Thursday, June 23, 2005

2005 Miles Franklin Award for Fiction

Fiction from the sunburnt country


CONGRATULATIONS to Andrew McGahan on winning the 2005 Miles Franklin Award for Fiction for his sprawling multigenerational saga, The White Earth (2004), a haunting and hypnotic tale of a young boy's adventures growing up in rural Queensland that manages to tackle a slice of Australiana that's not often discussed or written about.

One spring day in late 1992, when William was halfway between his eighth birthday and his ninth, he looked out from the back verandah of his home and saw, huge in the sky, the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. He stared at it, wondering. The thunderhead was dirty black, streaked with billows of grey. It rolled and boiled as it climbed into the clear blue day, casting a vast shadow upon the hills beyond. But there was no sound, no rumble of an explosion. William was aware of the smell of burning ... but it was a good smell, a familiar smell. The smell of grass, of wheat, of the farm itself. The White Earth (2004)

Bibliography
McGAHAN Andrew [1966-] Novelist. Born in Dalby, Queensland, Australia. Novels Underground (2006); The White Earth (2004: winner of the 2004 Age Fiction Prize and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Southeast Asia and South Pacific Region, and the 2005 Miles Franklin Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2004 Queensland Premier's Literary Award for Fiction); Last Drinks (2001: shortlisted for the 2000 Age Book of the Year); 1988 (1995); Praise (1992: winner of the 1991 The Australian/Vogel Award)

Monday, June 20, 2005

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT ... ALICE MUNRO

COULDN’T resist buying a couple of short-story collections by Alice Munro, possibly one of the most inventive short-story writers in the world. Generational conflict, marital brouhahas and divorce, and youthful alienation in small-town Canada, big-town Canada and places in-between are the recurrent thematic threads that bind the fabric of her narratives. “In the past decade,” according to Michael Upchurch, “her tales have become evermore ingenious, growing dizzyingly elastic in structure and complex in tone, without losing any of their immediacy. It also helps that Munro is the slyest of humorists.” Munro is very good at evoking a sense of place and her psychological acuity is razor-sharp.

The Love of a Good Woman (1998) / Alice Munro
Selected Stories (1996) / Alice Munro
Open Secrets (1994) / Alice Munro
Friend of My Youth (1990) / Alice Munro

Alice Munro’s short stories are written to last. And the quality of her writing rarely flags. For those new to Munro, I suggest you read Runaway (2004), Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001), Open Secrets (1994) and Lives of Girls and Women (1971). These, I believe, are her masterpieces.

Bibliography
MUNRO Alice [1931-] Short-story writer. Born Alice Anne Laidlaw in Wingham, Ontario, Canada. Stories The View from Castle Rock (2006); Runaway (2004: winner of the 2004 Giller Prize for Fiction and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Caribbean and Canada Region; shortlisted for the 2004 Governor General’s Award for Fiction); Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001: winner of the 2002 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Caribbean & Canada); The Love of a Good Woman (1998: winner of the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 1998 Giller Prize for Fiction; co-winner of the 1998 Trillium Book Award for Fiction); Selected Stories (1996); Open Secrets (1994: winner of the 1995 W.H. Smith Literary Award); Friend of My Youth (1990: winner of the 1990 Trillium Book Award for Fiction and the Canada Council Molson Prize); The Progress of Love (1986: winner of the 1986 Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Marian Engel Prize); The Moons of Jupiter (1982); The Beggar Maid (published in Canada as Who Do You Think You Are? (1978: winner of the 1978 Governor General’s Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 1980 Booker Prize for Fiction); Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You (1974); Lives of Girls and Women (1971); Dance of the Happy Shades (1968: winner of the 1968 Governor General’s Award for Fiction)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

TASH AW IN KUALA LUMPUR
The toast of Kuala Lumpur



HAD THE HONOUR and privilege of meeting Tash Aw in person and having him signed my copy of The Harmony Silk Factory at MPH Midvalley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur. Sadly, there weren't any hardbacks so we had to make do with paperbacks. (As an avid collector of signed first editions, this was indeed a major disappointment.) However, I was lucky enough to get an invite to his launch party on Monday, June 20, 2005! A personable young man, Tash Aw had much to teach Malaysians on how to get their manuscripts published in the United Kingdom and beyond. Believe me, it is no easy feat. First, we had Rani Manicka with the The Rice Mother (2002), now we have Tash Aw, putting Malaysia on the literary map. It is a great feeling seeing fellow Malaysians basking in their success. And with the way things are going, things can only get better!



BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT RECENTLY
And while browsing at the bookshop, I bought a couple of good books:

The Harmony Silk Factory (2005) / Tash Aw
Yes, I bought another copy of this book! And this time it’s for me! An enduring, compelling piece of fiction that deserves to be widely read. Set against the colourful and tumultous backdrop of 1940s Malaya, a crucial period in Malayan history, Tash Aw’s novel, The Harmony Silk Factory, is an engrossing portrait of the mysterious antihero, Johnny Lim, an illiterate tin miner turned textile tycoon, told in three spare, interlinked narrative strands dissecting Lim's psyche and his moral ambiguity. Malaysia's literary pride, Aw's début, a colourful, gripping story told in lucid, uncluttered prose, is not only ambitious and comic, but emotionally engaging as well. He has managed to pull off a remarkable feat of the imagination. What a pleasure it is to read such an accomplished and promising début! A tangled tale that displays intermittent flashes of luminosity.



The Secret Purposes (2004) / David Baddiel
British comedian David Baddiel takes a serious turn with this haunting tale of bigotry, displacement, love and loss. And he succeeds at it.

War Trash (2004) / Ha Jin
Published in 2004, War Trash is the winner of the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; it was also shortlisted for the 2005 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction. Ha Jin clearly demonstrates the fact that language belongs to whoever masters it and make it their own. For instance, how do you explain the fact that Ha Jin has turned out a string of remarkable prize-winning novels and short-story and poetry collections within a period of 15 years, considering the fact that he left his native China in 1985 to study in the United States and only began writing in English in the late 1980s; his first book, a collection of poetry, was published in 1990. Imaginative and full of originality and historical details, Ha Jin writes with dark humour and an economical yet evocative prose style, and has given birth to a powerful treatise on the human condition and on what being human means.

A Change of Climate (1994) / Hilary Mantel
A profound black comedy that poses moral questions that can never be resolved.



Fludd (1989) / Hilary Mantel


The Turning (2004) / Tim Winton
Neither a novel nor a collection of stories in the traditional sense, Tim Winton’s latest work is a beautiful collection of interlinked short stories set in small-town Western Australia. Jem Poster in the Guardian calls Tim Winton “a writer … whose work is informed by an intimate but unsentimental connection with a particular landscape and the lives it sustains. Rich in specific and sharply realised detail - the mingled smells of wild lupins and estuary mud, sparks struck at twilight from scuffed white sand, the haze of banksia scrub in the rolling swamplands - these stories convey the quiet authority of a man at ease in a fictional territory he can legitimately call his own.”

Bibliography
AW Tash [1972-] Novelist. Born Aw Ta-Shii in Taipei, Taiwan. NOVEL The Harmony Silk Factory (2005: winner of the 2004 Whitbread Award for First Novel; shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize for First Fiction, Southeast Asia and South Pacific; longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2005 Guardian First Book Award)

BADDIEL David [1964-] Novelist, comedian, critic. Born in England. NOVELS The Secret Purposes (2004); Whatever Love Means (1999); Time for Bed (1996)

JIN Ha [1956-] Novelist, short-story writer, poet. Born Jin Xuefei in Liaoning, China. NOVELS War Trash (2004: winner of the 2005 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2005 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction); The Crazed (2002); Waiting (1999: winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction); In the Pond (1998) STORIES The Bridegroom (2000: 2001 Asian American Literary Award); Under the Red Flag (1997: winner of the 1997 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and shortlisted for the 1998 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction); Ocean of Words: Army Stories (1996: winner of the 1996 PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction) POETRY Wreckage (2001); Facing Shadows (1996); Between Silences: A Voice from China (1990)

MANTEL Hilary [1952-] Novelist, short-story writer, memoirist. Born Hilary Thompson in Glossop, Derbyshire, England. NOVELS Beyond Black (2005: longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction); The Giant, O’Brien (1998); An Experiment in Love (1995: winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize for Imaginative Literature); A Change of Climate (1994); A Place of Greater Safety (1992: winner of the 1992 Sunday Express Book of the Year Award); Fludd (1989: winner of the 1990 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the 1990 Cheltenham Literary Festival Prize and the 1990 Southern Arts Literature Prize); Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988); Vacant Possession (1986); Every Day is Mother’s Day (1985) STORIES Learning to Talk (2003) MEMOIR Giving Up the Ghost (2003: shortlisted for the 2004 Duff Cooper Prize for Nonfiction)














