Man Booker Prize 2013: Short-list announced.

September 17, 2013 § Leave a comment


The Man Booker Prize promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year.  The prize is among the world’s most important literary awards and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and publishers.  Last Tuesday, 10 September, the field of books eligible for the prize was narrowed to a short-list of six.

As Commonwealth prize, the shortlist reflects the common wealth of many nations, many imaginations.  It registers not only a multicultural world, but its migratory visions.

The six books on the list could not be more diverse.  There are examples from novelists from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe – each with its own highly distinctive taste.  They range in size from the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries to the 104-page The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín.  The times represented stretch from the biblical Middle East (Tóibín) to contemporary Zimbabwe (NoViolet Bulawayo) by way of 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Jumpha Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace) and modern Tokyo (Ruth Ozeko).  The oldest author on the list, Jim Crace, is 67, the youngest (indeed the youngest ever shortlistee), Elanor Catton, is 28.  Colm Tóibín has written more than 15 books, The Luminaries is only Catton’s second.

The dark requiems of Tóibín and Crace; the comical philosophical acrobatics of Ozeki and Catton, and the heartfelt protests of Bulawayo and Lahiri form a marvellous list of books; perhaps the best shortlist in a decade.  The selection does what it is meant to do: advocate for new fiction in general, and these superb books in particular.  As the chair of this year’s judging panel, Robert MacFarlane, explained when announcing the shortlist: “We were drawn to novels that sought to extend the possibilities of the form… We wanted novel novels.”  And that is what they found, six books that resist generic categories and divert from formal expectations.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize 2013 is announced 15 October.

The Man Booker Prize Short-list 2013:

  • The Luminaries – Elanor Catton
  • The Testament of Mary – Colm Toibin
  • We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo
  • The Harvest – Jim Crace
  • The Lowland – Lumpha Lahiri
  • A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet, passes away in Dublin.

September 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

Seamus Heaney, with his wife Marie Devlin, at their home in Dublin.

Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s first Nobel prize-winning poet since W.B. Yeats, died aged 74 in hospital in Dublin after a short illness last week.

Great poets, supposedly, should be mad and bad: tormented, tempestuous and at least a little demented.  Seamus Heaney was none of these things. He exuded sanity, on the page and in person. He was calm, restrained, centred.  And this was not a mere matter of personality. There was more than enough madness and badness around him, in Ireland and in the world. He knew that quiet decency and careful, meticulous words posed a more profound challenge to his times than any wildness ever could. His gift, as an artist and as a public figure, was an immense, unwavering, implacable civility.

Heaney was a mesmerising performer and the initial appeal of his poetry had much to do with an apparent nostalgia for a lost world of rural simplicities. While so much poetry was veering into anarchic free expression or recondite word games, he used largely traditional forms to explore largely traditional subjects: nature, childhood, memory, love.

Of all his poems, ‘Digging’, one of his earliest, remains his best remembered:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.


Just minutes before his death on the 30th of August, Ireland’s great poet sent his wife Marie a text message that read “Noli timere” (do not be afraid).

T.S. Eliot poem hand set by Virginia Woolf fetches £4,500 at auction.

August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Waste LandA rare UK first edition of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, hand-set by Virginia Woolf– who “had difficulty with the typography” – has been bought at auction by the University of St Andrews for £4,500 after being donated to Oxfam.

Woolf put out 460 copies of the poem in 1923 through Hogarth Press, the publisher that she and her husband Leonard had created to publish her writing.

“Eliot was part of the Bloomsbury circle – he and Woolf were friends and contemporaries. Woolf had difficulty with the typography because of the way Eliot would write, the rhythm and space used in his poems, and she had a bit of trouble getting the typeface right. In the end, Eliot was quoted as saying he was very happy with it. It’s generally considered a success by Hogarth.”

She added that the “tactile nature” of the book and Woolf’s close association added to the “uniqueness” of the publication. The price fetched at auction was above the £2,000 to £3,000 expected.

Oxfam holds an annual sale of rare books; this year’s lot included first editions of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, an edition of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and a 20-volume set of the works of Joseph Conrad, one of 780 signed by the author, which “did not get as much as expected”.  Last year’s auction included a first edition of Samuel Beckett’s debut novel Murphy that went for £12,000.

John MacColl, University of St Andrews director of library services, said “handling a rare first edition with such strong literary associations takes the reader back into the world in which the poem was written. The Waste Land represented a new moment in English poetry, which this wonderful purchase helps to recreate for the reader.”

Eliot, whose work includes Four Quartets, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, received an honorary degree from St Andrews in 1953.

The T.S. Eliot estate described the auction of The Waste Land as “an almost perfect story”, one “whereby everybody wins”.

The Brisbane Writers Festival: Our program selection.

August 22, 2013 § Leave a comment


As the Brisbane Writers Festival draws nearer, consider visiting one of the many events which have caught our collective eye here at Novel Lines Bookshop:

On Whose Authority?

Melissa Lucashenko and Jacqueline Wright talk to Anita Heiss about authenticity and representation of Indigenous culture in Australian literature and whether it’s ever okay for white authors to write about black culture.
Date: Friday 6th September
Time: 2.00–3.00PM
Venue: State Library of Queensland

The Years that Made Us.

Between the wars, Australia transformed from a rural backwater to a modern nation. University of Queensland historian Martin Crotty talks with Chris Masters about early 20th Century achievements and icons that made Australia.  Presented by The Vice-Chancellor’s Office, The University of Queensland.
Date: Saturday 7th
Time: 2:30–3:30PM

The Value of Funding the Arts.

