Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Brief Chat With Gerard Windsor

Gerard Windsor is one of Australia's most versatile and respected writers. His latest book, All Day Long the Noise of Battle, is an account of the longest sustained attack fought by Australians during the Vietnam War.

What are you reading at the moment?
Anthony Macris's When Horse Became Saw (for review - and it's very fine).

Which book is your most treasured?
Nonesuch Coleridge or Yeats' Collected Verse or...

Who is your favourite fictional character?
Joe Gargery or any of the Karamazov brothers or... 

A Brief Chat With Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope is the bestselling author of many books including Friday Nights, The Other Family and Second Honeymoon among others. Her latest book is Daughters-in-Law.

What was the last book you read and what are you currently reading?
The last book was Kate Grenville's The Lieutenant - terrific, and now I'm immersed in a proof of the new Ann Patchett - State of Wonder - it's brilliant...

Which book from your bookshelf at home is your most treasured & why?
A very old, very battered copy of Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond, complete with coffee mug rings and sun oil smudges...

Which fictional character do you most identify with?
I would rather like to say Becky Sharp...but I think that Anne Elliott is probably nearer the mark...

What are you working on next?
Aha! But it will be out spring 2012.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Two Asian Kitchens by Adam Liaw

I haven't actually cooked any of the dishes in Two Asian Kitchens (I'm the type of chef who prefers the taste of food that's been prepared by someone else), so I'm reviewing it purely as a book.  

Adam Liaw's Two Asian Kitchens is due for release in April. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Adam, he's the winner of the 2010 season of MasterChef - making him Australia's current MasterChef. Two Asian Kitchens is a wonderful cookbook that caters for every culinary skill set. The recipes vary from the simple to the complicated and from the traditional to the new. In fact, the 'two Asian kitchens' of the title refer to the dividing line in this book between traditional recipes and new recipes that blend these traditions with Adam's eclectic upbringing and experience as a migrant in Australia.

The first section of Two Asian Kitchens outlines stocks, sauces and various other pantry items that, if prepared in advance, will store well and make cooking easier. Adam's philosophy is that by spending "a few relaxing hours on the weekend" preparing these items, time is saved when it comes to cooking and you don't have an excuse for not making wonderful meals during the week.

This handy section is then followed by a section that outlines several important techniques such as making dumplings, stir frying and preparing sushi. Already it's a comprehensive and detailed cookbook - and we haven't even encountered a proper recipe yet.

The rest of Two Asian Kitchens is divided into two parts - the old kitchen and the new kitchen. In the old kitchen, Adam presents recipes from his past, from his family and classic dishes from Asia. Dishes featured are beef rendang, siew yuk with chilli and coriander relish, fish-head curry, katsudon and char siew pork neck among others.

In the new kitchen, Adam reflects on what he sees as the 'bold innovation' currently taking place in Australian cooking. He encourages readers to be fearless as chefs. Included in this section are dishes such as black belly rice bowl (with lemon paste and pickled chilli), aromatic poached fish with chilli and greens, fennel and black pepper pork belly with pork condiment and tempura fish and chips with pickled chili mandarin curd among others. I especially liked the look of the farmers union iced coffee pudding with tea-smoked chocolate and five-spice tenkasu.

Photography in cookbooks has become increasingly crucial and it's a pleasure to report that the photos in Two Asian Kitchens will definitely make you hungry. In fact, as I sit here flicking through them I'm beginning to crave some delicious Asian cooking. But I'm in the office at work, so it'll have to wait until I get home.

 Adam Liaw will be appearing at Shearer's Bookshop at 7.15pm on Tuesday April 5 to discuss MasterChef, Two Asian Kitchens and cooking. Samples from Adam's book will be available to try on the night. Tickets are $15 and bookings are essential. Please call Shearer's on (02) 9572 7766 to book. 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A Brief Chat With Elliot Perlman

Elliot Perlman is the author of Three Dollars and Seven Types of Ambiguity. We caught up with him at the recent Leading Edge conference.

