – or rather due to the harnessed outrage and exhaustive efforts of volunteers from Queensland’s literary and arts community – a new suite of literary awards has arisen from the ashes without a skerrick of government funding, nor the Premier’s name in the title.

End of empire: vale gore vidal

End of empire: vale gore vidal

“Style,” Gore Vidal defined, “is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” And that is precisely how Vidal – daring, bawdy, an intellectual swashbuckler – lived his life, which ended in the Hollywood Hills on the evening of 31 July 2012. Vidal knew that to write well an […]

The poetry bestseller

The poetry bestseller

At first glance the phrase ‘best-selling poetry book’ looks oxymoronic. Anyone with a vague sense of book publishing is acquainted with the orthodoxy that poetry doesn’t sell: readers don’t want to read it. Commercial publishers have used this pearl to justify curtailing or, more dramatically, cancelling their poetry lists. Booksellers have relied on it as a way of explaining away – to the few who might enquire – their thin and often uninspired poetry stock. And who can blame them? Publishers and booksellers are not in the business of charity. The poetry book, without a benefactor, is fading from popular culture. Or is it?

Study finds fiction ‘makes things happen’

“Poetry makes nothing happen”. It’s the most often quoted line of W.H. Auden’s famous elegy, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats” – it could even be the most quoted line of his career. People draw on it when they want to denigrate poetry: if one of last century’s great poets thinks poetry is more impotent than […]

Powers we pretend to understand: funder’s all that I am

Review of All that I Am by Anna Funder

“When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.” The sentence shocks with its indulgence – the bather’s husband is in the kitchen crushing limes for mojitos – as it conjures the vulnerability of naked flesh against the army of jackboots that are about to descend upon Europe. It also happens to be the first sentence of Anna Funder’s debut novel, All That I Am, which has had a busy time of late garnering literary awards and accolades. In addition to winning the Indie Book of the Year award, the Australian Book Industry Book of the Year, and the $35,000 Barbara Jefferis Award, it has been shortlisted for the $80,000 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for fiction.

XX chromosomes returned to the Miles Franklin

XX chromosomes returned to the Miles Franklin

Just because it’s the debate we had to have, didn’t mean it wasn’t going to hurt. The fracas began in 2011 when the Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin, unveiled its all-male shortlist. The gender imbalance might have gone unnoticed, if it hadn’t coincided with the latest VIDA research that revealed an alarming […]

The Vogel: what’s age got to do with it?

The Vogel: what’s age got to do with it?

Most writers will admit they’d never get anything done without the pressure of a good deadline. And for unpublished writers there’s no bigger deadline on the Australian publishing calendar than that of the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award. To be clear, the big day is not the June deadline when the call for entries closes each year, but the deadline that comes only once in a lifetime on the eve of a writer’s 35th birthday. As the clock strikes midnight on this inauspicious day, unpublished writers graduate from “young and unpublished” to officially “old and unpublished”. At least that’s the message the Vogel Award – which comes with $20,000 and a publishing contract with Allen & Unwin – delivers when it bars writers 35 and up from entering the competition.

Poetry takes down Günter Grass

Poetry takes down Günter Grass

The world of political poetry has suffered some significant losses in recent months. Václav Havel, a poet long before he was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic, died in late December 2011. Although many of Havel’s poems were whimsical “concrete” poems, a good number were pointedly critical of […]

Behind the toilet door: poetry and space

Art is not found only in the painter’s studio or in the halls of a museum, it also has its place in the store, the shop, the factory and the home. In fact, when art is reserved as the province of professional artists, a dangerous gulf develops between the fine arts and the everyday arts. […]