SWF After Party

HMay was packed full of exciting book events, a number linked to the Sydney Writers’ Festival. My SWF week began with the evening announcement of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards at the Mitchell Library. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people and meet new authors.

The other awards evening I attended was the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA). This was a glittering event, particularly this year when we were asked to wear a splash of ruby red to celebrate the 15th awards dinner.

We were spoiled by having Casey Bennetto (creator of Keating the Musical) again as MC. He does an amazing job writing songs about those who present the awards and delivers these as mini-performances. Award presenters included international guests David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks), Michael Connolly (American writer of crime fiction and detective novels, best know for those featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch), Anthony Horowitz (Sherlock Holmes and James Bond original novels, the Alex Rider teen series, Foyle’s War and Midsummer Murders) and Helen Macdonald (H is for Hawk), who also gave the closing address of the SWF.

 

2014 Miles Franklin winner, Evie Wyld (All the Birds, Singing) also had her own song and Casey Bennetto wished that he had written one for Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief). He ad-libbed something on the spot, incorporating ‘John Cusack’ to rhyme with ‘Zusak’. Zusak presented his former editor, Celia Jellett from Omnibus Books, Scholastic, with the Pixie O’Harris Award for service to Australian children’s books.

Foreign SoilIt was lovely to meet Josephine Moon (The Tea Chest) and Maxine Beneba Clark, who won the Literary Fiction Book of the Year for Foreign Soil, and I spied legends, Sonya Hartnett (Golden Boys) and Morris Gleitzman (Loyal Creatures) at the next table.

Some other award winners were Judith Rossell, who is snapping up awards, including the Indies, for Withering-by-Sea; Tim Low for Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World (Tim was so surprised, he was dumb-struck); and Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen for Tea and Sugar Christmas. Boomerang Books was shortlisted for Online Retailer of the Year.

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Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton won ‘Book of the Year: Younger Children’ for The 52-Storey Treehouse and this also won overall ‘Book of the Year’, selected from the winners of each category. Another well-deserved scoop for children’s books.

Andy Griffiths was also a star at the SWF, signing books at the head of an enormous queue for, essentially, a whole day.

Because we are big fans of the Canadian TV series Orphan Black, we went to a screenwriters’ panel at the SWF, where Orphan Black writer, Lynne Coady, was speaking. She looks quite like the multi-role playing star of the show, Tatiana Maslany. Lynne got the conversation to a deeper level by confiding her fear of working as part of a screen-writing team. As an introvert who had been writing literary fiction alone in her basement she was worried how her voice would be heard in a group of, presumably, loud voices. Her vulnerability lit a spark in the panel’s discussion.

Waiting for the PastAnother highlight was hearing three eminent poets, David Malouf, Les Murray (Waiting for the Past) and Ben Okri read and speak about poetry. Moderator, poet/singer-songwriter Kate Fagan enhanced the session.

Another enthusiastic moderator was Davina Bell (The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade see my interview here) who chaired four YA authors in ‘Keeping it Real: Realistic Issues in Teen Fiction’. Authors included international Laurie Halse Anderson (The Impossible Knife of Memory), who intrigued the audience by knitting throughout the session, and Australian Melina Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road), to whom homage was deservedly paid.

Jellicoe Road

A Pantheon of Poets: Geoffrey Lehmann

Geoffrey LehmannA pantheon of eminent Australian poets descended onto a marquee slated on a grassy tennis court in leafy Sydney. The canapés, wine and congenial company were to celebrate the launch of esteemed poet, Geoffrey Lehmann’s new book, Poems 1957-2013 (UWA Publishing).

Geoffrey and his vivacious wife, Gail Pearson, hosted a large but attentive group of poets, family and colleagues under a rain-threatening sky. Poems was launched by John Edwards, who read the final poem in the book, ‘Why I Write Poetry’, a fitting résumé of Geoffrey’s poetic life, which he wrote for his old English master.

… Poetry is our love of metaphor.

We see one thing and think of something else.

A green wool-dress becomes the woman we love.

Poetry is non-local causality.

We are bathed in a mysterious glow.

That’s why I write poetry.

The collection includes previously published poems, some revised with original lines restored and removed. More than seventy pages of poems are new publications.

It’s always interesting to see how a poetry collection is structured. Here the sections are ‘Simple Sonnets’, ‘Earlier Poems’, ‘Nero’s Poems’, ‘Spring Forest’ and ‘Later Poems’. Ancient history is prominent, featuring poems about the Emperor Claudius, ‘Fall of a Greek City’ and ‘Colosseum’. There is also a poem for poet Les Murray, ‘The Trip to Bunyah: A Letter for Les Murray’. Aptly, Geoffrey’s first book of poetry, The Ilex Tree, was shared with Les and won the Grace Levin Prize.

Another of Geoffrey’s collaborations, and one for which he is recently known, is with Robert Gray. These two poets have edited some formidable anthologies of Australian poetry, the last published in 2011 by UNSW Press – Australian Poetry Since 1788.

Geoffrey read several poems, including the very funny, ‘Thirteen Reviews of the New Babylon Inn’, based on TripAdvisor reviews of a hotel in New York; ‘An Image’, a poem written when he was 17; ‘Water from My Face’ from ‘Spring Forest’ and ‘The World’ from the ‘Simple Sonnets’ sequence.

Frank MoorhouseA character in his own right, Geoffrey was part of the Sydney Push with Germaine Greer, Clive James, Robert Hughes and Frank Moorhouse. The Push was predominately a left-wing intellectual subculture in the mid 1900s. Geoffrey broke the mould by working for global accountancy firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Some poets at the launch were David Malouf, Robert Adamson, Martin Langford, Vivian Smith, Carol Jenkins, Jamie Grant, Judith Beveridge, Stephen Edgar, Rhyll McMaster, Robert Gray and Alan Wearne. Judith Beveridge

 

 

Review – Lexicon

WORDS ARE WEAPONS

9781444764666Any reader knows the power words can have. Words transport us. Words connect us. Words educate us. Words inspire us. Words make us laugh and cry, love and hate. Words make us remember. Words have power and influence. But in certain hands they can be weapons. Weapons that can kill. Weapons that can wipe out an entire town. Or city. Or civilisation.

This is an incredible read. It starts at breakneck speed and you have to keep up. No, you WANT to keep up. Max Barry introduces us to a shadow world. A world where a select group of people have honed the power of words. They are “Poets” and they can influence and manipulate people based on their personality type. They recruit those that have a gift with words and they are sent to study at an elite and exclusive school where they study all aspects of language and its power.

But one of these “Poets” has discovered an ancient word. A word that has destroyed different civilisations for thousands of years. The word has wiped out the town of Broken Hill. One single word and three thousand people are dead.

Nothing is alive in there
Just a word

No one escaped and no one can return, except for one man. One man who is seemingly immune to words. This makes him very special and very dangerous, only he can’t remember a thing.

There is so much to love about this book. The world Max Barry creates is intriguing, addictive and uber-clever. I found myself rationing the book because I didn’t want it to end. Barry uses the story’s structure perfectly. Sucking you in at just the right moments before spinning you around and showing you another side to the story. Even when you think you’ve got it figured out he cleverly spins you round again. Barry also combines the history and philosophy of human language with its modern-day applications to create a conspiracy theory that will blow your mind.

If you love reading, if you love the power of words, this is the book for you.

Buy the book here…