What was the last book you read and what are you currently reading?
Mandelstam (a biography) by Olag Lekmanov

Which book from your bookshelf at home is your most treasured & why?
I Did Not Interview the Dead by D.P. Boder - I got the last copy in America.

Which fictional character do you most identify with?
Josef K. in Kafka's The Trial. My sister says we look alike although there's no physical description of him in the book.

What are you working on next?
Curing my insomnia.

A Brief Chat With Alice Pung

Alice Pung is the author of Unpolished Gem. We caught up with her at the recent Leading Edge conference.

What was the last book you read and what are you currently reading?
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which affirmed my faith in art, and I am currently reading Tim O'Brien's incredible war memoir, If I Die in a Combat Zone.

Which book from your bookshelf at home is your most treasured and why?
 A Little book my sister Alison made me for my birthday when she was a child. 

Which fictional character do you most identify with?
 The 'character' in my books based on me! 

What are you working on next?
My book Her Father's Daughter, a non-fiction account of a man from Cambodia whose goldfish memory allows him to be brave and hopeful in Australia.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Brief Chat with Author Alex Miller

Alex Miller has twice won the Miles Franklin literary award and is one of Australia's best-loved novelists. His 2009 novel, Lovesong, garnered great critical acclaim. 

What was the last book you read and what are you currently reading?
I've just read Coetzee's bleakly humorous Summertime and am currently re-reading White's great novel Voss.
Which book from your bookshelf at home is your most treasured and why?
My three volume 1751 edition of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, which was given to me by my wife as a wedding present thirty five years ago.

Which fictional character do you most identify with?
I usually identify most closely with the fictional character I aw either working with or reading about, in this case White's Voss.

What are you working on next?
I've just finished writing my most ambitious novel yet, Once, If I Remember Well, and have no idea what I will work on next. Currently I'm writing a brief memoir for the May symposium on my work which is to be held at Sydney University. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

French Kissing at Shearer's: Manu Feildel Event

Shearer’s had a flirtatious evening Wednesday night with Manu Feildel of Sydney restaurant, L’Etoile and of course, from the ever-popular TV programme My Kitchen Rules.

After teasing the crowd with an early appearance in the store, Manu started the event with a sexy “Bonjour” that prompted great murmurings of anticipation and excitement. 

He spoke with humour and honesty about his life working in kitchens and interacted with the audience in a relaxed and intimate manner, often referring to audience members as “darling”, which was greatly appreciated.

When Manu’s mother prompted him to get a real job after some years working in a circus which he joined when he was 13, he started work with his father in Brittany. He moved to England when he was 18, with not a word of English. Not being smitten with England’s dour weather, he searched out sunnier climes and landed in Melbourne, which was then the food capital of Australia. He moved permanently to Sydney after being “gobsmacked” by its tremendous beauty – particularly that possessed of the local women. “Women everywhere – whoah!”, exclaimed Manu. 

He found work at Hugo’s, but after sensing a change in the patronage, opened his own restaurant, L’Etoile in Paddington. He now owns another restaurant, Apperitif, which only recently opened with Miguel Maestre in Kings Cross.

He wryly described his early forays into television, particularly that of his experience with MasterChef. He made light of how much the producers must be regretting their decision not to choose him for the programme because of his French accent. Of course, he is now a huge part of the success of My Kitchen Rules with Pete Evans.

Question time was great fun and Manu was extremely open in responding to questions as varied as “Who would you share your last meal with” (No-one. I never share my food) to “What is it like working with Pete Evans” (He talked about their separating of ways when at Hugo’s, but reassured us that they are great mates). However, what he would not reveal was who had been eliminated from the My Kitchen Rules Wednesday night challenge.

It took him 8 months to put together Manu’s French Kitchen and he talked of becoming an author as the “sugar on the cake”. Manu said that he wanted people to become less afraid of French cooking and so wanted to put together recipes that people could use everyday.

He promised to give every person who bought Manu’s French Kitchen a kiss – “even the boys”, which was widely taken up by those present.

On a rainy French Film Festival night in Leichhardt, Manu warmed the hearts and fired the belly, kissed our cheeks and bade us all “darling”.  What more could you want?

