Things To Look Forward To 

David Gaunt has owned Gleebooks with partner Roger Mackell since 1976.

April 2018

 - Tuesday, April 03, 2018
By now everyone interested in the Sydney Writers’ Festival would be aware that the program is out. Sadly, the magic location of the Walsh Bay precinct isn’t available this (and next) year, while both Wharf 4/5 and Wharf 2/3 undergo essential infrastructure building and renovation, but I think Festival lovers will be excited and drawn to the new home, Carriageworks, the intelligently restored Heritage site between Redfern and Macdonald stations (access from Wilson St). It’s amazing how well-restored industrial space can work as atmospheric arts spaces, and SWF will do Carriageworks proud. You will all have writers you might have earmarked as must-see, but here’s a pick or two of mine (having poured over the program in preparation to work out how many books we’ll need!). I’m enormously impressed by the fiction of Jennifer Egan, and never more so than by the splendid Manhattan Beach, published last year. Don’t miss her. Or Ceridwen Dovey talking about her brilliant In the Garden of the Fugitives, the most excitingly original new Australian fiction I’ve read in a while. And, Russian born and now New York based Masha Gessen’s perspective on all things Russian and much else, shouldn’t be missed. Putin’s biographer is also the author of The Future is History. There are hundreds more writers to engage with, though of course, along with the rest of the hardworking Gleebooks team, I won’t be seeing any of them. Thank goodness for podcasts (and the ABC). Enjoy. 

Meanwhile, this month I’m reading: The Making of Martin Sparrow by Peter Cochrane (publishing in May). This is the award-winning historian Cochrane’s first full-length novel, and a labour of love worth the reader’s wait. A subtitle of ‘After the flood comes the reckoning’ is more than a hint of how elemental the atmosphere and setting of this book is. The flood is that of the Hawkesbury in 1806, and the book follows the ‘fortunes’ of  ex-convict Martin Sparrow as he attempts to survive and fashion a life of sorts in an environment both harsh and elemental. Lives of all characters are lived elementally, and Cochrane’s reconstruction of early European life in the area, his sensitive imagining of first contact and the tragic and inevitable conflict thereupon, and a wonderfully created cast of picaresque characters, make for a convincing, realistic, and rewarding read  

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward: I found this a quite devastating and compulsive to read.  It’s immensely powerful—forensic and painfully detailed in its rendition of the gutted and seemingly doomed black lives in Mississippi. Imagine a road novel where a teenage boy worries over the health of his infant sister while their mother and her friend journey in an illegal car to collect the kids’ father from notorious Parchman Prison (stopping to deliver meth amphetamine and score on the way). And that’s just part of it. I needed to read it, but found it harrowing, and I mourned for what felt like an apocalyptic future for black America as depicted here.

Someone  by Alice McDermott: Not a new book, but I recently heard McDermott interviewed about her most recent novel Ninth Hour and was pleased and touched by the quiet and measured grace and wisdom of Someone—an ordinary Irish-American working class life lived unheroically—recommended.

I’m also dipping into (more to come): Billy Griffiths’ fabulous Deep Time Dreaming (he’s also at SWF, by the way). Subtitled Uncovering Ancient Australia, this is a very significant re-assessment of Australian archaeology which will reshape our imagined history. And I’m loving my advance copy of Kate Rossmanith’s Small Wrongs (publishing in June—but she is a guest at the Writers’ Festival, and we’ll have the book there). Fascinating, well-written and wise with insight, Small Wrongs is foremost an investigation of remorse—Rossmanith has talked to criminals, lawyers and judges, trying to answer the fundamental question: how can you know whether a person is ever truly sorry?—but it’s much more than that.