News from the Editor's desk - October 2015

Environmental times

For the second year in a row, generous support from the Bjarne K. Dahl Trust has enabled us to devote much space to environmental subjects. The highlight is a long article by award-winning author Ashley Hay, the second ABR Dahl Trust Fellow. We also survey key scientists and environmentalists about the need for action.

To celebrate this issue, ABR and the Dahl Trust will host a launch party at the latter’s new home within the splendid Royal Society of Victoria. This is at 6 pm on Wednesday, 7 October. Ashley Hay will read from and discuss her Fellowship article. Jo Daniell, our photo essayist, will exhibit some of his superb photographs. Everyone is most welcome. We will be serving billy tea, of a kind.

Ashley Hay smallerAshley Hay

Jolley Prize

Rob Magnuson SmithRob Magnuson Smith

Who said a non-Australian would never win one of ABR’s three literary prizes! (No names, no pack drill.) Following the recent shortlisting of Paul Kane (USA) and Faith Oxenbridge (New Zealand), we have a British-American winner of this year’s ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize – Rob Magnuson Smith. He even flew to the Brisbane Writers Festival to find out if he had won (only the judges knew; they wouldn’t even confide in trusty Advances).

Michelle CahillMichelle Cahill

After short readings from all three authors (Michelle Cahill and Harriet McKnight rounded out the shortlist), Steven Carroll named Rob Magnuson Smith as the overall winner for his story ‘The Elector of Nossnearly’ (which appeared in our September issue with the other stories). He received $5,000. Our winner told Advances: ‘I am thrilled to be this year’s winner of the Jolley Prize. This important prize encourages all international writers of fiction who want their work to be judged as it should be – on its own merits and strictly anonymously. I am very grateful to Australian Book Review, Ian Dickson, and the judges.’

The point about anonymity is well made. Each year, some people seem to forget that all our judges remain happily unaware of the authorship until the judging has been completed. The Jolley will be back next year, bigger than ever. Meanwhile, the Porter Prize and Calibre Prize are open – lucrative, prestigious, international, and perfectly anonymous. They close on 1 December and 18 January respectively.

Harriet McKnight Harriet McKnight

Arts Update galore

ABR’s ambitions for its burgeoning arts coverage have just received a major boost with a grant from The Ian Potter Foundation. This substantial three-year grant will enable us to increase the number and range of arts reviews around Australia and to increase payments to arts correspondents. Arts Update – a free online repository of lengthy, timely, edited reviews – represents a major extension of ABR’s publishing. Already the response from readers, artists, and arts journalists has been warm. With this generous grant from The Ian Potter Foundation, Arts Update will be transformed. Truly, it’s ‘nothing but blue skies from now on.

A goose in a dress

When Harper’s Magazine meets The Spectator it makes for a hilarious, if slightly weird, blancmange. Australians saving up their US$798.06 for dinner for two at the vaunted Per Se restaurant might want to reconsider after reading Spectator food critic Tanya Gold’s eviscerating review of four famous New York restaurants, published in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine. Here is an amuse bouche: ‘If the restaurant is a cult, what then is the diner? A goose in a dress, of course, a hostage to be force-fed a nine-course tasting menu … [G]enerally the food is so overtended and overdressed I am amazed it has not developed the ability to scream in your face, walk off by itself, and sulk in its room … [Per Se] is such a preposterous restaurant, I wonder if a whole civilization has gone mad and it has been sent as an omen to tell us of the end of the world – not in word, as is usual, but in salad.’

Michael Fullilove to deliver the ABC 2015 Boyer Lectures

Michael FulliloveMichael Fullilove

The 2015 Boyer Lectures will be delivered by Michael Fullilove, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and a past contributor to ABR. The title of the series is 'A Larger Australia'. Dr Fullilove will deliver the first lecture – ‘Present at the Destruction’ – at Peking University.

2015 Melbourne Prize for Literature

The finalists for the 2015 Melbourne Prize for Literature (worth $60,000) have been announced: Steven Carroll, Brenda Niall, Christos Tsiolkas, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Alexis Wright. ‘The finalists in this year’s Melbourne Prize for Literature and Awards are a testament to Melbourne and Victoria’s literary capacity, creativity and our reputation as a vibrant literary centre,’ said Simon Warrender, the executive director of the Melbourne Prize Trust.

This year’s winner will be announced at a special event on 11 November at which the winners of the $30,000 Best Writing Award and the new $20,000 Writer Prize will also be revealed. Voting is now open for the $6,000 Civic Choice Award. Visit their website to find out more about the finalists and to cast your vote.

The underrated blues

Ivor Indyk – not alone in this respect – thinks we have a surfeit of prizes in this country. Now we even have one for the year’s most overlooked book – not perhaps an award every author craves. Shortlisted for this year’s Most Underrated Book Award are Isabelle of the Moon and Stars by S.A. Jones (UWA Publishing), The Grapple Annual Number 1, edited by Duncan Felton (Grapple Publishing), and Funemployed: Life as an Artist in Australia by Justin Heazlewood (Affirm Press).

The winner will be announced at an event at the Wheeler Centre on 20 November as part of the Small Press Network’s Independent Publishing Conference. Last year’s winner, Jane Rawson, has shifted her focus from fiction to surviving climate change for her new book, The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change (written with James Whitmore). Ruth A. Morgan reviews it here.

Stagefright

Joan Acocella – always one of the best reasons to read the New Yorker – has a fascinating article in the August 3 edition. ‘I Can’t Go On!’ concerns the long, perverse history of stagefright. We all know about Laurence Olivier, but some of Acocella’s other examples are surprising. Thomas Jefferson, one sufferer, gave only two speeches as president – his two inaugural orations. Cicero, greatest of orators, once said, ‘I turn pale at the outset of a speech and quake in every limb.’ Pablo Casals, peerless cellist, went hiking in 1901 and a big rock crushed several of his fingers. His first thought was, ‘Thank God! I’ll never have to play the cello again!’ The twenty-four-old Casals had played for Queen Victoria. Sixty years later he performed for the Kennedys in the White House.

Post-haste?

Australian Book Review is concerned about deteriorating Australia Post delivery standards. We want you to receive your copy of ABR by the first day of the month, or earlier. ABR now sends magazines to interstate subscribers by ordinary mail (not the more economical Print Post, as in the past), and we will make this switch for Victorian subscribers with the October issue. Even so, some subscribers are having to wait a week or more for their magazines. Please help us to monitor this worrying trend by notifying us by email, post, or phone as to when your copy arrives. The best way is a quick email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Armed with this information we will do what we can to expedite delivery. Meanwhile, while you wait for your copy of each new ABR, consult ABR Online until the magazine arrives (print subscribers can access the digital issue gratis). Australia Post has advised us that delays in postal delivery should be reported to local post offices or other Australia Post complaints channels. If you have time to do this, it will help our collective cause. Each month on our imprint page, we note the date on which the magazine was delivered to Australia Post. Thanks for your patience as we try to resolve these frustrating postal delays.

Deborah Cass Writing Prize

The family and friends of lawyer and writer Deborah Cass have set up an annual writing prize with Writers Victoria. The prize awards $3000 plus a mentorship program to an unpublished writer from a migrant background. Christos Tsolkias, Alice Pung, and Tony Ayres will judge the first prize. Deadline for entries is October 19. For details, visit the Writers Victoria website.

Published in October 2015, no. 375

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