Congratulations to Evie Wyld : Winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2014 for All the Birds, Singing

milesfranklin

Booktopia would like to congratulate Evie Wyld for winning the 2014 Miles Franklin Literary Award with All the Birds, Singing … Congratulations!


All the Birds, Singing

by Evie Wyld

Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be. But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago, in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.

Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past. It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.

About the Author

Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop in London. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Grab a copy of All the Birds, Singing here


THE RUNNERS UP:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

by Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

About the Author

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. His novels, Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, and Wanting have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?.

Grab a copy of The Narrow Road to the Deep North here


The Night Guest

by Fiona McFarlane

One morning Ruth wakes thinking a tiger has been in her seaside house. Later that day a formidable woman called Frida arrives, looking as if she’s blown in from the sea. In fact she’s come to care for Ruth. Frida and the tiger: both are here to stay, and neither is what they seem.

Which of them can Ruth trust? And as memories of her childhood in Fiji press upon her with increasing urgency, can she even trust herself?

The Night Guest is a mesmerising novel about love, dependence, and the fear that the things you know best can become the things you’re least certain about. It introduces a writer who comes to us fully formed, working wonders with language, renewing our faith in the power of fiction to tap the mysterious workings of our minds, and keeping us spellbound.

About the Author

Fiona McFarlane was born in Sydney, and has degrees in English from Sydney University and Cambridge University, and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a Michener Fellow. Her work has been published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Southerly, the Best Australian Stories and the New Yorker, and she has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Phillips Exeter Academy and the Australia Council for the Arts. The Night Guest, her debut novel, has sold into fifteen territories around the world. She lives in Sydney.

Grab a copy of The Night Guest here


My Beautiful Enemy

by Cory Taylor

Arthur Wheeler is haunted by his infatuation with a Japanese youth he encountered in the enemy alien camp where he worked as a guard during WW2. Abandoning his wife and baby son, Arthur sets out on a doomed mission to rescue his lover from forced deportation back to Japan, a country in ruins. Thus begins the secret history of a soldier at war with his own sexuality and dangerously at odds with the racism that underpins the crumbling British Empire.

Four decades later Arthur is still obsessed with the traumatic events of his youth. He proposes a last reunion with his lost lover, in the hope of laying his ghosts to rest, but this mission too seems doomed to failure. Like Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and Snow Falling On Cedars, My Beautiful Enemy explores questions of desire and redemption against the background of a savage racial war. In this context, Arthur’s private battles against his own nature, and against the conventions of his time, can only end in heartache.

About the Author

Cory Taylor is an award-winning screenwriter who has also published short fiction and children’s books. Her first novel, Me and Mr Booker, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Pacific Region). She lives in Brisbane.

Grab a copy of My Beautiful Enemy here


Eyrie

by Tim Winton

Divorced and unemployed, he’s lost faith in everything precious to him. Holed up in a grim highrise, cultivating his newfound isolation, Keely looks down at a society from which he’s retired hurt and angry. He’s done fighting the good fight, and well past caring.

But even in his seedy flat, ducking the neighbours, he’s not safe from entanglement. All it takes is an awkward encounter in the lobby. A woman from his past, a boy the likes of which he’s never met before. Two strangers leading a life beyond his experience and into whose orbit he falls despite himself.

What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting. Inhabited by unforgettable characters, Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

About the Author

Tim Winton has published twenty-one books for adults and children, and his work has been translated into twenty-five languages. Since his first novel, An Open Swimmer, won the Australian/Vogel Award in 1981, he has won the Miles Franklin Award four times (for Shallows, Cloudstreet, Dirt Music and Breath) and twice been shortlisted for the Booker Prize (for The Riders and Dirt Music). He lives in Western Australia.

Grab a copy of Eyrie here


The Swan Book

by Alexis Wright

The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.

The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright’s previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning bestseller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.

 

About the Author

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her books include Grog War , a study of alcohol abuse in Tennant Creek , and the novels Plains of Promise , and Carpentaria , which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Victorian and Queensland Premiers’ Awards and the ALS Gold Medal, and was published in the US, UK, China, Italy, France, Spain and Poland. She is a Distinguished Fellow in the University of Western Sydney’s Writing and Society Research Centre.

