October 201612-Oct-2016 Thanks to everybody who supported Indigenous Literacy Day last month. There are more fundraising projects coming up, but perhaps you might enjoy coming to the annual ILF Trivia night at Paddo RSL on 9th November. Hosted by the fearless Richard Glover, this a fast-paced way to raise funds for our Literacy programs. Entertaining trivia (plenty of book questions!) and a fabulous range of prizes for silent auction. Come as you are, or bring your friend’s or book group and book a table. Tickets via trybooking.com.
Meanwhile, we’re moving into that season in the book world best characterised as an embarrassment of riches. Publishers typically load their lists to point at Christmas sales and summer reading, and booksellers couldn’t be happier. Odd really, given that we’re transporting a northern hemisphere phenomenon of short days and long (reading) nights into our own daylight saving outdoors world, but it works. Here’s a foretaste of a few of this month’s bumper crop new releases.
A major event in the year’s fiction calendar is the eagerly awaited follow up to Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Burial Rites, the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last person to be executed in Iceland, early in the 19th century, was an amazingly successful debut. Kent brings to The Good People the same seemingly effortless eye for historical detail and storytelling. Like its predecessor, it draws on historical fact (this time it’s 1825, in a remote valley near the Flesk river of Killarney), to fashion a story around a widow and a ‘changeling’ grandson, now in her care after the death of her daughter. The Good People blends reality and the supernatural and the power of the natural world, with thematic echoes from Burial Rites in a tale where death, privation, women’s hard lot and folklore are interwoven.
Sunday Times writer Simon Garfield is the prolific chronicler of a range of a wide-ranging, quirky topics, from the significance of fonts (Just My Type) to the relationship between man and maps (On the Map) to the invention of artificial colours (Mauve), and more. What seem subjects fit for essay length examination are turned into entertaining explorations—lively and instructive. Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time might just be his best yet. How has the sense of time in our lives moved from being measured by the movement of the sun, to the current forensic government of our lives by time. Filled with marvellous facts (did you know the OED says that time is the most used noun in the English language, or that Beethoven enthusiastically welcomed the invention of the metronome under the fond misapprehension that he could regain control over how his music was performed?), and an amazing array of stories and anecdotes, this is history to enjoy and share.
Don’t miss the new Quarterly Essay 63. Don Watson’s Enemy Within: American Politics in the Time of Trump is as eloquent as it is sharp-edged, as Watson looks at what the state of the union must be, to have an utterly unloved Clinton likely to win out of fear of the alternative. Has the American dream of exceptionalism evaporated. This QE is a splendid primer for the November election, the result of which could change the world.
I’ll out myself again, as a cricket lover, and a cricket book lover. Gideon Haigh’s Stroke of Genius: Victor Trumper and the Shot that Changed Cricket is the best cricket book I’ve read since, well, Haigh’s magnificent On Warne. Taking its cue from the most famous of cricket photographs (George Beldam’s Jumping Out, which captured Trumper in full flight in 1908), the book explores the iconography of a cricketer, and the relationship between fact and myth across, and since, Trumper’s life. More a social and sports history than a book about cricket as such, this is a bold and brilliant look at the symbiotic way in which a sportsman and the culture from which he sprung used each other.
And, of course, as though to bookend the publication early in the year of Helen Garner’s wonderful collection of short prose pieces Everywhere I Look, we have Tim Winton’s own essay collection The Boy Behind the Curtain, as fine an example of the power of imagination and commitment to truth as his writing could provide. Don’t miss it.