Sunday, October 24, 2010

Podcast here: Lisa Lang talks about 'Utopian Man,' E.W. Cole and winning the Vogel prize

Utopian Man
By Lisa Lang
Allen and Unwin, 2010

Lisa Lang won the Vogel prize for the manuscript of Utopian Man, a glorious fictionalised account of the life of E.W. Cole, a visionary who is best known today for creating the childhood stalwart Coles Funny Picture Book. In HIS day (1880s Melbourne), Cole had a bookstore that encompassed a full city block, replete with monkeys, a fernery and a tea room. With more than 1 000 000 books and white wicker chairs for reading, this was a unique and before-its-time venture in a Melbourne that was awash with gold dust.
Lang has developed Cole as a person, the reader experiences his fears, worries, manias and family joys and travesties.
Listen to Lisa talk about Cole, her writing life - and the parts she left out of the book.

Monday, October 11, 2010

When is a book not a book?

Chris Porter has a magnificent view from her house which is perched on the skirt of a mountain looking down at the beautiful Derwent River.On the day I visited her it was a bright sunlight sparkling sea kind of day with even a hint of warmth in the sun.
    Her house has big windows looking out on the view though from the moment I stepped through her door I was captivated with the sculptures she is making from books.

I'd had a serendipitous meeting over the counter at work, chatting with some regular customers who mentioned they had a sculpture made from a book. The next day they even bought it (made by Chris) in to show me, which is an especially lovely thing for customers to do- and they also put me in touch with her - which is even lovelier.
"I don't just use any old book," Chris said - and on closer inspection there is a lot more to find - language, art, drama and poetry are all there. A dictionary has made for a particularly intricate piece.
   Chris entered in to the world of book sculpture or "page or book folding" as she calls it, when she started making books from scratch. This process has evolved now - and she sources her books from op shops and charity stalls. She has also been given copies of favourite books to transform into art-as-memento for people.
A book sculpture can take anywhere from fifteen minutes right through to hours and hours and while Chris acknowledges that she is not alone in creating art from books she doesn't use a scalpel like some other practitioners of this art.

This, of course, begs the question; when is a book not a book?

There may be some people who are horrified that a book can be used for anything other than reading - but a book is a consumer product- and, sacrilegious as this may sound and with a full acknowledgment that a book CAN transform your life, there are a lot of books that end up at the rubbish tip. Take a look at the book shelves in any op shop - full of microwave cookery books and never opened school issue dictionaries - and novels that do not deserve a second reading.
When Chris starts her tricky folding and evolves these books into sculpture that are both decorative she is also recycling.
They are a perfect way for a book to finish its life - and show a lovely evolution of Chris' creativity - moving from the art and craft of making books from scratch, through to book rescue and transformation. She is also preserving a form of the book that, as we lurch in to the digital, may become a mere museum piece.

Chris can be contacted at chris.porter (at)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Podcast: Van Badham chatting about 'Burnt Snow' and witchcraft and blogging and art and digital immigrants and more

    Van Badham operates at high velocity and reveals a depth of interests in this interview - all done with a strange aplomb, considering she's been 'on the circuit' of launches and writers festivals for months now. Listen to her talk about her new novel Burnt Snow (Pan 2010),

Van also talks about some of the spaces her research in to witchcraft have taken her - and our (interviewers') propensity to assume she's a witch herself.
Proud to be taking up the mantle of speculative fiction, Van Badham, has been hithero known for her "politically corrosive" plays. She talks about her move from "hardcore radical theatre person" to writing teenage genre fiction - and how the fit is perfect.
There's a lot more in this interview - Van's highly entertaining - and here's a link to her blog

Paige Turner November

  Edging towards the end of the year and towards summer, towards Christmas and all it allows us to manifest. Good luck and good sleeps to ...