My 2012 Books of the Year

Just in time for Christmas shopping, my books of the  year awards!






Christopher Ricks – Dylan’s Vision of Sin



Fire Diary – Mark Tredinnick

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Christmas shopping list.

Take this to Readings or Collected Works

Richard Ford – Canada*
Gerald Murnane – A History of Books

Christopher Ricks – Dylan’s Vision of Sin*
Iain Sinclair – London Orbital
Robert Penn – It’s All about the Bike
Michael Langley – Journals
Tony Taylor – Fishing the River of Time
James Boyce – 1835
Paul Carter – Ground Truthing
Austin Kleon – Steal like an Artist
May Ward – The Comfort of Water
Geoff Nicholson – The Lost Art of Walking

Mark Tredinnick – Fire Diary (Puncher and Wattmann)
Robert Adamson – The Golden Bird
John Tranter – Starlight (UQP)
Lisa Jacobson – The Sunlit Zone (Five Islands)
Michael Sharkey – Another Fine Morning in Paradise (Five Islands)
Brook Emery – Collusion
John Tranter (ed) – Best Australian Poems 2012 (BlackInc)


You can read the full list, and past winners on my website here as well

J.D. Salinger

Sad to hear today about the death of J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye, a book that was important to me for a long time, and which I still care about a lot.  I’ve taught the book a few times to Year 11 Literature students and it seems to strike a chord with students of that age.

I re-read the book a couple of years ago. It’s aged, but I still liked it, and what it stood for. I liked this book so much that I was inspired to name my first daughter Phoebe, after the skinny, principled sister of protagonist Holden Caulfield. I like the fact that Salinger stuck to his guns and refused interviews, that he didn’t want to be a celebrity. That he didn’t participate in the fame game.  The book speaks for itself.

Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Home’

It’s always nice to be confirmed in your judgements by a committe of experts, so for that reason and more I was delighted to see that Marilynne Robinson’s Home, my own Book of the Year winner for 2008, has just won the Orange Prize for fiction.  It’s a wonderful book I say again, and some describe her as the greatest living novelist.

More here at the GUARDIAN

Great Opening Lines from Novels

Whenever I pick up a novel, or browse through one in a bookshop, or when I see someone else starting a novel I like to the ‘first sentence test’, figuring that if a writer can’t get that first sentence right the rest can only be downhill. These writers got it very right. This a list from the American Book Review of the best opening lines of novels of all time.

For the record; my favourite opening lines ever are:

48. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

78. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.  —L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)

12. You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

These are the first 20 from the American Book Review site:

1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

10. I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

11. The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. —Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

12. You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

13. Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. —Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925; trans. Breon Mitchell)

14. You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. —Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)

15. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. —Samuel Beckett, Murphy (1938)

16. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

17. Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. —James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

18. This is the saddest story I have ever heard. —Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier (1915)

19. I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational Being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost:—Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly,—I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me. —Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1759–1767)

20. Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)

You can read the full list HERE

Crime tales: Boroondara Soiree for June

This from the Boroondara City website; their literary soirees are generally well worth a look.

This month features two queens of Crime writing Vikki Petraitis and Lindy Cameron. Come along and hear gripping and compelling tales of both fact and fiction.

Vikki Petraitis has been writing true crime since the early 1990s. Her first book, The Phillip Island Murder, has been made into an episode of Sensing Murder with TV audiences of several million Australia-wide. Vikki’s third book, The Frankston Murders, about serial killer Paul Denyer, is a best-seller and has become a classic in the Australian true-crime genre. In 2007 Vikki won the Scarlet Stiletto Award – Best New Talent Prize and the John Hill Award: Australian Police Journal. Vikki’s latest book is Crime Scene Investigations – more stories from the Australian police files and she is always working on her next book.

Lindy Cameron writes both crime fact and fiction. She is the author of Redback, the first in a new espionage thriller series featuring Commander Bryn Gideon and a crack team of Australian retrieval agents. She has also published four crime novels: Golden Relic; and the Kit O’Malley PI series Blood Guilt, Bleeding Hearts and Thicker than Water. Lindy is co-author, with her sister Fin J. Ross, of the true crime book, Killer in the Family; and contributing Editor of the true crime anthologies Meaner than Fiction, and the forthcoming Outside the Law2. A national co-convenor of Sisters in Crime Australia, Lindy is also editor of the mystery fiction anthology Scarlet Stiletto the first cut.

MC, Matt Hetherington is a writer and musician based in Preston. His first collection of poetry, Surface, was published through PRECIOUS PRESS and the latest is I Think We Have (Small Change Press, Brisbane, 2007). He has translated poetry from French, Persian (with Ali Alizadeh), Spanish, and Turkish (with Hidayet Ceylan). Matt was off-line editor of “Straight from the Tank”, a film featuring over 60 poetry performances in Melbourne, culled from footage for the ‘Red Lobster’ TV show. He is also on the board of the Australian Haiku Society and a founding member of rookuTroupe, part of the team responsible for the Moving Galleries Project. Some current poetic inspirations: Antonio Porchia, Jellaladin Rumi, Paul Eluard, Emily Dickinson, Henri Michaux and Thierry Henry. Further details at:

The Boroondara Soiree also provides a platform for emerging and established writers to share their work in an encouraging and supportive ‘open mic’ session. Arrive at 7pm to register. For further information or to join our mailing list, contact Leisure and Cultural Services on 9278 4770.

Friday 13 June

Each session starts at 7.30pm with registrations for the Open Section commencing at 7pm.

Cost: Full $7.50, Concession $5.50, refreshments included.

Hawthorn Town Hall

First Floor, Mayors Room

358 Burwood Road