Grab a copy of The Swan Book here


Runners-up from the Longlist:

The Railwayman’s Wife

by Ashley Hay

In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at a war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank McKinnon is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.

Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart. It’s a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

A story that will break your heart with hope.

About the Author

Ashley Hay is the author of four books of non-fiction – The Secret: The strange marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron, Gum: The story of eucalypts and their champions, and Herbarium and Museum with the visual artist Robyn Stacey. A former literary editor of The Bulletin, her essays and short stories have also appeared in anthologies and journals including Brothers and Sisters, The Monthly, Heat and The Griffith Review. Ashley’s first novel, The Body in the Clouds was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize ‘Best First Book’ (South-East Asia and Pacific region) and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Grab a copy of The Railwayman’s Wife here


mullumbimbyMullumbimby

by Melissa Lucashenko

When Jo Breen uses her divorce settlement to buy a neglected property in the Byron Bay hinterland, she is hoping for a tree change, and a blossoming connection to the land of her Aboriginal ancestors. What she discovers instead is sharp dissent from her teenage daughter Ellen, trouble brewing from unimpressed white neighbours, and a looming Native Title war among the local Bundjalung families. When Jo stumbles into love on one side of the Native Title divide she quickly learns that living on country is only part of the recipe for the Good Life.

Told with humour and a sharp satirical eye, Mullumbimby is a modern novel set against an ancient land.

0002041About the Author

Melissa Lucashenko is an Australian writer of mixed European and Murri (Aboriginal) heritage. She was born in Brisbane in 1967, and attended public primary and secondary schools there. Melissa received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University, graduating in 1990. She lives between Brisbane and the Bundjalung nation.

Grab a copy of Mullumbimby here


Game

by Trevor Shearston

It is 1865. For three years Ben Hall and the men riding with him have been lords of every road in mid-western New South Wales from Bathurst to Goulburn, Lambing Flat to Forbes. But with the Harbourers’ Act made law, coach escorts armed now with the new Colt revolving rifle, and mailbags more often containing cheques than banknotes, being game is no longer enough.

The road of negotiated surrender is closed. Jack Gilbert has shot dead a police sergeant at Jugiong. Constable Nelson, father of eight, lies buried at Collector, killed by John Dunn. Neither time did Ben pull the fatal trigger, but he too will hang if ever the three are taken. Harry Hall is seven. Ben has not seen the boy since his wife Biddy left to live with another man, taking Harry with her.

The need to see his son, to be in some way a father again, has grown urgent. But how much time is left before the need to give the game away and disappear becomes the greater urgency?

About the Author

Trevor Shearston is the author of Something in the Blood, Sticks That Kill, White Lies, Concertinas, A Straight Young Back and Dead Birds. He lives in Katoomba, NSW with his family.

Grab a copy of Game here


Belomor

by Nicolas Rothwell

Elegiac and seductive, Belomor is the frontier where truth and invention meet—where fragments from distant lives intermingle, and cohere. A man seeks out the father figure who shaped his picture of the past. A painter seeks redemption after the disasters of his years in northern Australia. A student of history travels into the depths of religion, the better to escape the demons in his mind. A filmmaker seeks out freedom and open space, and looks into the murk and sediment of herself.

Four chapters: four journeys through life, separate, yet interwoven as the narrative unfolds.

In this entrancing new book from one of our most original writers, we meet European dissidents from the age of postwar communism, artists in remote Australia, snake hunters, opal miners and desert magic healers. Belomor is a meditation on time, and loss: on how the most bitter recollections bring happiness, and the meaning of a secret rests in the thoughts surrounding it.

About the Author

Nicolas Rothwell is the award-winning author of Heaven and Earth, Wings of the Kite-Hawk , Another Country , The Red Highway and Journeys to the Interior . He lives in Darwin, and is the Australian’s roving northern correspondent.

Grab a copy of Belomor here


The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt

by Tracy Farr

The debut novel from a wonderful new talent.

This is the story of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie.

Lena is Music’s Most Modern Musician; the first theremin player of the twentieth century.

From the obscurity of a Perth boarding school to a glittering career on the world stage, Lena Gaunt’s life will be made and torn apart by those she gives her heart to.