Written by Megan

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Brief Chat with Author Garry Disher

Garry Disher has written over 40 books across many genres, including the Wyatt series and the Challis & Destry novels.  We caught up with him at the recent Leading Edge conference. 

What was the last book you read and what are you currently reading?
I have been catching up on Peter Temple's back list, and last week read An Iron Rose. Currently I'm reading a Joyce Carol Oates short story collection, Give Me Your Heart.

Which book from your bookshelf at home is your most treasured and why?
Richard Ford's short story collection, Rock Springs, which I read on spec before I knew anything about Ford and the other 'dirty realists' (Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Bobbie Ann Mason, etc). I later met Ford and Carver. Their books taught me how to write.

Which fictional character do you most identify with?
Jim, in Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, a hapless young academic who triumphs over the pompous fools he's obliged to work and live with. A dated book now, but still very funny.

What are you working on next?
A crime novel told from the viewpoints of a child and a derided small-town policeman.

Thanks to Garry for taking the time to answer our questions!

Lonely Planet Competition Winners!

We've decided on the winners for our Lonely Planet competition. It was a hard choice as we had many great entries, but we gave the prizes to two crime-on-a-train themed stories, with the winner being the one who suffered the most!

Here's the runner up entry, which comes from Sasha who wins a Lonely Planet France guidebook:

Travelling on a train from Tangiers to Fez in Morocco with an American companion, we had a well dressed, well spoken local join our carriage. He charmed us with his warm welcome and stories about his Aussie and American friends. He showed us photos of his lovely wife and kids. He then made a tempting offer "Why don't you join my family for my cousin's wedding today. You will be our guests of honour! We need to get off at a stop between here and Fez and you will get to experience real Morocco". My friend was almost frothing at this proposal, but my sixth sense warned me and I declined with a bogus excuse we were meeting friends.  After declining (he tried really hard) he abruptly left our carriage. My friend was shattered until I opened my trusted Lonely Planet and read aloud a highlighted section of "Warning for train travellers...a well-dressed, well spoken man..." It didn't say what would've actually happened if we had gotten out of the train with our "local friend", but thank goodness it was in black and white as my friend was about to find this man to say he was interested in coming!!!

A lucky miss for Sasha there! And here's the winning entry courtesy of Holly who wins a Deluxe Travel Book, courtesy of Lonely Planet:

I went on exchange to Paris when I was fifteen with my best friend. I'd just gotten this new SLR camera for my birthday from my mum before I had left. By my third day in Paris I'd taken over a thousand photos at various galleries and monuments only to be mugged on the RER on the way home, still being jet-lagged, quite young and upset because I had already lost some memories and my birthday present. I was distraught and had to go into my spending money for the whole trip to buy a new camera :( 

Congratulations to our winners, your prizes will be heading your way courtesy of Lonely Planet!

Check out the new-look Lonely Planet guides here!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Indie Awards 2011

The Indie Awards for 2011 have been announced. The Indie Awards are chosen by independent booksellers from all over Australia and often recognise the next big thing in Australian literature. Previous Book of the Year winners include Breath by Tim Winton and Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, both of which went on to bestseller status with national and international acclaim.

Here are the 2011 winners:

Book of the Year
The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do (Allen and Unwin)

Best Fiction
Bereft by Chris Womersley (Scribe)

Best Non-fiction
The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do (Allen and Unwin)

Best Debut Fiction
Rocks in the Belly by Jon Bauer (Scribe)

Best Children's Book
Mirror by Jeannie Baker (Walker Books)

Publisher of the Year
Allen and Unwin
Metropolitan Bookseller of the Year
Shearer's Bookshop, Leichhardt, NSW

Regional Bookseller of the Year
Mary Who? Bookshop, Townsville, QLD

Wait, what was that? Yes, you read it right, Shearer's has won the Metro Bookseller of the Year Award! We owe our award to all the support we get everyday from our customers and our industry. It's a fantastic feeling to be recognised, but it's also fantastic to be a part of such a wonderful community of passionate book lovers. Barbara brought us all chocolates to celebrate which, as regular readers of this blog and my tweets will know, is a perfect way to celebrate!

