My Books of the Year for 2015

My Books of the Year are unashamedly personal lists. They aren’t based on any votes or reviews and don’t generally cohere much with mainstream lists. That’s not entirely a bad thing. My book of the year is H is for Hawk, which won my non-fiction award this year.

Non-Fiction

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Winner: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

This book divides readers; it divided me as a reader, but like very good books when you read them, they startle and surprise and send your reading spinning off into new directions. I’m not sure I like the idea of trying to tame a hawk, nor am I sure I liked the persona here and her strange studied ignorance at times, but it’s beautifully written, and justly won the Samuel Johnson Prize, among others.

Highly recommended:

The Goshawk by T.E. White, an earlier hawking book that is directly and repeatedly references in H is for Hawk, and arguably a better book.

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane. Macfarlane is one of my favourite writers in the genre my daughter derides as ‘landscape memoir’, and this again takes up his love of the landscape and the names that frame it, in a deliberate act of restoration and recovery.

Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. Finnegan’s surf memoir is anything but as limiting as that sounds. It’s a gorgeous, evocative, intimate account of growing up as a surfer and writer. It contains some of the most detailed descriptions of big wave surfing I’ve ever read and, more impressively, some of the most beautiful evocations of the power and terror of waves themselves. I listened to Finnegan read this as an audio book and I enjoyed that closeness and sense of intimacy with the writer.

Fiction

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Winner: Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon.

Mason and Dixon was by far the most startling, difficult and interesting fiction I’d read for years. It’s not new, is nearly twenty years old, in fact, but seems fresh (though I did have some strange recall moments of Peter Carey’s fabulist tomes like Oscar and Lucinda and Illywhacker.

Highly recommended:

Let me be Frank with You by Richard Ford, new stories of middle America.

Poetry

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Winner: The Moon before Rising by W.S. Merwin

This is a lovely slim volume in the tradition of slim American volumes. Merwin is 86, former Poet Laureate of the USA, and an old master. But, though he reflects on ageing and mortality, it is with a precision and sharpness and loveliness too that is as sure as ever: as in:

All at once he is no longer

young with his handful of flowers

in the bright morning their fragrance

rising from them as though they were

still on the stalk where they opened

only this morning to the light

in which somewhere unseen the thrush

goes on singing its perfect song

into the day of the flowers

and while he stands there holding them

the cool dew runs from them onto

his hand at this hour of their lives

is it the hand of the young man

who found them only this morning

 

There’s a good review from the Guardian HERE

Highly Recommended: On Bunyah by Less Murray.

Nice to come back to old man Murray again! With some of Les Murray’s marvellous work rebundled here in a slightly more autobiographical format, coupled with some evocative photos of his family and local sites, the book stands as a nice reworking of Murray in a slightly more personal context.

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This list (C) Warrick Wynne 2015

 


Barbarian Days

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As a one-time surfer, and someone still in love with the sea, I’m conscious of just how difficult it is (and laughable it can be to real surfers) to try to describe to someone else the act of surfing.

So, I’ve been pretty impressed with Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. It probably wont win my book of the year prize (teaser: full list coming soon!) but it’s just about the best thing I’ve ever read at capturing the act of surfing, and the beauty and terror of big surf.

I’ve been listening to this as an audio book (from Audible) and have been surprised at just how powerful that can be, especially perhaps, when read by the author themselves.

Highly recommended as I hone my book of the year awards! There’s a pretty good review from The Guardian HERE

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City of Stars

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I was delighted today to attend the launch, and read a poem, from a new collection called City of Stars, an ‘anthology of love poems for Frankston’ edited by Avril Bradley.

The new collection is published by Gininderra Press and features poems from Garth Madsen (the unoffical poet laureate of Frankston), Jennifer Compton, Ann Simic, Glenn Harper and others.

I was fortunate enough to have three poems included in the collection: Beginnings, The Day it Snowed in Frankston and The Wedding Train, about the train journey on the Frankston line, loosely inspired by Philip Larkin.

I read the one about the day it might have actually snowed in Frankston, inspired by a story a student named Eloise told me a long time ago.

It was good to hear some of the poems being read aloud, and to get together to celebrate a place that seems an unlikely catalyst for poetry at times. In praise of place.

You might be able to get a copy of City of Stars from local bookshops like Robinsons.

Below from left: Avril Bradley (editor) launches the collection, Jennifer Compton, Garth Madsen.

Avril Bradley Jennifer Compton Garth Madsen


Peninsula Writing – #6 – 1986

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The sixth issue of Peninsula Writing was perhaps the finest edition of them all. It was also the last. The magazine took on a theme approach for the first time, the Mahogany Ship, an almost mythical ship that had been sighted briefly half-buried in the sand dunes near Warrnambool that seemed to pre-date known European settlement.

