Book Review: John McPhee’s Draft No. 4 is all right for some, but not for everyone

Truthfully, I had no idea who John McPhee was when I picked up this book. I knew only a few things about the book at all- that it was about writing, that it was published by Text (a fabulous Australian publisher whom I trust with my reading material), and that it had a glowing quote by Helen Garner on the front of it. I went into Draft No. 4 expecting a certain type of book on writing: one which, while tailored to the individual writer’s style, would elucidate me on matters of choosing what to write about, editing my work, dealing with editors etc. What I got was something entirely different.... Read More | Share it now!

Interview: Jessie Burton on bringing her beloved novel to the small screen in The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist became a worldwide bestseller upon its release in 2014. It tells the story of 18 year old Nella Oortman, who comes to Amsterdam as the wife of Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant in the employ of the Dutch East India Company. But as Johannes seems increasingly disinterested in being a husband, and his sister Marin rules the household along strict Christian guidelines, Nella finds herself alone and adrift in a world where appearances mean everything. When she writes to a mysterious Miniaturist to commission pieces for her wedding gift- an extravagant model of her home in miniature, the only household she seems to have any control of- she embroils herself in a haunting mystery.... Read More | Share it now!

Book Review: Fresh Complaint is a highly anticipated collection that leaves a lot to be desired

Jeffrey Eugenides, best known for his novels The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, has earned a reputation as somewhat of a heavyweight in American literature. His last book was The Marriage Plot, published in 2011, a novel which followed three college students during the year 1982. Many parts of that novel were loosely based on the author’s own college experiences, in particular those portions relating to the character Mitchell. This is interesting to note, as in the new collection Fresh Complaint, published this year by Fourth Estate, Mitchell makes a brief appearance as the protagonist in a short story called ‘Air Mail.’ He is resting on a remote island somewhere in Asia, in the middle of his years of wandering, suffering from severe bouts of dysentery. His parents are worried about him, but he believes that he is about to reach enlightenment. Later, believing himself to be fully recovered, he feasts on his first solid meal in weeks, only to find himself needing the toilet urgently later on when he is swimming. I tell you this ending only because it sheds a different light on the cover of the Australian hardback edition of the book, which features a man floating in the ocean…... Read More | Share it now!

Book Review: Best Australian Stories 2017 brings together a mix of the new and the familiar

Each year, Black Inc bring out three volumes which wrap up a selection of the year’s best Australian stories, poems and essays. These collections have been edited by various authors over the years, among them Robert Drewe, Geordie Williamson, Cate Kennedy, Amanda Lohrey, and, most recently, Charlotte Wood.  The 2017 collection of short stories was edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke, whose own short story collection Foreign Soil was a notable book of 2014.... Read More | Share it now!

Book Review: Writers on Writers presents a series of short love letters to Australian Literature

Black Inc’s Writers on Writers series was launched in October 2017 with the publication of its first two books, Alice Pung on John Marsden and Erik Jensen on Kate Jennings. The tag line for the series reads ‘Twelve Acclaimed Writers. Six Memorable Encounters.’ This sums up the idea behind the series incredibly well, which will include such forthcoming volumes as Christos Tsiolkas on Patrick White, as well as three other as yet unannounced volumes. Each book contains a personal essay by a well-known Australian writer in which they talk about a stalwart figure of Australian literature who has influenced their life and career. ... Read More | Share it now!

Book Review: Claire Aman’s Bird Country is a debut collection with considerable weight

It is rare these days that a complete collection of short stories can sustain a sense of breathless wonder throughout each and every piece included in its pages. In a modern age of mobile phones and social media, short stories present us with an interesting challenge. While they are short enough to cater to our decreasing attention spans, they require us to surrender ourselves completely, and trust in the author’s ability to take us to a place of deep connection with a human moment. They ask us to work at deciphering meaning, to play with language and form, to oftentimes forgo the traditional patterns of narrative. Short stories- good short stories- ask that the reader engage with them on multiple levels. And because of the extra work that is required to appreciate them, all too frequently, the anthology is a genre that gets overlooked. But in the Australian short story scene, exciting things are happening, and I believe that Claire Aman’s debut collection Bird Country is one of them.... Read More | Share it now!

Book Review: Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash is a standout title, but falls flat

There’s something very appealing about translated fiction these days.  Whether it’s because more amazing novels from other languages are being translated than ever before, or whether the quality of those translations is better than it is ever has been is something an expert would need to weigh in on.  I can only comment on my reading experience as an avid reader.... Read More | Share it now!

Book Review: Pulse Points by Jennifer Down is an exploration of heartbreak in all its forms

Jennifer Down‘s book of short stories, Pulse Points, opens with a story about two men who are driving home from visiting one of their fathers at a retirement home, when they discover an injured person lying in the middle of the road. It is a shocking moment, which leaves both men reeling, and yet, the story is not about whether or not the person in the middle of the road is going to be all right or not. It’s about people, and the way that we respond to crisis, whether that crisis be the aging of our parents, or the breakdown of a relationship, or the choices people make daily about whether or not to do the right thing. These are the pulse points, the small moments that add up, and shine a light on who we are as people, and these are the threads that hold this collection together.... Read More | Share it now!

Book Review: Whipbird by Robert Drewe is a familiar tale told in a novel way

A new novel from Australian author Robert Drewe is something to celebrate.  After all, this is the man who brought us The Shark Net, The Drowner, and The Bodysurfers.  This July saw the release of Whipbird, Drewe’s first novel since 2005’s Grace, though he certainly hasn’t been silent since then. A regular columnist in the Weekend West, and a prolific author of fiction, short stories and essays, it’s hard to believe that this Australian literary legend has never won a Miles Franklin award.... Read More | Share it now!