WINTON Tim [1960-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in Perth, Western Australia. NOVELS Dirt Music (2001: winner of the 2001 Western Australian Premier’s Book Award, the 2002 Miles Franklin Award and the 2002 NSW Premier’s Literary Award; shortlisted for the 2002 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2002 Kiriyama Prize for Fiction); The Riders (1994: winner of the 1995 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Novel in the Southeast Asia and South Pacific region; shortlisted for the 1995 Booker Prize for Fiction); Cloudstreet (1991: winner of the 1992 Miles Franklin Award, the Banjo Award and the Deo Gloria Prize); An Open Swimmer (1982: joint winner of the 1981 The Australian/Vogel Prize); Shallows (1984: winner of the 1984 Miles Franklin Award); That Eye, The Sky (1986); In the Winter Dark (1988) STORIES The Turning (2004: winner of the 2005 NSW Premier’s Literary Award/Christina Stead Prize for Fiction); Blood and Water (1993); Minimum of Two (1987); Scission and Other Stories (1985: winner of the 1985 West Australian Council Week Literary Award) NONFICTION Down to Earth (with photographs by Richard Woldendorp) (1999); Local Color: Travels in the Other Australia (1994); Land’s Edge (with Trish Ainslie and Roger Garwood) (1993) CHILDREN’S The Deep (with illustrations by Karen Louise) (1998); Blueback: A Contemporary Fable (1997); Lockie Leonard, Legend (1997); Lockie Leonard, Scumbuster (1993); The Bugalugs Bum Thief (1991); Lockie Leonard, Human Torpedo (1990); Jesse (1988)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

2005 IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD

CONGRATULATIONS to 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward P. Jones on winning the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his début novel, The Known World (2003), “a multilayered portrayal of families and a wider society struggling with the moral contradictions of slavery,” set in Virginia in the 1850s.

Bibliography
JONES Edward P. [1950-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in Washington, D.C. NOVEL The Known World (2003: winner of the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; shortlisted for the 2003 National Book Award for Fiction) STORIES Lost in the City (1992: winner of the 1992 PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction; shortlisted for the 1992 National Book Award for Fiction)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

2005 SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE for NONFICTION

CONGRATULATIONS to Jonathan Coe on winning the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction for his biography of the pioneering but little-known novelist B.S. Johnson, Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson (2004).

Bibliography
COE Jonathan [1961-] Novelist, biographer. Born in Birmingham, England. NOVELS The Closed Circle (2004); The Rotters' Club (2001: winner of the 2001 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing); The House of Sleep (1997: winner of the 1997 Writers' Guild Award for Best Fiction); What a Carve Up! (published in the U.S. as The Winshaw Legacy) (1994: winner of the 1995 Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize); The Dwarves of Death (1990); A Touch of Love (1989); An Accidental Woman (1987) BIOGRAPHY Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson (2004: winner of the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction); James Stewart: Leading Man (1994); Humphrey Bogart: Take It and Like It (1991)

Monday, June 13, 2005

2005 TOP 10 FIRST NOVELS

YEARS and years of hard work went into the writing of these first novels. These novels exhibit the hallmarks of good writing: originality, great characterisation, clarity of voice, etc.

War by Candlelight / Daniel Alarcón
Articles of War / Nick Arvin
The Harmony Silk Factory / Tash Aw
Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon / Dean Bakopoulos
The Loss of Leon Meed / Josh Emmons
26a / Diana Evans
The Ha-Ha / Dave King
The Historian / Elizabeth Kostova
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian / Marina Lewycka
Fitzgerald’s Wood / David Nwokedi
The Hill Road / Patrick O'Keeffe
Rules for Old Men Waiting / Peter Pouncey
Responsible Men / Edward Schwarzschild
Misfortune / Wesley Stace

Sunday, June 12, 2005

BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT RECENTLY ...

Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose, 1983-2005 (published as Curious Pursuits: Occasional Writing in the U.K.) (2005) / Margaret Atwood
A fine collection of nonfiction by the Canadian writer, where she talks about herself and literature. Some of her best writing in this collection come in the shape of memoirs: Atwood’s childhood reading tastes, her first encounter with Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and the highlights of her first European trip back in the early 1960s. A worthwhile collection to have and to savour.



You Remind Me of Me (2004) / Dan Chaon
A fine piece of writing from short-story writer Dan Chaon. A compelling first novel, You Remind Me of Me has a great beginning and it is full of humanity in all its beauty and flaws.












Specimen Days (2005) / Michael Cunningham
Three intertwined novellas connected by Walt Whitman and the same trio of characters in three different eras and genres. A strange hybrid of an animal, but it is ambitious and courageous. Cunningham is a gifted storyteller with a spare, incisive and lyrical prose style.

