Great Opening Lines in Literature

“They say you can tell a lot about a book by its first line.”
- Andrew Cattanach, This Blog Post


“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.”
– Albert Camus, The Stranger


“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”
– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”
– Jane Austen, Emma


“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


“Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.”
– Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin


“It was a pleasure to burn.”
– Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


“Who’s there?”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet


“I have just returned from a visit to my landlord–the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.”
– Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights


“Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?'”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


“The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight.”
– Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey


“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.”
– Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Inferno


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


“James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami Airport and thought about life and death.”
– Ian Fleming, Goldfinger


“When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.”
– Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd


“It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”
– Joseph Heller, Catch-22


“A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”
– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
– Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis


“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.”
– George Orwell, 1984


“On they went, singing ‘Eternal Memory’, and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.”
– Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago


“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


“I began this disorderly and almost endless collection of scattered thoughts and observations in order to gratify a good mother who knows how to think.”
– Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile


“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”
– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


“The year 1866 was signalized by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and inexplicable phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.”
– Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea


“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.”
– H.G. Wells, The Time Machine


Know a great opening line we’ve missed? Share it in the comments below!

REVIEW: A Thousand Shards of Glass by Michael Katakis (Review by John Purcell)

Click here for more details or to buy Thousand Shards of Glass

I loved this little book. A finished copy was recently given to me by Simon and Schuster Australia.

I get sent a lot of books but I suspect this one was chosen for me the reader not me the bookseller. Whoever thought to send it probably guessed I would love it.

Michael Katakis, who I have never heard of before, now feels like an old friend. Reading his short (144 pages), hard-bound book of essays, letters, quotes, one poem and snippets from conversations about the US with people he met outside America, I became engaged with the world again. His conclusions about the US have a ring of truth to them. His love of life in the face of tragedy is heroic. He has loved and has been loved in a way which will make others envious.

It is by no means a perfect book. It is human. Approachable. It invites conversation and asks you to walk with it.

I was angered, saddened, enriched and inspired by this book. Thank you, Michael (and the thoughtful folk at Simon and Schuster).

Blurb: Once upon a time, Michael Katakis lived in a place of big dreams, bright colours and sleight of hand. That place was America.

One night, travelling where those who live within illusions should never go, he stared into the darkness and glimpsed a faded flag where shadows gathered, revealing another America. It was a broken place, bred from fear and distrust – a thousand shards of glass – filled with a people who long ago had given away all that was precious; a people who had been sold, for so long, a foreign betrayal that finally came from within, and for nothing more than a handful of silver.

These essays, letters and journal entries were written as a farewell to the country Michael loves still, and to the wife he knew as his ‘True North’. A powerful and personal polemic, A Thousand Shards of Glass is Michael’s appeal to his fellow citizens to change their course; a cautionary tale to those around the world who idealise an America that never was; and, crucially, a glimpse beyond the myth, to a country whose best days could still lie ahead.

Photograph © Ralph Elliot Starkweather

Photograph © Ralph Elliot Starkweather

About the Author

Author and photographer Michael Katakis has travelled extensively for the past thirty-five years, writing about and photographing a wide range of cultures and geographic locations. His books include Photographs and Words with Dr Kris Hardin, Traveller: Observations from an American in ExileThe Vietnam Veteran’s MemorialSacred Trusts: Essays on Stewardship and Responsibility, and Excavating Voices: Listening to Photographs of Native Americans. Katakis has exhibited his work at the British Library, the Royal Geographical Society in London and the International Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. In 1991 the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., acquired Michael’s portrait of Maya Lin for their collection.

The 2014 winner of The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award has been revealed

Author: Christine PiperLast night I went to a party at Allen & Unwin’s offices in Crows Nest. There I met a great many wonderful people – writers, booksellers, journalists, publishers, cereal manufacturers… Yep, it was the Vogels.

Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton was on hand to announce the winner. She spoke well, her strong Kiwi accent assuring all in the room we can never get away with claiming her as one of our own (nor can Canada, for that matter).

