While working in the London advertising world in the late 1960s, Peter Carey sent his stories to a leading New York literary magazine, Evergreen Review, only to be unimpressed by another rejection. He brooded later: there was ‘something glorious and futile in attempting to make Australian literature when, as everybody in London knew, [it] did not exist’. In Australian Books and Authors in the American Marketplace 1840s–1940s, David Carter and Roger Osborne show that the metropolitan triangle of Melbourne/Sydney–London–New York had been a publishing circuit for at least a century before Carey’s transatlantic, or, as it is appositely termed here, ‘transnodal’, misadventure. The book’s prosaic title predicts its consistently empirical approach and macroscopic canvas of the production, circulation, and afterlives of Australian literary commodity in the United States.

Literary markets are capricious beasts, with complex set of behaviours and mutations of their own. Add to that competing international trade rules and domestic tax laws, and what you get is a history as messy as any. There is no upward master narrative here either; ‘no evolutionary pattern’ of Australian books or authors crystallises over the period under discussion. The nine chapters cohere roughly around the productive notion of ‘genre networks’ to explore the intersections of authorial practice, editorial and promotional mechanisms, and consumer culture. In most cases, this was modulated through transactions between British ‘traditional markets’ (Great Britain, its colonies and dominions including Australia) and the US territory (the Americas and the Philippines). In the absence of a formal copyright system, the legal framework got off to a patchy start. As the only regulatory measure against literary piracy, ‘trade courtesy’ allowed the first US publisher that printed a book to gain exclusive rights to the title or to lay claim to the respective author’s subsequent works. Harper, for instance, released Marcus Clarke’s His Natural Life in 1876 after heavily bowdlerising the London-based Bentley & Sons’ three-volume version, unbeknown to the author. Upon receiving a flat fee of £15 from the United States, Clarke jibbed, ‘I suppose it represents something in dollars – Harper’s conscience, perhaps!’


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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Keyvan Allahyari reviews Australian Books and Authors in the American Marketplace 1840s–1940s by David Carter and Roger Osborne
  • Contents Category History
  • Custom Highlight Text

    While working in the London advertising world in the late 1960s, Peter Carey sent his stories to a leading New York literary magazine, Evergreen Review, only to be unimpressed by another rejection ...

  • Book Title Australian Books and Authors in the American Marketplace 1840s–1940s
  • Book Author David Carter and Roger Osborne
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Sydney University Press, $50 pb, 366 pp, 9781743325797

That Patrick White is thought of as an Australian writer is, though regrettable, undeniable. Two problems follow: the first being that he tends to be presented by his critical custodians in an almost comically restricted way, as though White’s works needed to be measured and justified only by Australian standards and terms of comparison. Here is an example from one of the essays in Remembering Patrick White, Lyn McCredden’s ‘Voss: Earthed and Transformative Sacredness’: ‘This essay argues ... that White’s establishing of the relationship of Laura and Voss is as an idiosyncratic invocation of mystical marriage’, at which point a footnote tells us that the ‘metaphor of mystical marriage’ is an ancient one, and refers us to some elementary sources such as The New Catholic Encyclopedia, while oddly omitting to mention St Francis, whose marriage to Lady Poverty is clearly a model, and a familiar one, before continuing the sentence: ‘and that the novel is most fully understood as a mystical and human meditation on possible forms of identity forged and embodied on this continent.’

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Charles Lock reviews 'Patrick White within the Western Literary Tradition' by John Beston and 'Remembering Patrick White' edited by Elizabeth McMahon and Brigitta Olubas
  • Contents Category Features
  • Custom Highlight Text

    That Patrick White is thought of as an Australian writer is, though regrettable, undeniable. Two problems follow: the first being that he tends to be presented by his critical custodians in an almost comically restricted way, as though White’s works needed to be measured and justified only by Australian standards and terms of comparison ...

  • Book Title Patrick White within the Western Literary Tradition
  • Book Author John Beston
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Sydney University Press, $40 pb, 394 pp, 9781920899370
  • Book Subtitle 2 Contemporary Critical Essays
  • Book Title 2 Remembering Patrick White
  • Book Author 2 Elizabeth McMahon and Brigitta Olubas
  • Biblio 2 Rodopi, €47 hb, 235 pp, 9789042028494
  • Author Type 2 Editor