About the Author

Australian-born author Tracy Farr has lived in Wellington, New Zealand since 1996. Her debut novel, The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, is published by Fremantle Press.

Grab a copy of The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt here


Jody Allen, author of Once a Month Cooking, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jody Allen

author of Once a Month Cooking

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Townsville, raised in Fremantle, and have settled in Gympie which is a small town two hours north of Brisbane.  I met my husband here on a holiday 15 years ago and never went home.  I adore being a housewife, being a mother is about a thousand times harder than I thought it would be and Facebook has been my salvation for some sanity and I’d happily call myself addicted.  My ideal day would be having the family home and cooking a Margaret Fulton apple pie from scratch before enjoying a nice glass of red on the veranda.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12 I wanted to be a children’s author, I had compiled quite a few stories then my little brother wiped my computer and I didn’t try again as I was so shattered. At 18 I wanted to be a nightclub owner (I thought it would be cool – now I couldn’t think of anything worse – I don’t even like music!). And 30 all I wanted to be was a housewife home with the kids. I’ve always had a ‘drive’ to do something; it just didn’t happen for me until my mid 30’s.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At 18 I believed that love was the most important thing in the whole world – that if you had it, everything no matter what would be okay (hopeless romantic).  Now I know that it isn’t everything, that although it is important, trust, honesty, humility and a sense of humour can be just as important.  My husband isn’t just someone I love, but my best friend too.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

To tell the truth I’m not into art at all – I don’t really ‘get it’.  If I had to say what ‘thing’ affected and influenced me, it would probably be this little $2 cookbook from the Noosa Hospital that they were selling as a fundraiser.  I was interested in cooking, but was terrible at it.  I wanted a simple cookbook with simple recipes – and these were so easy, affordable –and the money went to a good cause.  Still to this day I flick through that cookbook – it was inspiring and a real treasure.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a book?

I write the same sort of thing every day for my website, but there is something about a real book, the smell of paper. Being able to flick through paper, look at pictures.  Having something tangible that I could share with people that aren’t internet savvy.

6. Please tell us about ‘Once a Month Cooking’

Well it’s exactly as it sounds, it’s how to cook literally once a month! And to use your freezer to your advantage. I’ve learned to freeze everything now, school lunches, casseroles, pies and cakes.

I cook when I’m in the mood (or when I’ve run out of food) and fill my freezer so that in the evenings most of the work is done. So that when I want take-out, a hot lunch or a nice slice of cake when friends come by – I’m prepared for it. Having two babies in a year has taught me to be super organised – and give more time back for me.


Grab a copy of Once a Month Cooking here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your book?

I hope that people will realise that they don’t need to be great cooks to cook great meals. And that organisation and prioritising your time is a necessity for busy people, because in today’s busy world, if you don’t have time for you, you will break – eventually!

This book is about how I created more time in my busy life and I’d love to share that – because if I hadn’t of done this, I’m pretty sure I’d be sitting in a straight-jacket around now.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

Well, being a huge history buff, I’m a HUGE fan of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory. They capture the essence of the Tudor period in England – I feel like I’m right there – it takes a special writer to do that! In cookbook world, there is no one better than Margaret Fulton – she is my hero!

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I have the usual goals people have, to be financially stable, a new car would be nice, to be able to afford the things I like rather than buying just what I can afford, but I would have to say that my ultimate goal would be to study history and perhaps become a historical fiction writer. I’m rather obsessed with the Tudor period of England (and even have a Tudor Rose tattooed somewhere on my body). I own over 400 books on the subject, don’t ask me what aspect of it I could possibly write about – but I would like to have to the time to find out one day!

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Just write from the heart, and write. Do it for yourself, if someone publishes it – that’s a bonus.

Jody, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Once a Month Cooking here

The Recipe Wheel by Rosie Ramsden – The Most Original Cookbook of the Year

Cookbooks have been around for centuries, so finding an original, accessible way to present new recipes is pretty darn tough. But Rosie Ramsden has invented a whole new way of planning meals: it’s called The Recipe Wheel.

She takes one simple, core recipe – like risotto – that sits at the centre of its own recipe wheel. From there lead spokes or threads to new, more developed recipes – select your perfect dish by occasion, budget or time.

