Our head book buyer Martin Shaw looks at new releases out this month.
A certain industry scallywag regularly opines about ‘booksniffers’ (NB: as this gentleman is somewhat of a Trojan of the digital book, there is some self-interest going on), which makes me all the more tempted to send him Julian Barnes’s little essay A Life with Books – a splendid account of what it means to live by, for, in, and with books.
The excerpt I have read was most entertaining, recounting Barnes’s lifelong foraging in the world of antiquarian bookshops, a pastime I’m rather fond of myself.
Someone who I’m sure would have grown up surrounded by books is Hermann Melville’s great great great granddaughter, Liza Klaussmann, who has now written her first novel. Of course there was never any expectation! Yet Tigers in Red Weather more than delivers – it’s one of the picks of the summer season in the US.
As Vogue puts it ‘there’s something about a story anchored in the summer months that makes deception a little juicier, desire a little sultrier, and murder just a little more wicked’. This tale of family summers at Martha’s Vineyard in the aftermath of World War II has, by all accounts, a rather unexpected and controversial ending as well.
Remaining with fiction, on the local front we have two much-heralded second and third books, from Jacinta Halloran and Josephine Rowe respectively.
Halloran follows up her acclaimed Dissection with a novel entitled Pilgrimage, which true to its title concerns the journey of a mother and her daughters to Romania in search of a miracle cure for the mother’s terminal illness. It will also be the occasion for much soul-searching for these characters around the fractures of the past, and the interplay of faith and hope in an imperfect world.
Seldom one to rave, our editor Jessica Au raves about this novel.
As for Josephine Rowe, she’s been impressing me and many others for a long time now with her adroit fictions, so it’s a delight to see her second short story collection, Tarcutta Wake, between covers and not just setting alight the literary journals.
No less a genius than Wells Tower has called them ‘potent machines of emotion, miraculous for the human vastnesses they sound by the sparest and surest of means’ – which more or less says it all.
Do look out too for the latest edition of classy US journal McSweeneys. Melbourne’s own literary main-man Chris Flynn has curated a section devoted to Aboriginal writing therein, which includes work from the likes of Tara June Winch, and a story by Tony Birch (author of course of the Miles Franklin-shortlisted Blood). ‘The best thing he’s ever written,’ attests his publisher; and when I put that to Tony, he did indeed nod in agreement!
Finally – you could be forgiven for crying about the polis these days, but books continue to provide some of the surest antidotes. Black Inc. are mischievously publishing a volume entitled Tony Speaks! The Wisdom of the Abbott, with such pearls as Tony on Christian Teaching (‘Jesus knew that there was a place for everything, and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia’).
And Chris Uhlmann of 7.30 Report fame tries his hand (with The Australian’s Steve Lewis) at a satire of the political rump in Canberra with the very entertaining The Marmalade Files. How could they fail?
Martin Shaw is Readings’ Books Division Manager.