Helen Garner

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Review: In short, two fascinating perspectives on life

Two writers. Two excellent, contrasting, collections of short fiction both, in their way, exposing the simple truths and glorious complexities of everyday of life.

First Helen Garner, one of Australia’s most under-stated yet wise and clear-sighted writers has consistently held up an unwavering  mirror up to the country through more 13 books (including forensic studies of two highly publicised court cases), two plays and numerous magazine articles.  Stories ( Text Publishing) a collection of fiction, some of which dates back more than 20 years, has been released to coincide with her 75th birthday. It showcases her meticulous, pared back, observations on the magical and the mundane.  She has a glorious ear for the vernacular so mesmerising you can hear the conversations in your head as you read. Postcards from Surfers will resonate with anyone who has tried to bridge the gap between childhood holidays and the present. Stories is a partner to a volume of her non-fiction work.

Helen Garner, Joan London and Sophie Cunningham on shortlist for $30,000 Kibble Award

joan-london-584x850Some of the finest writing this year is showcased in the shortlist for thevan-Neerven-Ellen_author-photo-584x778 Kibble Literary Award for established authors and the Dobbie Literary Award for a debut published author, both just announced. The shortlisted authors for the Dobbie, which carries a $30,000 prize are: Sophie Cunningham for Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy (Text Publishing), Helen Garner,  This House of Grief (Text Publishing) and Joan London (left), The Golden Age (Vintage Australia). The shortlist for the Dobbie Literary Award which has a $5,000 prize are Emily Bitto The Strays (Affirm Press); Ellen van Neerven (right) for Heat and Light (University of Queensland Press) and Christine Piper After Darkness (Allen & Unwin). 

Book or Kindle? There’s no method in the madness

free-vector-person-reading-book-clip-art_110276_Person_Reading_Book_clip_art_hightWhen to Kindle and when not to Kindle, that is still the question. In a touching article in the New York Times recently, Nick Bilton wrote about how, after the death of his mother, he found he was “bound in spirit and print” to her through her love of books. “She spoke passionately about being able to smell the pages of a print book as you read, to feel the edges of a hardcover in your hands,” Bilton wrote. “And that the notes left inside by the previous reader (often my mother) could pause time.” He describes how she gathered a library of more than 3,000 books and scoffed at his embrace of the Kindle.

That was me, not all that long ago. Books were king. However, after a 

Counting the days to Sydney Writers Festival

PileofBooksAs with travel, a great deal of the pleasure of book festivals lies in the planning. Hours can be whiled away pouring over brochures or web sites, drawing up timelines and bemoaning a clash of favorites. And as the almost final decisions take place there is that delightful frisson of anticipated pleasure followed by a flurry of preparatory reading.

Sydney Writers Festival, which kicks off next week, has grown from a rather modest, largely parochial affair, to a weeklong extravaganza with such variety of offerings that have earned it an international reputation. Although there are sessions spread around the city the main venue is the Walsh Bay precinct with its awesome outlook over Sydney Harbour. There is a constellation of internationally recognised guests from Australia and

Can you actually teach someone to write or is it a question of talent?

Image 1Is creative writing a natural talent or can it be taught? Other artistic endeavours, such as painting, dance and film-making are all available at universities or colleges of further education resulting in qualifications like bachelor of fine arts or bachelor of visual arts. Aushor and teacher Tegan Bennett Daylight considers the rise of the creative writing class in an article in the books section of the current The Weekend Australian.

She says that one of the most common problems emerging from the creative writing program is a “kind of flatness; a sameness that results in what American poet Donald Hall called McPoems and McStories.” With a good teacher, she says, that’s easily tackled. “A good teacher of writing won’t congratulate (the) student on his fluency, although she rewards him with decent marks for competency with the language. A good teacher should


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