Congratulations must go not just to the winners but to all those who were shortlisted for awards. This list of books truly represents some of the best work being done in Australian literature today.
Congratulations and thanks to all!

Written by Mark

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A Brief Chat with Author Andrew O'Hagan

Andrew O'Hagan is the author of The Atlantic Ocean and The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe among others.

What was the last book you read and what are you currently reading?
Edmund de Waal's beautiful memoir The Hare With Amber Eyes was my last read. Such a terrific blend of history and personal obsession. I am now reading all of Dickens' novels: what amazing characters. Thrilling.

Which book from your bookshelf at home is your most treasured & why?
I really love my edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's. It was given to me by an Australian poet, and represents friendship, grace, biting humour, and a lovely sense of memory.

Which fictional character do you most identify with?
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. I'm basically a gypsy with a brooding and slightly ridiculous sense of the romantic.

What are you working on next?
A simple, warm tale of an old woman and a soldier, The Illuminations.

Thanks to Andrew O'Hagan for coming in for a chat and to sign some books. And extra thanks for sharing the title of his next book with us - the first time he's announced it!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Jeff Lindsay Event

Jeff Lindsay, the author of the Dexter books, visited Shearer's last night to face a bookshop packed with some of his biggest fans. He greeted us in the traditional Australian manner: “G’day, bugger.”

He read from beginning of the latest novel, Dexter is Delicious, with a warning, “people are sometimes confused by the beginning. “Is this really a Dexter book?”" Jeff read extremely well, which isn't surprising considering he also recorded the Dexter audiobooks.

“I would be delighted to entertain your queries at this point. Didn’t that sound pompous? I love it when I do that.”

“The ‘q’ stands for question not ‘line up’. And the answer part is harder if you don’t actually have a question.”

Are you happy with the Dexter TV series?
Yeah, I am. Michael C. Hall does a terrific job. I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it now.

Where did you get the idea?
I was asked to give a talk at a Kiwanis … what’s the Australian equivalent? A Rotary event. Sitting at the head of the table, room full of real estate agents, insurance salesmen, talking with food in their mouth, fake smiles, growing sense of horror as I’m getting ready to speak and the idea just popped into my head. I don’t know where from. Serial murder? Not always a bad thing. I went home with a stack of napkins and notes.

Do you see an end for Dexter?

I see several ends for Dexter. Sometimes I want to hit him over the head with a brick. Sometimes I see a variation on end of Kind Hearts & Coronets (with Alec Guinness). Maybe when people get tired of it, or I get tired of it.

Why Miami?
It was my home and the cops I was talking to about the series were Miami homicide cops.

Do you get pressure from producers of the show?
The producers would probably rather Dexter hit me over the head. It’s a pissing contest sometimes. (Sorry to use such language with such a distinguished audience). I sent them an email to let them know Dexter and Rita are having a baby girl. A few weeks later the TV producers said publicly Dexter and Rita are having a baby boy. But I’m deeply grateful that they’re doing a good job.

What’s your favourite part of writing?
There's a poem by Dorothy Porter. "See the mothers in the park, ugly creatures chiefly, someone must have loved them one, in the dark and briefly." I quote that just to get a laugh. But when she was asked "do you enjoy writing?" she said "I hate writing, I love having written." At the end of the day if I've written 5 or 6 pages that don't make me want to kill myself I'm happy.

What do you read?
Historical fiction, biography. I've read Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey-Maturin series about 12 times... All 18 books. I used to be a book a day sort of person. Most people read to unwind, but you often can't do that as a professional writer.

There's no real authorial influence on the way I write but I admire Wodehouse's plots and comic moments.

Do you see Dexter as a disturbed, crazy person or a normal person carrying out what's inside all of us?
I'm from Miami so it's different for us. Dexter is a homicidal psychopath, we're not except maybe at rush hour. Was that the M2 I came in on?

Dexter is deranged, disturbed but very well aware that he is. He's very well adjusted. He knows what he is and that it's different but he thinks it's better.