Each wheel is like a mind map, bringing flavours together and encouraging the reader to mix and match, adding to their own creativity and cooking skills. A basic roast chicken inspires dishes like chicken, mango and cashew nut curry; white bread goes into beetroot panzanella or butterbean, garlic and thyme on toast. Get creative with risotto with Barley risotto with chestnut and savoy. A simple sponge cake becomes three-tier vanilla raspberry cake, and custard is transformed into rhubarb treacle creme brulee or peach and amaretto trifle.

This innovative cookbook, from an exciting new voice in cookery, turns the idea of the traditional recipe book on its head.

Grab a copy of The Recipe Wheel here

9780091957049-6 9780091957049-5 9780091957049-4 9780091957049-3 9780091957049-2 9780091957049-1

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Writer and journalist Sian Prior, author of Shy, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Shy

by Sian Prior

Shy. It’s a shy word, a timid little word that begs to remain unnoticed. Only three letters long, and it begins with an exhortation to silence. Shhh. Reserved is different. It’s for tall men with jutting jaws. Prime ministers can appear reserved: never shy. Restrained carries itself with dignity.

Even introvert has a whiff of authority about it: these people have been tested; Myers and Briggs have awarded them an impressive three-syllable psychological label. But with shy there’s no authority, no control. It’s a blushing, hunching word; a nervous, knock-kneed, wallflower word. A word for children, not grown-ups, because surely grown-ups grow out of shyness. Don’t they? Sian Prior has maintained a career in the public eye, as a broadcaster and performer, for more than twenty years.

For far longer than that she has suffered from excruciating shyness. Eventually, after bolting from a party in a state of near-panic, she decides to investigate her condition. What is it, shyness? Where did hers come from? Why does it create such distressing turmoil beneath her assured professional front? As Sian begins to research the science of social anxiety, other factors present themselves as facets of the problem. Family, intimate friendships, self-perception and fear and longing and the consequences of love…While, in counterpoint, there is the security, the sense of belonging, she finds in the life she shares with Tom, her famous partner. Until he tells her he is leaving.

Shy: A Memoir – frank, provocative, remarkable in its clarity and beautifully written – is a book about unease: about questioning who you are and evading the answer. It is about grief, and abandonment and loss. It is about how the simple word shy belies the complex reality of what that really means.

About the Author

Sian Prior is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in the arts and popular culture, a media consultant, and a teacher at universities and writers centres. She has a second career as a musician and recording artist. Sian lives in Melbourne. Shy: A Memoir is her first book.

Grab a copy of Shy here

And the winners of the Maeve Binchy and the Stephen King Book Packs are……

The Winner of the Maeve Binchy Book Pack is:

L.Raftery, Vaucluse, NSW

PromoMaeveBinhyNewsletterbannr520170215042014

9781409151791CHESTNUT STREET
by Maeve Binchy

A delightful collection of linked stories from No.1 bestselling author Maeve Binchy – simply the best

Just round the corner from St Jarlath’s Crescent (featured in MINDING FANKIE) is Chestnut Street. Here, the lives of the residents are revealed in Maeve Binchy’s wonderful collection of stories

Bucket Maquire, the window cleaner, who must do more than he bargained for to protect his son.

Nessa Byrne, who’s aunt comes to visit from America for six weeks every summer and turns the house – and Nessa’s world – upside down.

Lilian, the generous girl with a big heart, and the fiance not everyone approves of.

Grab a copy of Chestnut Street here

maevebinchyprizepack



9781444788631 Mr Mercedes preorder newsletter banner

The Winners of the Stephen King Book Packs (Containing: The Shining. Misery, Carrie, Firestarter, Dead Zone, Bag of Bones, Needful Things, From a Buick 8, Cell and 11.22.63) are:

S. Miszkowycz, Springwood, QLD

H.Ladd, Adelaide, SA

G.Gutjahr, Bargo, NSW

E. Bruce, Blacktown, NSW

A.Teasdale, Kerang, VIC

 

mr-mercedesMR MERCEDES
by Stephen King

A retired cop and a couple of unlikely allies race against time to stop a psycho-loner intent on blowing up thousands… Stephen King is on a roll, this time with the heart-pounding suspense that he does best.