26a (2005) / Diana Evans

Bibliography
CHAON Dan [1964-] Short-story writer, novelist. Born in Sidney, Nebraska, U.S. NOVEL You Remind Me of Me (2004) STORIES Among the Missing (2001: shortlisted for the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction); Fitting Ends and Other Stories (1996)

CUNNINGHAM Michael [1952-] Novelist. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. NOVELS Specimen Days (2005); The Hours (1998: winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1999 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2000 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award); Flesh and Blood (1995); A Home at the End of the World (1990); Golden States (1984) TRAVEL Land’s End: A Walk Through Provincetown (2002)

EVANS Diana [1972-] Novelist. Born in London, England, U.K. NOVEL 26a (2005: winner of the 2005 Orange Award for New Writers)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT RECENTLY

IT IS A WONDER how a few choice words pieced together in the right order or sequence could transport one to another place and time. Some good books do this.

Stop-Time (1967) / Frank Conroy
The classic memoir of growing up troubled and lonely by the late novelist and short-story writer Frank Conroy (1936-2005), the author of Body and Soul (1993), a collection of stories, Midair (1985), a novel, and the collection of essays, Dogs Bark, But the Caravan Rolls On: Observations Then and Now (2002).

The Society of Others (2004) / William Nicholson
An intelligent quest for the meaning of life and an exploration of the human condition. Thought-provoking, metaphoric, profound, philosophical, multi-layered and intriguing are just some of the adjectives I can think of to describe this novel. There’s much to admire here, and a lot to learn. Nicholson's new novel, The Trial of True Love (2005), should be worth exploring, too.



Bibliography
CONROY Frank [1936-2005] memoirist, novelist, short-story writer. Born in New York, New York, U.S. NOVEL Body and Soul (1993) STORIES Midair (1985) ESSAYS Dogs Bark, But the Caravan Rolls On: Observations Then and Now (2002) MEMOIR Stop-Time (1967) TRAVEL Time and Tide: A Walk Through Nantucket (2004)

NICHOLSON William [1948-] Novelist. Born in England, U.K. NOVELS The Trial of True Love (2005); The Society of Others (2004) JUVENILE The Wind on Fire trilogy: Firesong (2002); Slaves of the Mastery (2001); The Wind Singer (2000)

Check out William Nicholson's books at www.williamnicholson.co.uk

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

2005 ORANGE PRIZE for FICTION
2005 ORANGE AWARD for NEW WRITERS

HEARTIEST congratulations to Lionel Shriver for clinching the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction for her seventh novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003). A deserving win, Shriver has enjoyed critical but not commercial acclaim for almost two decades.

Congratulations also to Diana Evans for winning the 2005 Orange Award for New Writers for her début novel, 26a (2005).

Bibliography
SHRIVER Lionel [1957-] Novelist. Born Margaret Ann Shriver in Gastonia, North Carolina, U.S. NOVELS We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003: winner of the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction); Double Fault (1997); A Perfectly Good Family (1996); Game Control (1994); The Bleeding Heart (published as Ordinary Decent Criminals in the U.K. in 1992) (1990); Checker and the Derailleurs (1988); The Female of the Species (1987)

EVANS Diana [1972-] Novelist. Born in London, England. NOVEL 26a (2005: winner of the 2005 Orange Award for New Writers; shortlisted for the 2005 Whitbread Award for First Fiction)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT RECENTLY

The Harmony Silk Factory (2005) / Tash Aw
Set against the colourful and tumultous backdrop of 1940s Malaya, a crucial period in Malayan history, Tash Aw’s novel is an engrossing portrait of the mysterious antihero, Johnny Lim, told in three spare, interlinked narrative strands dissecting Lim's psyche. Malaysia's literary pride, Aw's début is not only ambitious and comic, but emotionally engaging as well. He has managed to pull off a remarkable feat of the imagination. What a splendid accomplishment!

Never Let Me Go (2005) / Kazuo Ishiguro
In Kazuo Ishiguro's imaginary landscape, nothing is quite what it seems, a place where love and friendship are put to the test, and where the human heart is still an enigmatic and undiscovered country.

Bibliography
AW Tash [1972-] Malaysian novelist. Born Aw Ta-Shii in Taipei, Taiwan. NOVEL The Harmony Silk Factory (2005: winner of the 2005 Whitbread Award for the First Novel)

ISHIGURO Kazuo [1954-] Novelist. Born in Nagasaki, Japan. NOVELS Never Let Me Go (2005); When We Were Orphans (2000: shortlisted for the 2000 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction); The Unconsoled (1995: winner of the 1995 Cheltenham Literary Festival Prize; shortlisted for the 1995 Whitbread Novel Award); The Remains of the Day (1989: winner of the 1989 Booker Prize for Fiction); An Artist of the Floating World (1986: winner of the 1986 Whitbread Novel and Book of the Year Awards and the 1995 Premio Scanno; shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize for Fiction); A Pale View of Hills (1982: winner of the 1983 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize of the Royal Society of Literature)