Saturday, October 17, 2009


Yesterday I spent a few delightful moments in a studio at the ABC chatting with Christopher Lawrence on his Friday afternoon show, Retro Lounge. We chatted a bit about books, a bit about reading - he's reading an autobiography of the Italian painter Cellini - which he re-reads every year as a Spring ritual - energising and inspiring. We talked about what I'm reading - 'Cats Cradle' by Vonnegut and '2666' by the divine but dead Bolano - and he's going to pop in to my book show one Tuesday soon.

The song I picked (having the choice of three decades of music - 1930s, 1940s and 1950s) was 'Papa Loves Mambo' by Perry Como. I picked this particular song as it highlights how we change and grow.

Circa 1989 my cousin and I were overcome with laughter - teenage hysterics - rolling around on the cigarette stinking carpet of my grandfather's house - laughing at the terrible 'grandparentness' of Mr P Como. The music, at that point, was the zenith of dag.

Over the years I have come to love Latin, love Dean Martin's menefreghista - ness (menefreghista "one-who-does-not-give-a-fuck"), love Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, love how Latin infiltrated through the fruity Carmen Miranda, and finally come to appreciate how Perry Como fits. It's not so funny to listen to though I am still smiling as I type - remembering the exhuberance with which we laughed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Changes to Australia Council's funding in the world of literature

Last night I chatted with Chris Gallagher, the director of the Tasmanian Writers Centre (TWC), about the centre, how it came to exist, how it works, what it does, what she does. This was on my weekly Book Show, on Edge Radio 99.3fm - or streamable
TWC was created in 1998 - a natural progression for what was already a strong and organised literary community. In fact, Tasmania has a serious concentration of writers and others involved in the literary arts. Is this blood soaked and beautiful state truly a muse? The centre offers writers residencies, workshops, seminars, resources, a library amongst other services.
Chris also talked about the changes that are happening to the way the Australia Council funds the art of literature and in particular, writers' centres, around the country - and what these changes mean, in particular for the Tasmanian Writers' Centre.
The Australia Council is the peak funding body for arts in Australia and has, for the last few years, been reviewing the way it provides grants to artists and arts bodies. When the council hit literature they suggested the 'centralisation' of state based Writers' Centres - which would have, most probably, seen the erosion of TWC.
There were other options that TWC explored and Chris expressed the outcome and new direction in a very positive manner. The centre remains, though not in its current form. It will, Chris hopes, become a national centre of 'Environmental Writing' - a genre more popularly known as Nature Writing.
Chris conveyed the change with a great deal of positivity and Nature Writing is a good thing (I am reading Mary Oliver's poems at the moment - so of course it is a good thing - ) - What this means for writers in other genres remains to be seen.

The Writers Centre has some great events coming up - the launch of 'Motherlode: Australian Women's Poetry 1989: 2008' at Fullers Bookshop, 131 Collins St, Hobart at 2.30 pm on Saturday 26th and on Tuesday 13th of October at the Lark Distillery in Hobart, Perth based author Amanda Curtain will be chatting with Tasmanian author Peter Kay and myself. This event will begin at 6pm and more information is available on the TWC website below.

Tasmania has an abundance of quality writers creating work to be read, savoured, admired. All power to TWC.

or further information:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Preparatory reading,25197,25788938-5001986,00.html

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


In 1964 Indonesia was a riot. The country was experiencing a vast surge of upheaval. The charismatic leader and great orator, Sukarno, in a three hour speech called his people to action with the expression 'the year of living dangerously'.

This is the political climate in which Malaysian writer, Tash Aw's new novel is set. Adam and Johan are two orphans, adopted separately and into very different lifestyles. Johan, the elder of the two is taken away from Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, while Adam is adopted to the small island of Perdo, by a Dutch artist who feels himself to be more Indo than the Indos. The themes of home, cultural and personal identity are unravelled as the characters are revealed.

Adam's adopted father is arrested, falsely acused of being part of a commie plot, Adam travels across archipelagos of hundreds of islands and through thousands of people to (improbably) find an Margaret, an American anthropologist in Jakarta, knowing only her name. She then helps Adam search for his arrested father - and the story is plumped out with meetings with Sukarno, riots, violent demonstrations, discussions of love and aging (oh and more - but not for this snippet of review).

All in all, Tash Aw is a skilled writer - skilled with creating characters, skilled with conveying a knowledge of human emotions - he is a young writer - under forty with great insight into the machinations of many demographics - most effectively conveyed through the voice of Margaret.

This novel is character driven and good. It has plenty of action - I'd even recommend it to the Wilbur Smith wielding types -

Not life changing, though pleasant enough and a great priviledge to receive the insight into Indo politics of the day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eucalyptus and Pages

Eucalyptus oil is fantastic for cleaning grime off books.

The Pages is the new novel by Murray Bail - just out in paperback - it follows two very Sydney women, one a psychoanalyst, the other a lecturer/protector of philosophy into the NSW outback to a farm, where the brother of the farmer, recently deceased, has left his life's philosophical musings on paper. I know, because my colleague told me, that the reader learns nothing of this philosophy - and so far in to this read I hear ruminations about North and South, Antipodes and Europe, thought and action, city and country. I read Bail's crafted prose and marvel at the placing of commas and his use of the short - quip like - sentence. It makes my toes curl (so far)

Hope and power

Tonight I broadcast the interview with Alan Clements - ( - The Book Show) - he is incredible. The Burmese people, 50 000 imprisoned souls, are beautiful. Aung San Suu Kyi is humourous, intelligent and hopeful. If you ware in Burma and you heard the interview - (about the current situation in Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi's farcical trial) - and you were found out - you would be imprisoned, most likely with no trial and possibly tortured.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

and for July 7 show....

I found Chris Andrews on the front of a Bolano novel - he is the translator of a lot of his works - as well as a poet and a literary theorist. In this conversation Chris talks about the vicissitudes and poetry of translation, secret French literary cults, Bolano and what is new and exciting in Latin American literature.

some shows soon:

Alan Clements was the first American monk in Burma in the late seventies, expelled from the country in the 80s he continued to visit and began to document the human rights travesty that is occuring in Burma.

In 1992 he approached Aun San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has been under house arrest on and off for nearly two decades about working together to make a book.

Aun San Suu Kyi, with her voice of clarity and hope - is currently enduring a farcical trial, following the unsoliticed visit of an American citizen - who swam across the lake that her house backs on to. She is being charged with breaching the conditions of her house arrest.

It is most likely she will be imprisioned - she is currently being held at the Insein prison in Rangoon. Insein is pronounced insane.

The Voice of Hope - the conversations that Clements had with Suu Kyi - is an inspirational book - Suu Kyi and incredible person and this is a great and Clements is informed and articulate.

This interview has international relevance and is incredibly topical.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Burma and dead Chile

On Tuesday I'll be interviewing Alan Clements, co author - with Aun San Suu Kyi - of The Voice of Hope and Chris Andrews, who is a translator of Roberto Bolano (missing a squirl over the n of his family name) - these interviews will be played over the next few weeks. I'll also be playing an interview with James Boyce, author of Van Diemens Land and winner of the 2009 Tasmanian Book Prize. This is an interview that my personal assistant, Rachel, did with James following the publication of Van Diemens Land early last year.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I have finished reading The Savage Detectives, by Bolano (missing the all important en-yeh symbol above the N). He is my favourite dead Chilean. It is wonderous that, feeling there was no narrative, I was able to dive in madly - only to have the final third of the book pull me back into time and space. It IS a detective story. It is a true and harsh observation of humanity and it is a squalid, foetid beautiful genre smashing read.

Paige Turner November

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