A cat-and-mouse suspense thriller featuring a retired homicide detective who’s haunted by the few cases he left open, and by one in particular – the pre-dawn slaughter of eight people among hundreds gathered in line for the opening of a jobs fair when the economy was guttering out. Without warning, a lone driver ploughed through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes. The plot is kicked into gear when Bill Hodges receives a letter in the mail, from a man claiming to be the perpetrator. He taunts Hodges with the notion that he will strike again. Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing that from happening.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. And he’s preparing to kill again. Only Hodges, with a couple of misfit friends, can apprehend the killer in this high-stakes race against time. Because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim hundreds, even thousands…

 

Grab a copy of Mr Mercedes here


Congratulations to the winners!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

And the winner of the 1000 Ultimate Series set is……

The Winner of the 1000 Ultimate Series set from the May Travel Buzz:

K.Smith, Endeavour Hills, Vic

BooktopiaBanner520170

 

lonely-planet-s-1000-ultimate-adventures1000 Ultimate Adventures

Hankering to tackle a long-distance trek, or an icy mountain peak? 1000 Ultimate Adventures brings together activities and challenges to captivate and inspire gung-ho adventurers and armchair travellers alike. From the epic to the local, on land, sea or even in mid air, the offerings here will encourage you to dream, plan and set off on your own adventure. Explore the world!

  •     Enjoy panoramic views of Cape Town after scrambling to the top of Table Mountain
  •     Pedal your way across Vietnam from the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta to the highlands
  •     Swim between continents in the Bosphorus swim, Istanbul
  •     Rumble across the dunes on a camel safari in Rajasthan
  •     Take in sublime vistas on a circuit of Mont Blanc

Grab a copy of 1000 Ultimate Adventures here

lonely-planet-1000-ultimate-sights

1000 Ultimate Sights

Where do you start? Iconic buildings, awesome canyons, weird monuments, vast animal migrations, spooky dungeons and romantic vistas are just some of the man-made marvels and natural wonders in 1000 Ultimate Sights. Make your own list, hit the road, and start exploring the world’s most breathtaking sights.

  •     Natural phenomena, including the bubbling Pitch Lake of Trinidad
  •     Architectural masterpieces, including the ground-breaking Sagrada Família in Spain
  •     Wildlife spectacles, including the Elephant Gathering of Sri Lanka
  •     Historic sights, such as the magnifi cent ruins at Volubilis, Morocco
  •     Cultural icons, including the Giant Buddha of Leshan, China

Grab a copy of 1000 Ultimate Sights here

 

lonely-planet-s-1000-ultimate-experiences-1st-edition1000 Ultimate Experiences

Want to know where the greatest markets are or the best value destinations? 1000 Ultimate Experiences brings together 1000 ideas, places and activities to inspire and entertain for travellers and lovers of life-lists alike. Get inspired and start ticking off those boxes of places you’ve always wanted to see and things you’ve always wanted to do. Who knows where you’ll end up!

  •     Sleep under the stars in a Bedouin tent in Jordan
  •     Find out the best beaches to swing a hammock
  •     Jump on board the Ghan for a trip through Australia’s remote Red Centre
  •     Spot Banksy’s art in Bristol
  •     Come on, get happy in Bhutan

Grab a copy of  1000 Ultimate Experiences here


Congratulations to the winners!
For your chance to enter a Booktopia Competition click here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Little Failure

A Memoir

by Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart‘s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer, or at least an accountant, something their distracted son was simply not cut out to do. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the term Failurchka-‘Little Failure’-which she applied to her son. With love. Mostly.

A candid and deeply poignant story of a Soviet family’s trials and tribulations, and of their escape in 1979 to the consumerist promised land of the USA, Little Failure is also an exceptionally funny account of the author’s transformation from asthmatic toddler in Leningrad to 40-something Manhattanite with a receding hairline and a memoir to write.

‘Gary Shteyngard delivers big time with Little Failure. Told with fearlessness, wisdom and the wit that you’d expect from one of America’s funniest novelists.’ Carl Hiaasen

About the Author

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972. In 2007 he was named one of Granta’s Best Young American novelists. His debut The Russian Debutante’s Handbook was widely acclaimed (and won the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction), as were his second, Absurdistan (one of the 10 Best Books of the Year in the New York Times) and Super Sad True Love Story (which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize). He writes regularly for the New Yorker.