The winner was announced – After Darkness by Christine Piper. In her acceptance speech Christine admitted to having known of her win for nine months.

It is part of the new structure of the Vogels. The winner and the shortlisters are told the decision of the judges well in advance of the public announcement to give the Allen and Unwin time to edit and publish the winning book. In past years the winner was announced and the public had to wait months and months for the book to become available. In our era of sound bites, this model cannot work, so they changed it.

The winner was announced last night, the book is available today.

Which means Christine Piper’s life changing news had to kept from friends and family for nine long months (she did share the news with her husband, she revealed). That is a BIG secret to keep.

And think of the shortlisters! Imagine the well wishers over that nine months, good hearted people, doing what they thought was the right thing, encouraging the shortlister, who, knowing the dark truth, can only return these enthusiasms with a non-committal expression for fear of giving the game away. Thank goodness writers aren’t sensitive folk. Oh, wait…

Enough of that, a big congratulations must go to Christine. We can’t wait to read AFTER DARKNESS.

When accepting the award, Christine said:

The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award is a rare and generous thing, a means for unknown writers, such as I, to have a shot at success.

In many ways, modern Australia is built on immigrant’s tales, and Vogel’s founder Niels, a Danish immigrant, created his own story when he established the award as a way of giving back to his adopted community. So I feel as if I’m adding to the diversity as a half Japanese Australian, born in Korea, now living in New York, who writes about Japanese immigrants.

When I started working on this novel, five years ago, I was still in my twenties, had never published a piece of fiction, yet had an ambitious dream to write a novel from the point of view of a Japanese internee. Now I’m older, wearier, and pushing the middle aged category of writer, yet thanks to this award I’m absolutely looking forward to what lies ahead.

Winner of The VogelAbout the book:

AFTER DARKNESS: It is early 1942 and Australia is in the midst of war.

While working at a Japanese hospital in the pearling port of Broome, Dr Ibaraki is arrested as an enemy alien and sent to Loveday internment camp in a remote corner of South Australia. There, he learns to live among a group of men divided by culture and allegiance.

As tensions at the isolated camp escalate, the doctor’s long-held beliefs are thrown into question and he is forced to confront his dark past: the promise he made in Japan and its devastating consequences.

Judges’ Comments:

‘A brave, profound meditation on identity, trauma, loss and courage… reminds us that there are two sides to every war and that history never ceases to be written… A novel that demands its place alongside Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Mark Dapin’s Spirit House.’ – Stephen Romei, The Australian

‘Piper draws us deeper and deeper into the compelling story of Tomakazu Ibaraki, a man whose strengths – discretion, honour and loyalty – also lie at the heart of his personal tragedy.’ – Danielle Wood, winner of The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award in 2002

‘After Darkness is about friendships that transcend cliched notions of mateship. It’s also about a man silenced by a promise … a haunting novel that lingers in a most unsettling way.’ – Fiona Stager, bookseller, Avid Reader

The 2014 winner of The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award

About Christine Piper:

Christine Piper’s short fiction has been published in Seizure, SWAMP and Things That Are Found in Trees and Other Stories. She was the 2013 Alice Hayes writing fellow at Ragdale in the United States. She has studied creative writing at Macquarie University, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the University of Technology, Sydney, where she wrote a version of this novel as part of her doctoral degree. She has also worked as a magazine editor and writer for more than a decade.

Born in South Korea in 1979 to an Australian father and a Japanese mother, she moved to Australia when she was one. She has previously taught English and studied Japanese in Japan, and currently lives in New York with her husband. After Darkness is her first novel.

Order After Darkness here

What Katie Read – The Double Edition! (by award-winning author Kate Forsyth)

One of Australia’s favourite novelists Kate Forsyth, author of Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl, continues her monthly blog with us, giving her verdict on the books she’s been reading.


Kate Forsyth: The last few months have been insanely busy for me, with all sorts of deadlines whizzing past my ears as a consequence of having four books with three different publishers coming out this year, as well as a hectic touring schedule. As a result, my usual rate of reading has been much slowed as I spent most evenings writing instead. Nonetheless, I managed quite a few books in February and March, including two absolutely brilliant books which made me lime-green with jealousy at the writers’ talent. YOU MUST READ THESE BOOKS!