Join ABC Radio National’s Sarah Kanowski as she hosts a lively panel discussion with arts leader and producer/programmer Stephen Armstrong, academic Stuart Glover and author/editor Katrina Strickland.
Date: Friday 6th September
Time: 6.00–8.00PM
Venue: State Library of Queensland

Becoming Local.

Can we ever really belong to a community that’s not our home? How do we know when our adoptive communities have accepted us as ‘locals’? Annah Faulkner,  Catherine Titasey, Angela Savage and Jacqueline Turner discuss being a stranger in a strange land.
Date: Friday 6th September
Time: 2.00–3.00PM

The Man Who Saved a Million Lives.

When Ian Frazer invented the cervical cancer vaccine he purchased a more certain future for generations of women. Madonna King talks to Ian about his early life, his family and his quest for answers.

Presented by The University of Queensland
Date: Friday 6th September
Time: 2.00–3.00PM
Venue: State Library of Queensland


The Aussie Town.

The small town is a fixture of Australian literature and our strongly held notions of identity, culture and landscape. Karen Foxlee, Melissa Lucashenko and Rachael Treasure discuss regionalism and small communities.
Date: Thursday 5th
Time: 3:30–4:30PM
Venue: State Library of Queensland

NOTE:  This list is a brief selection of the extensive program.  For a complete program guide to the Brisbane Writers Festival, visit:

Brisbane’s Judith Wright to discuss ‘Destination’.

August 20, 2013 § Leave a comment


Jan Manton Art and Metro Arts are proud to announce Platform 2013, featuring Brisbane-based artists Judith Wright, Carl Warner, Shayle Flesser, Indonesian artist Jumaadi and Chinese artist Miao Xiaochun.

Highlights of the exhibition include Judith Wright’s installation pieces from her on-going series Destination, following her exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) at the 18th Biennale of Sydney, 2012.

Other works include Restart and Disillusion, video works by one of the most influential Chinese new media artist Miao Xiaochun, which were most recently presented at the 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2011.

Platform 2013 is a partnership between Jan Manton Art and Metro Arts as part of Metro Arts annual Exhibitions Program. Metro Arts’ Gallery allows for Jan Manton Art to showcase large, wall-based and installation pieces from leading and emerging artists .

The public is invited to engage in the artistic dialogue with featured artists on 21 August between 6.00pm-7.00pm.

Exhibition: 15 – 31 August 2013
Artist Talk/Forum: 21 August, 6 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Exhibition Tour: Thursday 22 August, 11.00 am.
Where: Metro Arts Galleries, 109 Edward St  Brisbane QLD 4000

Engage with Brisbane’s eminent writers and thinkers this September.

August 13, 2013 § Leave a comment


The Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF) has been celebrating reading, writing and ideas with the people of Queensland and showcasing Queensland writers to the world for over fifty years.

Renowned for its energy and casual intellect, the festival brings together readers, writers, innovators, and provocateurs within the cultural precinct right on the Brisbane River in the heart of the city.

Delight in the books and writers you love, and discover new ones, as you share in the conversations ranging from fiction to politics, science to sport and everything in between.  Join in fervent discussion and the ardent exchange of ideas at The Great Debate.

Highlights include:

Queensland Literary Awards Showcase (Thursday 5 September) and the Prime  Minister’s Literary Awards Showcase (Friday 6 September):

Join short-listed and award winning writers as they share their work and their journeys through the award process.

The Great Debate: Australia Needs Leaders.  Not Politicians (Saturday 7 September):

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer joins Former Senator and Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens Bob Brown, and Indigenous author and social commentator Anita Heiss, in a lively and passionate debate adjudicated by Phillip Adams.

Pen to Paper: Creative Writing for Beginners:

Unlock your creativity in this fun and practical workshop.  Join Queensland Writers Centre for this wonderful opportunity to fill your creative tool kit and unleash your inner writer.

Good Morning, Mr Sarra (Sunday 8 September):

Chris Sarra has transformed the lives of Indigenous students and communities.  He speaks with Kathleen Noonan about his early life and the experiences that galvanised his philosophy of leadership in education.


The festival will bring a page-turning experience to Brisbane from 4-8 September.

Contemporary Art from Black Australia.

July 31, 2013 § Leave a comment


The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art is currently exhibiting an exciting, wide range of indigenous art and film.

‘My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia’ is the Gallery’s largest exhibition of contemporary art by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists to date. The exhibition examines the strengths of the Gallery’s holdings and explores three central themes — presenting Indigenous views of history (My history), responding to contemporary politics and experiences (My life), and illustrating connections to place (My country).

From paintings and sculptures about ancestral epicentres to photographs and moving-image works that interrogate and challenge the established history of Australia, to installations responding to political and social situations affecting all Australians, the thread that binds these artists is their collective desire to share their experiences and tell their stories.

GOMA’s Australian Cinémathèque, in conjunction with the ‘My Country, I Still Call Australia Home’ exhibition is hosting ‘My Life As I Live It: First Peoples and Black Cinema’, an exciting survey of first peoples and black cinema from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States and United Kingdom. At the centre of this program is a history of Indigenous Australian cinema shown alongside works that resonate internationally addressing themes of identity, culture and rights.

The program takes its title from Essie Coffey’s landmark documentary about contemporary Aboriginal experience. Coffey made some of the first documentaries to be directed by an Indigenous Australian about Indigenous experience. Her works are representative of the way indigenous and black filmmakers have used film and video since the late 1970s for self-representation and self-empowerment. The program celebrates these path-breaking films and filmmakers and also offers an opportunity to discover important new voices internationally.

‘My Country, I Still Call Australia Home: Contemporary Art from Black Australia’ is exhibited 1 June – 7 October 2013

‘My Life As I Live It: First Peoples and Black Cinema’ is exhibited 1 June – 1 September 2013.

Both exhibitions are free entry for the public.

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