Grab a copy of Little Failure here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Writer and activist Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Far from the Tree

by Andrew Solomon

Sometimes your child – the most familiar person of all – is radically different from you. The saying goes that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But what happens when it does?

In this seminal new study of family, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who learn to deal with their exceptional children and find profound meaning in doing so.

He introduces us to families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, Solomon documents repeated triumphs of human love and compassion to show that the shared experience of difference is what unites us.

Drawing on interviews with over three hundred families, Solomon documents ordinary people making courageous choices, whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery.
Parents and children are challenged to their limits, but often grow closer as a result; many discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become activists, celebrating the conditions they once feared.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far From The Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows how love for one’s children can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

About the Author

Andrew Solomon is a writer and activist working on politics, culture and psychology. He writes regularly for The New Yorker, Newsweek, and The Guardian. He is a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Cornell University and Special Adviser on LGBT Affairs to Yale University’s Department of Psychiatry. The Noonday Demon won the 2001 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize. His highly-acclaimed study of family, Far from the Tree won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Non-fiction, the Lukas Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, among others. He lives with his husband and son in New York and London.

Grab a copy of Far from the Tree here

Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Christina Baker Kline

author of Orphan Train, Bird in Hand and more

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Cambridge, England.  My father was a country boy from the red clay hills of Georgia, the first person in his entire family tree to go to college; improbably, he earned a PhD at Cambridge and became a British labor historian.  My mother came from a long line of educators in North Carolina. Despite their different backgrounds, my parents shared a love of literature and travel and music and social justice. We spent years going back and forth from England to the American South before finally settling in Maine, where I mostly grew up. My own post-secondary education I now see as a funhouse mirror of my childhood: I went to Yale, returned to Cambridge to do a master’s in literature, and then back to the South, to UVA, for a MFA in fiction writing.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I suppose I always wanted to be a writer.  I am terrible at many things, but I do have one skill: I’m quite a good editor, and I enjoy it. So though at twelve I imagined myself as a writer, by eighteen I more realistically (and quite happily) dreamed of becoming a book or magazine editor. Luck and happenstance led me to publish my first novel in my mid-twenties to some acclaim, thereby perpetuating the dangerous impression that writing novels was a viable profession.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I thought that my mother – thin, healthy, brimming with life — would far outlive my father, who had scarlet fever as a child that weakened his heart. The doctor told him he wouldn’t live to be forty. Well, my mother died last year at 73 of complications from an unexpected stroke, and my 76-year-old (potbellied, whiskey-drinking, red-meat-eating) father is still going strong. With a 58-year-old girlfriend, to boot. There’s a lesson in this, but I’m not sure what it is.

Christina Baker Kline

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

This is cheating a bit, but the three plays that make up Aeschylus’s OresteiaAgamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Furies – rocked my world when I read them at Cambridge. They deeply influenced the structure and tenor of my first novel, Sweet Water. “The house itself, could it take voice, might speak aloud and plain” – these words, spoken by a watchman at the beginning of the trilogy, encapsulate the themes and preoccupations of my novels: family history, secret-keeping, the search for home.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I’m a terrible singer, and despite years of piano lessons I never developed the slightest flair for music. I’m a mediocre painter, a pathetically bad actor, a ho-hum poet, a slapdash journalist.  Really, what’s left?

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

The novel I’m working on now is inspired by the iconic and haunting American painting Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth, which hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.  Christina was a real person with an incredibly interesting life and history. The strange, forbidding house in the painting is on a remote point on the coast of Maine.  I spent time there last summer.  I want to tell Christina’s story: what was she doing in that field?  What was she looking for? What did she find?

Grab a title by Christina Baker Kline here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope readers come away with some thoughts about the human experience that hadn’t occurred to them before. And this is kind of touchy-feely, but I hope they are inspired to think about their own lives and relationships.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

As the mother of three boys I admire Kate Chopin, who wrote anywhere and everywhere, with kids underfoot and dinner bubbling on the stove.  Her example inspired me to forge ahead when it would’ve been far easier not to write.

Really, I admire anyone who actually finishes a book and puts it out in the world.  It’s harder than it looks!