9780006479888A Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire & Ice
by George R. R. Martin

I feel as if I must be the last person in the world to read A Game of Thrones. And I love fantasy fiction! I think I decided some years ago to wait till the whole series was out before I began to read it … but of course, it still isn’t finished.

So I decided I really should be more in step with my times and so I limbered up my arm muscles and picked up the first book in the series.

What did I think? I really enjoyed it. The world building is unusually deep and vivid, and the story is full of surprises. Although it’s a big book, with a lot of characters, I didn’t feel the pace dragged. I loved the dire-wolves and the child protagonists, and I loved the political intrigue. I’ll go on and read Book 2, and I may even watch the TV series …

Click here for more details about A Game of Thrones: A Song of Fire & Ice


A Dreadful Murder9781743317006
by Minette Walters

This book is published as a ‘Quick Read’, which describes it very well. The book is only 122 pages long and that’s with nice, big font size. It really is a novella, but it was perfect size to be read in a single setting which was something I wanted after plowing through A Game of Thrones night after night.
The book is based on the true story of the murder of Caroline Luard, which took place in Kent in August 1908. Her body was found dead in broad daylight in the grounds of the large country estate in which she lived with her husband. It does not take long for the village to begin accusing her husband of the murder and eventually he committed suicide, unable to live under the cloud of suspicion.
Minette Walters retells the story in simple and concise language, postulating another theory as to the identity of the murderer. Her conclusions feel right to me, and I can’t help feeling sorry for Mr Luard.

Click here for more details about A Dreadful Murder


9780425233085Revealed
by Kate Noble

I really enjoyed Let it Be Me, a fresh and sparkling Regency romance by Kate Noble, and so thought I’d try another by the same author. Revealed is not quite as wonderful as Let it Be Me, but it was amusing and charming and the romance was really quite sweet. I was not overly fond of the heroine when the book began because she was so perfect – beautiful, rich, with exquisite taste – blah, blah, blah. But she did grow new depths as the story continued and became much less of a spoiled princess. And I loved the spy sub-plot. I always think a romance is improved with a little murder, mayhem, or intrigue thrown into the mix.

Click here for more details about Revealed


Night9780141038995
by Elie Wiesel

This slender book is Elie Wiesel’s harrowing account of his teenage years, spent in Auschwitz. It is told very simply and bleakly, without much description or dialogue, as if spoken to someone quietly listening. This makes it feel very pure and real, though sometimes the effect is one of emotional numbness which is, in its way, even more heart-wrenching. Wiesel describes the taking away of his mother and little sister to the gas chambers, his struggle to survive and to look after his father, and his own loss of faith in God and humanity with the same clear and unfettered honesty. I ended the book with such a lump in my throat I could scarcely draw a breath. A profoundly moving book, and one that everyone should read. My edition came with Wiesel’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize:
“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of universe.”

It made me want to speak out for all the injustices I see in the world and ashamed of myself for not doing so.

Click here for more details about Night


9781472200341The Ocean At the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

I have never really got the Neil-Gaiman-as-literary-god thing. I’ve read quite a lot of his books and enjoyed them all, particularly Stardust. I really liked The Graveyard Book too, and thought it had some lovely writing in it. But he didn’t give me goosebumps. He didn’t make me prickle all over with awe and amazement. He didn’t bring that lump into my throat and that prickle of tears into my eyes, which is how I always know if a book is truly great.
Well, now he has. The Ocean At the End of the Lane is a truly great book. It’s full of Big Ideas, yet is still a compulsively readable story. In a way, it’s very hard to categorise. It’s neither a book for adults or for children, but a book that can be read by both. In fact, I can see it being one of those touchstone books, that a child reads and loves, and returns to again and again as an adult and finding ever new things in it. Yet it is such a slim book. Like the pond at the end of the lane, that is really an ocean that contains within it the whole universe, this book is brimming over mystery, magic, and wisdom. I am awed and amazed, and so, so jealous of Neil Gaiman’s talent. This is a book I wish I could write.