Do you feel you've glamourised this character? That he's so appealing but he's a psychopath?
I'm not really convinced I'm glamourising what he does. For example, my daughter is crazy about Harry Potter, she's read the books three times, she's seen all the movies but still hasn't developed magical powers. If you're not a homicidal psychopath you're not going to think this is ok. If you are you might think, it might be fun to do it that way but most psychopaths have their own way of doing things.

Are you locked in to Dexter for the next few books? Or have you another dream job?

My dream job is winning the lottery and retiring.

I'm locked into Dexter contractually for another book or two. I do have a couple of plays to write but I probably won't get to do them for a while.

First person is a great way to get inside Dexter's head but do you find it hard to convey the information you need to convey in first person?
Most of my problems come through plotting. Sometimes I over-clue and sound like Miss Marple. Other times I under-clue and it's like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone. Sometimes I cheat and use Dark Passenger insight.

Do you do a lot of research?
Yeah, a lot on the internet, which can be scary. I read a lot of books, things by FBI profilers. I also have a lot of friends who are cops, and there are psychologists in the family. I call them up and ask, "If this happened would he do that?" And they say, "Yeah, that's about right. Where did you read that?" "Oh it just seemed to right to me." Then they ask, "Can I speak to your wife for a moment?"

Have you been hanging around dead bodies to get the descriptions right?

Actually no, I don't like to put in a lot of graphic description. I try to mimic what Hemingway did in Hills Like White Elephants, creating a clear impression without being explicit.

Did you plan a series from the start?
No, Dexter is really a piss off letter to the publishing industry. Then they asked for more. But I told the story. It's done. The publisher said, "you'll think of something". It's conceptually hard to think of it as a series.
Are you concerned about the amount of plastic Dexter uses?
As myself I am but it's not high on Dexter's list of priorities. Future generations will have to worry about it but it's better than leaving an awful mess lying around.

Is there any aspect of the TV series you're not comfortable with?

I'm only up to the beginning of season 5 but so far it seems a bit maudlin, a bit sentimental. I'm told it pulls out of the nose dive later in the series though. I also didn't like season 2, where they find all the bodies in 60ft of water. It's hard to find 60ft of water in Miami, either it's Biscayne Bay which is shallow or the ocean which is 300ft deep. I understand it's for the dramatic arc of the whole season but it's stupid.

What do you think of Jennifer Carpenter as Deb?
She's a great actress. At first I thought she wasn't at all like Deb, like she struggled to capture her but she came back as a beautiful representation of Deb.

Do you have any artistic control over the series?
It varies from season to season but averaged out it's virtually nothing.

Has the show influenced your writing?
People ask that but no. When I'm writing I write from Dexter. But every so often when I'm writing Matsuoka C. S. Lee sticks his little bald head in there and steals the scene.

Does Dexter influence you?
No, there's a total disconnect. It works the other way though- if I'm worrying about income tax Dexter will be too.

Dexter is Delicious is available now from Shearer's. Autographed copies are also available.

Mia Freedman Event

The wonderful Mia Freedman visited Shearer's yesterday to celebrate International Women's Day and the release of her new book, Mia Culpa. Mia is a fantastic speaker and all who attended yesterday were thrilled to meet her and hear what she had to say.

Mia began by talking about the importance she places in showing women in all their forms. When working at Cosmo she wanted to show a more diverse range of women so decided upon a lingerie story with a girl who was size 14-16. The fashion editor said "No, no, no!" But Mia pushed ahead. She couldn’t find a photographer, couldn’t find a fashion label for the clothes. The photographer, make-up and hair artist didn’t want their names on it. 

“The way women are represented in the media sucks.”

She went on to say that she's really upset because the media will not represent women the way they are. Editors do alter things. Images from the magazines subliminally penetrate us and that becomes the wallpaper of what’s normal.

Mia then spoke about working with the National Body Image Advisory Group. They created a voluntary code of conduct for magazines, fashion and models. But there was absolutely no change, no disclosure of photoshop images. A voluntary code was not enough. Newspapers cannot alter images. Why can magazines do it and play with women’s self-esteem?

