“Such are the perfections of fiction...Everything it teaches is useless insofar as structuring your life: you can’t prop up anything with fiction. It, in fact, teaches you just that. That in order to attempt to employ its specific wisdom is a sign of madness...There is more profit in an hour’s talk with Billy Graham than in a reading of Joyce. Graham might conceivably make you sick, so that you might move, go somewhere to get well. But Joyce just sends you out into the street, where the world goes on, solid as a bus. If you met Joyce and said 'Help me,' he’d hand you a copy of Finnegans Wake. You could both cry.” – Gilbert Sorrentino, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Best AusLit 2010

Once again, in no particular order, I've listed my favourite works of Australian literature from 2010. This is an admittedly selective list and I'll just note quickly that it omits areas I tend not to read in, specifically 1) Australian genre-fiction, and 2) realist novels written by big-name authors. I have no doubt that I'm missing a lot of great genre work (and, of course, I hate the term 'genre', since much genre writing is both less formulaic and more innovative than much 'literary' writing), but--as to the second category--I'm simply allergic to that kind of fiction, so you won't see it here. Anyway, below is a list of great books definitely worth reading (and most of them were published by small publishers, too).

  • Other Stories by Wayne Macauley
I think I've raved about this book about as much as is possible, including naming it my favourite book of short stories from 2010, and being given the honour of launching it. If you haven't bought it yet, do so now, and if you want to know why you should, then read this or this.

  • Glissando by Dave Musgrave
To me, this is a book that really didn't get its due this year; many of the reviews of the book seemed more puzzled by it than anything else (or, worse, simply called it 'clever'). For my money, this is the most interesting Australian novel published in the last year, and it's full of inventive, comic prose, while still dealing with important Australian themes. All I can say is that from here on out, I'll read anything--absolutely anything--that David Musgrave publishes. Read the review here.

  • Like Being a Wife by Catherine Harris
This collection of stories reveals a sharp, dry wit and presents everyday situations through a wonderfully strange lens that never settles into either realism or surrealism. Harris is an extremely talented author and demonstrates mastery over the short form without ever simply falling into the trap of Carver-esque minimalism. Basically, it's a great book. Read the review here.

  • How a Moth Becomes a Boat by Josephine Rowe
Rowe offers a set of delightful stories in miniature, but, despite their brevity, they never feel slight or undernourished. This collection is real accomplishment and manages to do something genuinely interesting with the short story form. Read the review here.

  • The Mary Smokes Boys by Patrick Holland
The Mary Smokes Boys is a weird little book--and I mean this with the absolute greatest respect. Written in beautiful prose, this book keeps seeming like it's a realist novel, but, when you finish it, you realise it was something else entirely: a romance (in the medieval sense) or a fable that seems both in the world and somehow outside of it. Read the review here.

  • Child of Twilight by Carmel Bird
This is the first book I've ever read by Carmel Bird, and I'll have to admit that I was genuinely surprised to find that I really, really liked it, given that the themes within the book are outside of my usual interests. For me, it's not 100% perfect (I still have a few reservations about the framing device), but, at the end of the day, Bird is a world-class prose stylist. This is quite an unconventional novel full of weird and wonderful characters and which always manages to surprise, twisting and turning in directions that the reader wouldn't have expected. Read the review here.


Owen Richardson said...

Yay for Wayne Macauley. Yay for Josephine Rowe. The others I haven't read, but I'm with you on those two.

Owen Richardson said...

Hurray for Wayne Macauley. Hurray for Josephine Rowe. I haven't read the others you mention, but I'm with you on those two.

Emmett Stinson said...

Yes, those are both great books by authors who still aren't on the radar of most Australian readers--it seems to me that this is an exciting time for Australian literature, particularly in terms of work that's arising from independent publishers at the grassroots level.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Glissando is a marvel and warranted a much better reception. See http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/glissando-by-david-musgrave/

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