Click here for more details about The Ocean At the End of the Lane


A Wrinkle in Timeprod978031236754
by Madeleine L’ Engle

Reading Nail Gaiman’s utterly brilliant novel The Ocean At the End of the Lane reminded me of a book I had loved as a teenager but had not read again in years - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Éngle. So I dug out my tattered old paperback (this is why I never get rid of books – so I can put my hand on a book whenever I want it) and read it again for the first time in many years. First published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time is older than I am but it has survived the years remarkably well. It too is a novel full of Big Ideas expressed through a very readable story, with a beguiling mixture of humour and horror, philosophy and fantasy. It is a very different book from Neil Gaiman’s but both have a trio of three women who seem very ordinary on the outside but are indeed both mysterious and powerful. I’m really glad I read it again and I have gone and put both books on my teenage son’s bedside table.

Click here for more details about A Wrinkle in Time


9781742612454The Caller
by Juliet Marillier

This is the third and last book in Juliet Marillier’s gorgeous YA fantasy Shadowfell trilogy. I have really enjoyed these books, which are, as always with Juliet’s books, filled with wit, warmth and wisdom. You must read them in order – Shadowfell, Raven Flight, then The Caller – as the books tell the story of the continuing adventures of Neryn and her journey to understand and control her magical talents as a Caller. Set in a land very much like ancient Scotland, with all manner of extraordinary faery creatures, the Shadowfell books weave together history, fantasy, folklore and ancient wisdoms to create a beautiful and powerful story. These books are a perfect read for a dreamy, romantic teenage girl – I love them now but oh! How I would have loved them when I was fifteen.

Click here for more details about The Caller


Dance on the Volcano: A Teenage Girl in Nazi Germany 9781609101145
by Renata Zerner

Children of Terror
by Inge Auerbacher & Bozenna Urbanowicz Gilbride

As part of my research for a novel I am writing that is set in Nazi Germany, I am reading a great many memoirs of people who lived during those terrible times. Although neither of these memoirs has the poetic intensity of Elie Wiesel’s heart-wrenching Night, they are nonetheless poignant and distressing, particularly Children of Terror which is written by two concentration camp survivors. It seems impossible that such things can have happened. Yet they did. It’s so important that we read these stories and make sure that such atrocities can never happen again.

Click here for more details about Dance on the Volcano: A Teenage Girl in Nazi Germany


9781477817445True to the Highlander
by Barbara Longley

After reading a few emotionally harrowing books, I felt in desperate need of some light romance. True to the Highlander was perfect. Utterly predictable, but done with flair and humour, and I always love a medieval Scottish Highlands setting.

Click here for more details about True to the Highlander


The Paris Affair 9780758283931
by Teresa Grant

Teresa Grant has written a series of historical mystery novels set during and just after the Napoleonic Wars. Her French heroine Suzanne is married to an English attaché and spy, and together they negotiate their way through murder, intrigue and passion. The stories are always a little slow, but the historical detail is spot-on and the interaction between the characters and their slowly unfolding relationships makes up for it.

Click here for more details about The Paris Affair


the-fault-in-our-stars-film-tie-in-edition-The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

I have had this book on my shelf for over a year now and have been avoiding reading it because I knew it was going to be a harrowing read. And it is! However, it is also utterly brilliant. It deserves every bit of praise it has garnered. I urge you all: READ IT! Another book which I am insanely jealous about and wish that I could have written.

Click here for more details about The Fault in Our Stars


Cart & Cwidder
by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favourite writers from my childhood and Cart & Cwidder is one of my favourite of her books, and so it was the one I chose to re-read for DWJ-month in the blogosphere – a global celebration of her books and writing. This is the story of a family of musical travellers in a world divided between North and South, and has DWJ’s trademark mix of the ordinary and the magical. A truly delightful children’s fantasy.