And oh yeah, George Eliot.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Several years ago – when my fourth novel had just come out – I was at a party with a Very Famous Writer, and while I was standing in a small group with her I realized she was thinking, “Who the hell is this person and why is she speaking to me?” I had a Scarlett O’Hara fist-shaking moment (inside; in reality I slunk away): As God is my witness, I’ll never be anonymous again! If I’m going to spend my life at my desk, goddamn it, WRITING, I want at least to be known and respected by – and in conversation with – other writers. Tragically unambitious, I know, but it’s the truth.  I’d like to be part of the cultural conversation, or at least a cultural conversation at a cocktail party.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write, write, write.  Finish a draft.  Revise.  Revise again.  Keep going even when you want to despair.  (I always think of Winnie-the-Pooh stuck in the rabbit hole: he can’t go back, so he has to go forward.  At a certain point in the process of writing a novel it feels that way to me. Every time.)  The single most important thing is to FINISH.  Many extremely talented writers I know and have taught can’t seem to finish a manuscript. At a certain point they abandon it and start over. The dream is always so much more perfect than the reality.

Christina, thank you for playing.

Grab a title by Christina Baker Kline here

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Mandy Sayer, author of The Poet’s Wife, in conversation with Caroline Baum

Grab a copy of The Poet’s Wife here

the-poet-s-wifeThe Poet’s Wife
by Mandy Sayer

In the follow-up to her bestselling memoir, Dreamtime Alice, Mandy Sayer tells the story of the ten years she and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife.

Even though we’d grown up in vastly different cultures and countries, we’d both known poverty, domestic violence and the expectation that neither one of us would ever amount to anything. That was probably what united us more than anything: our shared defiance of that prediction.

She tap-danced on street corners for people’s small change. He was an out-of-work university teacher, poet and Vietnam vet. She was white and from Australia. He was black and from the Deep South. They met on Mardi Gras, New Orleans in 1985. She was twenty-two. He was nearly forty.

They fell in love. They married. What happened next will thrill, move, perplex and enrage you. It will break your heart.

The Poet’s Wife tells the story of the ten years that Mandy Sayer and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife. During that time he became a famous poet, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the highest honour for poetry in the United States, and a university professor.

At the same time, Mandy became a writer, winning the Vogel Prize for young Australian writers for her first novel, Mood Indigo. She is now an acclaimed author and journalist and has written two award-winning memoirs, Velocity and Dreamtime Alice. The Poet’s Wife traces her life from the end of Dreamtime Alice, and again confirms Sayer’s place as one of our most lyrical and most courageous writers – memoirist like no other.

Praise for Dreamtime Alice: ‘A reminder of just how dynamic a memoir can be…spellbinding.’ – Interview

‘A joy to read…tells a story more vivid and unlikely than many modern works of fiction…Sayer tells her story colourfully, humorously and without a skerrick of self-pity…Trees would have died happy for once, if they’d known they would end up as the pages of such a special work of art.’ – The Bulletin

About the Author

Mandy Sayer won the Australian-Vogel Award in 1989 for her novel Mood Indigo. She has written five works of fiction, edited one anthology (with another due for publication later this year), and written two memoirs, Dreamtime Alice, which won the 200) National Biography Award and Velocity, which won the Age Non- Fiction Prize. She lives in Sydney.

Read Caroline Baum’s Review

Mandy Sayer’s third volume of memoir about her marriage to acclaimed black poet Yusef Komunyakaa is like a car crash – you just can’t look away. It begins with a shocking episode of violence that helps prepares the reader for the emotional rollercoaster ahead. Told with raw candour, it documents a passionate, toxic relationship in which jealousy, suspicion and dishonesty wreck the hopes of a couple who should have everything, given their love and their talents. But there is too much baggage here. Loss, mental illness, racism and poverty erode intimacy and corrode what started off as shiny.

Despite this, Sayer begins to write herself into another life. Slowly but surely as Yusef wins the Pulitzer and becomes more and more successful, she too finds her voice, gains recognition and confidence and steps away from the lies and paranoia to emerge from the wreckage strong and determined.

Grab a copy of The Poet’s Wife here

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,055 other followers

%d bloggers like this: