Tag Archives: Tim Winton

Popular Penguins

I’m a huge fan of Popular Penguins.

They’re wonderful, robust, no-nonsense little paperbacks; I like the 50s orange covers, the neat typeface (take a bow, Eric Gill), and the lack of frills and trimmings.  And at ten clams a pop, they’re a bargain.  It’s a rare visit to a bookshop that sees me resisting the urge to invest in one.

It being Penguin’s seventy-fifth anniversary this year, they’ve released a list of seventy-five new titles to join the existing one hundred and nine.  It would have been a nice round one hundred and ten, but some duffer included Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival in the first fifty without realising that Penguin didn’t own the rights to it. Continue reading


Self Flagellation

In the dark old days of Mao’s China, erring party disciples would, if they were exceptionally lucky, be made to write self-criticisms.  In these documents, the straying member of the flock would abase themselves, detail their crimes against the collective and swear to be a better and truer comrade in the future.  For all I know, this sort of thing still goes on.

In the short life of this blog, I find I have urinated copiously from the lofty internet heights on Robert Frost, Inga Clendinnen, Nick Hornby, Francis Collins, Emma Beare, Don DeLillo, Ron Rash, Madeleine St John, Andrew Porter, Bret Easton Ellis, Margaret Atwood, Norman McGreevy, Michael Leunig, Colleen McCullough, J D Salinger (the day after he died), Bryce Courtenay and Tim Winton.  Well over twenty per cent of my posts, in other words, have been more or less slavering attacks.

The tables must turn, however.  In the interests of fairness, I’m going to have a go at me.  Ladies and gentlemen, the scorpion is about to sting himself.  Let the Mao-style self-criticism begin.  I direct this not to Mao, but to George Orwell, whose Politics and the English Language is and shall always be my final guide to writing.  The idea of taking up a totalitarian epistolary notion and directing it at Orwell is grievously inappropriate, but I can’t resist. Continue reading

Porter’s Perfect Plainness

Short stories often get something of a bum rap, and collections of them are notorious for being hard to sell in significant quantities.  I suspect this has something to do with how difficult it is to define them: they’re not quite novels, but not exactly poems or essays either, inhabiting a nebulous position somewhere in between.

Howard Nemerov is typically dismissive of short fiction, though he doesn’t exactly employ typical imagery:

‘Short stories amount for the most part to parlor tricks, party favors with built-in snappers, gadgets for inducing recognitions and reversals: a small pump serves to build up the pressure, a tiny trigger releases it, there follows a puff and a flash as freedom and necessity combine; finally a celluloid doll drops from the muzzle and descends by parachute to the floor.  These things happen, but they happen to no-one in particular.’ Continue reading

Stamp of Greatness

This year’s Australia Day stamp series (part of the Australia Post Legends Award) will feature six Australian novelists whose work is judged to have ‘made a lasting impression on our national identity and character’.  Makes a nice change from sportspeople, of course, but who are these six worthies?

Well, make that three worthies, two definite unworthies and one whose work I’m not familiar enough with to judge one way or the other.

The worthies are Peter Carey, David Malouf and Thomas Keneally, Colleen McCullogh I hesitate to comment on and the two that stink to high heaven are… wait for it… Tim Winton and Bryce Courtenay. Continue reading