This was the first cover that wasn’t by Gavin Duffy; a map of the Warrnambool sand dunes including the enigmatic site of wreck. Beyond that, the issue didn’t contain a lot of artwork.

The Mahogany Ship idea was an interesting choice, given that the Mahogany Ship history is located on the west coast of Victoria, a long way from the Mornington Peninsula. But the range of writing gathered together was significant.

The issue opened with Liam Davison’s fine story The Mahogany Ship, Melbourne poet Philip Martin generously allowed us to reprint his poem Dune Ship, which had just appeared in his own book, and he also wrote an interesting account of the genesis of that poem. followed by a poem by Judith Rodriguez The Mahogany Ship, Dune Ship on a Hot Day by Francis King, The Mahogany Ship by Warrick Wynne, Ship by Connie Barber, The Ship as Lover by Mary Chapman and The Mahogany Ship by Mimie F. Brown.

This was the first time in six issues that Liam Davison and myself had included our own creative writing in the magazine.

In the review sections we substituted the reviews for piece by Liam Davison: The Mahogany Ship in Australian Fiction

I think that issue five is the high point of the magazine, for the ideas and the quality of the writing and how the pieces bounce off each other, although you could argue that, for its artwork, issue four was the best.

There is no hint in this issue that it would be the last. In fact, the last page still seeks subscriptions. But it would be the final issue of this little magazine.

Below: Contents of Issue six

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Below: The Editorial for Issue six.

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Below: Poems by Francis King and Warrick Wynne

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Below: Extract from ‘The Mahogany Ship’ by Liam Davison

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Peninsula Writing – #5 – 1985

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The fifth issue of Peninsula Writing featured a photograph on the cover for the first time, a stylised looking shot of one of the Balcombe Army huts falling into disrepair already.

This issue featured stories by David Kerr, Michael Ellis and Alan Wayman and poetry by Dorothy Hall, Connie Barber, Karen Pridmore, Eileen Leeds, Bob Hammerly, Pamela Dell and Noel Bean.

In the reviews section, I reviewed Peter Murphy’s Lies, Poetry Australia No. 90, The Truth about Unicorns by Doris Brett and Celebration by Joy Beaudette Cripps. Anne Williams reviewed Beachmasters by Thea Astley.

By this stage we were able to list stockists: Robinsons Bookshop in Frankston, who sponsored the back cover, Farrells Bookshop in Mornington, Red Hill Newsagency, Jindalee Craft Store in Balnarring, The Haybasket in Somerville, Tyabb Antique Store, Merricks General Store, Flinders Craft Store, Monash University Co-Op Bookshop, Mt Erica Newsagency in Prahran and Collected Works in Fitzroy.

The issue featured more great artwork from Gavin Duffy.

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Below: The ‘Editorial* for Issue 5

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Artwork – Unknown

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Issue 4 Sold Out!

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Below: Contributors of Issue 4

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Peninsula Writing – #4 – 1985

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The fourth issue of Peninsula Writing appeared in 1985 and was the last of the illustrated covers from Gavin Duffy, an overview of a beach and perhaps Frankston Pier.

The issue featured stories by Pauline Rough, Donal Pritchard, Lynn Sunderland, Peter Murphy and grouped poems together for the first time. Poets included were Nancy Davison, Connie Barber, David Kerr, Karen Pridmore, David Turner and Shane McCauley.

In the reviews section I reviewed Geoffrey Dutton’s Snow on the Saltbush and Liam Davison reviewed James McQueen’s Uphill Runner

The issue featured artwork by Gavin Duffy and Marcus Batt.

The issue included an index of issues 1-4.

Below: Contents of Issue 4

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Poem by David Turner, Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt, Story opening by Donald Pritchard

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt, Review by Warrick Wynne

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt

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Below: An index of Issues 1-4

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Peninsula Writing – #3 – 1984

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Issue 3 of Peninsula Writing featured another Mornington Peninsula icon, the McCrae Lighthouse on the cover, again by Gavin Duffy.

The issue featured writing from Roberts Dunstan, John Lewis, Phillip Edmonds, Shane Doheny, Ken Bradshaw, Jonathan Krause, Fiona Capp and Gwenda Healy.

In the reviews section Liam Davison reviewed The State of the Art The Mood of Contemporary Australia in Short Stories, Anne Williams reviewed The Tournament by Georgia Savage and I reviewed White Stag of Exile by Thomas Shapcott.

I feel that by this issue we were starting to get the hang of what the magazine should look like, and be. Neither Liam or I had published any of our creative writing in the magazine at this stage; we were both keen to try and establish it as a viable entity in its own right, not a vehicle for our own work.

Below: Contents of Issue 3

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Below: Artwork by Susanna. Review by Liam Davison

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Below: Fish and Chips story by Jonathan Krause. Artwork by Gavin Duffy. 

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Below: Artwork: Unknown

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy, Story ‘A Different Monday’ by Roberts Dunstan

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