 

 


Kate Forsyth is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults. She was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite Novelists, coming in atKate FNo 16. She has been called one of ‘the finest writers of this generation”, and “quite possibly … one of the best story tellers of our modern age.’

Click here to see Kate’s author page

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Zoe Foster, author of The Wrong Girl, chats to Caroline Baum

 

 

the-wrong-girlThe Wrong Girl
by Zoe Foster

What happens when you discover the man of your dreams is going out with your best friend?

Sometimes you don’t know what you want until someone else has it.

Lily needs a break. A man break. She hadn’t exactly meant to sleep with her friend, Pete, and she certainly hadn’t expected him to confess his love – for another girl – the next morning. If men were going to behave like such pigs, well, she’d happily take some time out.

Besides, her TV career requires all her attention right now. Jack Winters – the gorgeous new talent – is definitely proving a distraction, but Lily is determined to maintain her professional distance, even when Jack starts seeing someone completely inappropriate. It’s only when Lily accepts that good things don’t always come to those who wait and takes a leap into the great unknown that life starts making sense . . .

From the bestselling author of The Younger Man and Amazing Face comes a funny, heartfelt novel about what happens when life, love, work and friendships collide.

Read Caroline Baum’s Review

After a few wrong turns, Lily and her friend Simone decide to go on a sabboytical or man break. Lily needs to focus on her TV production career on a cooking show but when the new on camera cook turns out to be a dish, her romantic fasting diet intentions are tested by an unexpected rival.

Zoe Foster may have a Miles Franklin winner as a father (who discouraged her from being a writer) but her talent is very much her own. Playful, hip and fun, she has the chick lit thing down pat – plenty of glamour, social media, goss, casual sex and girlfriend issues. Her ear for dialogue never lets her down and the likeable freshness of her own high profile as part of a media golden couple comes through on the page. This is her moment.

About the Author

Zoe Foster has written three novels, Air Kisses, Playing the Field and The Younger Man, as well as the dating and relationship book Textbook Romance, written in conjunction with Hamish Blake, and the bestseller Amazing Face, a collection of her best beauty tips and tricks.

Grab a copy of The Wrong Girl here

2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Announced

FictionThe shortlist for the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction is here.

I am left gob-smacked by some of the exclusions – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, for example. Surely a Man Booker Prize winner can win Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, too. And isn’t it time to forgive Elizabeth Gilbert for Eat, Pray, Love?

But I am stupidly happy for Hannah Kent and hope she wins. Not just because the book is excellent, but because the book is excellent. If you look closely you’ll find there is no getting around that argument.

Australia’s Hannah Kent

The judging panel, which includes Mary Beard, Denise Mina, Caitlin Moran and Sophie Raworth, will announce the winner on June 4th.

The 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men. Agnes is sent to wait out the time leading to her execution on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderess in their midst, the family avoids… Read More


americanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. Ifemelu – beautiful, self-assured-departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home… Read More


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portrayal of lives undone and forged anew, The Lowland is a deeply felt novel of family ties that entangle and fray in ways unforeseen and unrevealed, of ties that ineluctably define who we are. With all the hallmarks of Jhumpa Lahiri’s achingly poignant, exquisitely empathetic story-telling, this is her most devastating work of fiction to date… Read More


The Undertaking by Audrey Magee A stunning, riveting debut novel in the tradition of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room, The Undertaking shines an intense light on history and illuminates the lives of those caught up in one of its darkest chapters… Read More


A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride To read A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world first-hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation. Touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma, McBride writes with singular intensity, acute sensitivity and mordant wit. A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing is moving, funny – and alarming. It is a book… Read More


the-goldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate… Read More

Shortlist Judges

The 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction Runners Up

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood From one of the world’s most brilliant and exciting writers comes a new novel of astonishing power; the final novel in her dystopian trilogy. Told with wit, dizzying imagination, dark humour and a breathtaking command of language, Booker-prize-winning Margaret Atwood’s unpredictable and chilling Maddaddam takes us into a carefully-crafted dystopian world and holds up a mirror to… Read More