When she left Cosmo she worked at Channel 9 which was "a hundred shades of disaster". Once she had left Channel 9 she was lost and the phone didn’t ring. But then she fell pregnant (thankfully, finally something to do) and then started her blog, Mama Mia, and made no money for three years (although with GoogleAds they made $17 one year)! Then her husband took over the technical side and Mia did the rest.

Mia and her husband (who she "married for dinner, not lunch") live and work together. They have an office and staff now. Mama Mia has become a family business that involves working incredibly long hours, but is intensely rewarding. Mia reflected on a happy moment when she was giving away movie tickets from a competition she had run and her young daughter was sitting on her desk, licking the stamps for the envelopes. Mia also talked about "the walk of shame every working mother knows" that starts at lunch time when you put your jacket and bag in the car, and ends at 5.30 when you take your mobile phone for a walk so nobody disturbs you on the way out.

Question and Answer Session
What’s the book (Mia Culpa) about?
It's a conversation between women and all the things we would talk about. It's about validating the feelings that mothers have when they realise that they aren't Carol Brady. Mia stated that it's comforting to know that you aren't alone.

How important are the comments on your website?

Hugely important. Sometimes they’re longer than the original post. Magazines are not a conversation, more like a monologue.

How do you balance family and work?
 Badly. Having balance is the new having it all. It’s the new goal. Today was really unbalanced with three children sick and having to rush out the door. But she has to make tweeks all the time. Only when you’re really unbalanced all the time do you need to change. Women need to have a life. Something that’s all about them, something for you. Maybe not a blog but something similar, a time to be independent.

The stories you do are always interesting. Do you have trouble coming up with ideas?
 Mia stated that her insatiable curiosity and the endless inspiration she finds in life means that she has too many ideas, with about one hundred unfinished or draft articles on the back burner.

Do other people have ideas for you too?
 "I have people sending me links to interesting things all the time." Mia also said that sometimes she gets sick of the sound of her own voice.

Do you ever work with themes?
 No, Mia is very anti-theme as she thinks they’re stupid. At Sunday Magazine she has a special dispensation to not write about the theme.

Do you see changes in air-brushing? Are less people doing it?
 No. Magazines are doing a fantastic job of making themselves redundant. They are securing their own extinction. Distribution and sales are slowing but they’re not changing. People can access material online and it’s free.

There was a video about air-brushing on Mama Mia...  Click here to view
It’s important to explain the photography process to people, especially young women and girls. Mia went to a photo shoot with some girls from work recently. There was the make-up artist, the photographer and four assistants, wardrobe and three racks of clothes. Four hours later, after hundreds of photographs only one gets used and it will be air-brushed.

What are your favourite books?
Mia read recently and really loved Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. It was supposed to be about how Chinese mothers are better than Western mothers and their children are more successful and disciplined. But the point of the story was the battle hymn. Her process worked for the older daughter but not for the  younger. It’s a beautiful, funny and self-deprecating story about different forms of parenting.

Thanks to Mia Freedman for coming along to Shearer's and having a chat with us!

Mia Culpa by Mia Freedman, available now. Autographed copy also available.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Shaun Tan Wins an Academy Award

Shaun Tan is one of the most treasured illustrators and writers of childrens books in Australia today. Many of his books, like The Arrival, The Red Tree and The Rabbits, have become contemporary classics of Australian childrens literature.

And now Shaun Tan has added to his long list of accolades and awards by winning an Academy Award. Shaun won the 'best animated short' Oscar at this year's ceremony. It's the same award won by fellow Australian Adam Elliot for his short film Harvie Krumpet in 2003. Shaun won for an adaptation of his book, The Lost Thing.

The story follows a young boy living in a post-apocalyptic Perth who discovers a bizarre creature while out collecting bottle tops. The boy tries to find where the 'lost thing' belongs in the face of everyone else's indifference.

The film version of The Lost Thing uses the vocal talents of comedian Tim Minchin as the narrator of the story and was co-directed with Andrew Ruhemann, who has been a producer of many film projects including the documentaries One Day in September, The Rolling Stones: Stones in Exile and My Kid Could Paint That.

The Lost Thing has won awards and prizes at many film festivals including both the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals, and the Austin and Palm Springs festivals in the US.