The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne The Dogs of Littlefield is a wry exploration of the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia. Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets and quaint village centre. Yet no sooner has… Read More


The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto Fatima Bhutto’s stunning debut begins and ends one rain swept Friday morning in Mir Ali, a small town in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas close to the Afghan border. Three brothers meet for breakfast. Soon after, the eldest, recently returned from America, hails a taxi to the local mosque. The second, a doctor, goes to check in at his hospital. His troubled wife does not join the family that morning. No one knows where Mina… Read More


The Bear by Claire Cameron Anna is five. Her little brother, Stick, is almost three. They are camping with their parents in Algonquin Park, in three thousand square miles of wilderness. It’s the perfect family trip. But then Anna awakes in the night to the sound of something moving in the shadows. Her father is terrified. Her mother is screaming. Then, silence… Read More


Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter A stunning debut novel – unexpected, tautly written, suspenseful – that touches on some of the most profound questions we have about war as it tells us a haunting story of a single mother, and her son, a member of the US Special Operations Forces. Eleven Days is, at its heart, the story of a mother and a son. It begins in May 2011: Sara’s son Jason has been missing for nine days… Read More


The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter India. 1837. William Avery, a fresh young officer in the East India Company, arrives in Calcutta expecting to be seduced by its ancient traditions. Nine months later he hasn’t learnt a word of Hindoostani, is in terrible debt, and longs to return home before the cholera epidemic finishes him off. A few months earlier, so rumour has it, the infamous and disgraced poet Xavier Mountstuart leaves Calcutta in order to… Read More


the-luminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton The astonishing and epic second novel from the prize-winning author of The Rehearsal – a sure contender for every major literary prize. It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes… Read More


Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies Pearl can be very, very good. More often she is very, very bad. But she’s just a child, a mystery to all who know her. A little girl who has her own secret reasons for escaping to the nearby woods. What might those reasons be? And how can she feel so at home in the dark, sinister, sensual woods, a wonder of secrets and mystery… Read More


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Andrew Mueller, author of It’s Too Late to Die Young Now, I Wouldn’t Start From Here, and more, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

9781742612294The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Andrew Mueller

author of It’s Too Late to Die Young Now, I Wouldn’t Start From Here 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?

To the enduring disbelief and/or delight of customs officials the world over, I was born in Wagga Wagga. Subsequently raised and schooled in various locations around Australia, according to the whims of the Australian Army, in which my father served. The less romantic distillation of that is: mostly Canberra and Sydney.

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

At twelve, I think I wanted to be fighter pilot, except on weekends, when I would of course be starting at centre half-forward for Geelong. By eighteen, 863having clearly abandoned any notion of civic duty and resigned myself to my total athletic ineptitude, I wanted to be a rock journalist – indeed, by this point, I was actually being a rock journalist, if not a terrifically good one. At thirty, I was perfectly happy doing what I was doing – ie, being a journalist and author – although I wouldn’t have objected to being better paid for doing it. At 44, this remains the case.

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

That’s an excellent question, and one which I asked myself a lot writing my new book. Obviously, tastes change – one would prefer to think mature – as does one’s idea of what constitutes a good time. But I’m not really sure that the contents of my head at the age of eighteen could really be regarded as coherent beliefs – more a melange of barely examined sentimental prejudices in favour of peace, justice, brotherhood and so forth. I’m still in favour of all those things, but suspect that my ideas about how or indeed if they might be accomplished have become rather more hard-headed.

Also at eighteen, I nigh certainly believed that there was no chance of medical science advancing sufficiently to allow me to live long enough to see Geelong win a premiership. I am especially delighted to have been proved wrong on this one.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

First and foremost, being taught to read, and to love reading, by my mother. Reading Melody Maker in the late 80s made me want to be a rock journalist – or, more accurately, a much better rock journalist than the one I was already being when I first read Melody Maker. Reading PJ O’Rourke’s Holidays In Hell in the early 90s made me realise, or at least hope, that it was possible to apply the irreverence and iconoclasm that once characterised the rock press at its best to other types of journalism. “Reading” would appear to be the common thread.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

They might be. But they’re still – and will be for a while yet – the most bracing and rewarding challenge to a writer, and the best measure of a writer’s value. In relation to everything else, books have the same relationship that Test cricket does to the one-day and 20/20 formats – the shorter variants may be fleetingly more popular, and much more superficially dazzling, but nobody remembers the games afterwards.

97817426122946. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Thought you’d never ask. It’s called “It’s Too Late To Die Young Now”, and it actually addresses – at much greater length – a few of the questions asked above. It’s a memoir of my late teens and early twenties, which I spent being a rock journalist in Sydney and in London, so writing it obliged me to spend a great deal of time with my half-a-lifetime-younger self. This creature mostly struck me, to my considerable relief, as basically quite a nice kid, if possibly somewhat untowardly pleased with himself – but then young people often are, especially when they’re that lucky.

(BBGuru: Publisher’s blurb -There is no field of journalism more mythologised or more derided than rock journalism – with good reason, according to Andrew Mueller.

And he’d know. Starting out writing for the Sydney music street press in his teens, by his early twenties, Mueller was working for the legendary UK music weekly Melody Maker, earning a living by listening to records, going to gigs, hanging out in seedy pubs and travelling the world with his favourite rock groups. In barely two years, he went from a childhood bedroom with a poster of Robert Smith to The Cure’s tour bus in the United States.

Though it didn’t seem like it at the time, the years Mueller was living the dream – the late-eighties to the mid-nineties – were actually the last hurrah for the music scene as we knew it. The era of flourishing live pub venues and record stores, and rock journalists as cultural arbiters and agitators, is now long gone.)

 Click here to order It’s Too Late to Die Young Now from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I’m tempted to answer that if I thought my work was in any danger of changing anything, I’d stop doing it. I have reached that middle-aged understanding, at once terrifying and liberating, of how little I (or anyone else) really know. But I’m always happy when someone writes to me to tell me that as a consequence of reading something I wrote, they’ve thought something about something that they otherwise might not have, whether this has led them to completely rebuild the very foundations of their worldview – this, in truth, occurs rarely – or merely to check out a record they hadn’t heard, but have discovered they quite like.

8.Whom do you most admire and why?

Uncritical admiration of individuals is obvious folly – plenty of musicians, artists, writers, athletes and politicians whose work I’ve appreciated have been personally flawed, and in many cases altogether reprehensible. As a generality, though, I most admire those people whom journalists tend to cover least – which is those who quietly and unfussily get on with stuff, put in a solid day’s work doing whatever it is they do, help others out when they can, observe common courtesies, and generally do their small part to enlarge the space in which civility can flourish. You wouldn’t know it from consuming our news media, but they’re a majority.i-wouldn-t-start-from-here

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

I’m more or less entirely happy doing what I do, so I’d just like to keep doing it. At which point ambition, I guess, does come into it – as I have an ambition that sufficient people will buy this book to make someone think it’s worth paying me to write another one – but I don’t get to have a great deal of control over that. I’d also like to do more of the reporting I enjoy doing most, so I guess that I also have an ambition that more people will realise that long-form travel reportage and/or foreign correspondence is still worth paying for – but I don’t have much say in that either, unless a lottery win and/or the onset of insanity makes launching my own publication seem a plausible notion. In the nearish future, I would also like to make another album with my awesome country band, The Blazing Zoos, and have one of the songs on it recorded by George Strait or someone so I can have that guitar-shaped swimming pool I’ve always wanted.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Depends on my mood. Sometimes, exactly that: aspire, ie write and write and write and write, and read and read and read and read. Other times, a variant on “It’s too late for me, but save yourself.” But it’s mostly the former: keep at it, refuse to take no for answer, and develop an ironclad indifference to the rejection and indifference that most of your efforts will elicit. Because if you can get away with it, it’s the best job in world.

Andrew, thank you for playing.

Click here to order It’s Too Late to Die Young Now from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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