Monday, 24 September 2012

Event: Elliot Perlman Book Club Visit

Elliot Perlman, Australian barrister and author of three novels and one short story collection, affectionately calls Shearer’s Bookshop his second home, although he lives in Melbourne.

On this, his third visit since October 2011, he enthralled Shearer’s book club members for over an hour and a half with an intimate round-table discussion of his works - focusing mainly on his book of short stories, The Reasons I Won’t Be Coming, named for one of the stories within the collection.

Perlman admitted that it was short stories which launched his literary career. After winning The Age Short Story Award in 1994 for The Reasons I Won't Be Coming, another of the short stories he was writing kept growing to become his first novel, Three Dollars, which was published in 1998. This in turn, was produced as a film in 2005, directed by Robert Connolly, and starring David Wenham and Frances O'Connor.

His collection of short stories was published in 1999. Perlman refers to this volume as the “little brother or sister” often overshadowed by the three big novels (Three Dollars, Seven Types of Ambiguity and The Street Sweeper). In most countries the first story in the collection is “Your niece’s speech night”, but in the USA it opens with “Good morning, again”, a shorter, more concrete story which has proved very popular with the American readers.

Elliot admitted that much of his writing has a melancholy tone. He had toyed with the idea of naming his volume of short stories, Men Who Fail, but this would discount those male characters who do make a final heroic act of love, which the other characters in the stories are either oblivious to, or who, tragically, come to realise too late.

Perlman is most concerned with the Shakespearean idea of never giving a character a bad line. He aims to portray even the “baddies” in a rounded way, providing them with redeeming characteristics rather than presenting them as only black or white.  He is concerned with the themes of politics and culture and especially condemns the current love affair of governments to an economic rationalism that is destroying the humanity of ordinary people when they are confronted with “un(der)employment” and its consequent poverty.

This theme is beautifully portrayed in the first story of the collection, “Your niece’s speech night” where the male character is aware of the soul-destroying task that his girlfriend is undertaking in his workplace, and he wants to offer her a gift of love to sustain her when she, herself, becomes aware of what she has done.

Perlman also beautifully and powerfully portrays his interest in the theme of culture in “I was only in a childish way connected to the established order”.  Here, he juxtaposes a lover of poetry in Australia, where poetry is considered to be so lowly a profession that a man could die of starvation should he wish to write it, with the Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam, where in the totalitarian Stalinist regime, poetry was considered so powerful, a poet could be killed for writing it.  

These themes stem in part from his family background of Eastern European Jewish descent (Russia and Poland) but he is quick to discount any direct autobiographical link to the final story in the collection, “A tale in two cities”. It is the longest in the collection and is practically a novella.  This story describes the humiliations endured by Jews living in Communist Russia and then of those experienced in Australia once they have been relocated. It reads as a tantalizing precursor to The Street Sweeper - his highly acclaimed novel published in 2011.

Perlman admits that he is unable to write with the descriptive poetic style that is currently popular in literary fiction, so he turns to one of his favourite authors, Graham Greene, as inspiration.  He describes Greene as "a master of beautifully crisp, clean and spare prose". Perlman’s stories are all the more poignant because of his choice of understated spare prose.

Perlman explained that the best part of writing was speaking directly to people who had come to meet him and ask questions. Although, as a political writer he has endured the criticisms of those who oppose his views, he has avoided being the recipient of trolls as he does not participate in social media at all. He does not have a Twitter account, nor is he on Facebook, or have a Blog. He prefers to protect the mystery of the author.  He reflected on how today’s parents are the first generation to have to deal with their children using (and perhaps abusing) the internet.  And he is interested in what humanity will learn from this over time.

We thank Elliot Perlman for a most illuminating evening, for his candour and generosity and for his bravery in portraying the political issues which need to be aired and discussed by our community. We look forward to further hearing his views on Q&A tonight!

Q&A: Tonight ABC1 9.35pm

- Jane

Friday, 21 September 2012

September School Holiday Activities

What a glorious afternoon to mark the start of the school holidays! If you're staying in Sydney during the holidays, we have some great activities for kids of all ages at Shearer's. More details are below and if you have any questions, please feel free to call the store on (02) 9572 7766.

We hope you have a fantastic break!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Event: 'Goodbye Lullaby' Launch

Jan Murray's Goodbye Lullaby was launched tonight by the National Secretary of the AWU Paul Howes and television presenter, model and author Susie Elelman at Shearer's Bookshop.  

Jan's son Christopher Brown introduced the author and the special guests, joking that his family has lived through the trials and tribulations of the novel's protagonists for the last twenty years. Talk-back radio host, regular television guest, controversial panellist on Channel Ten/Foxtel's Beauty & the Beast, and well seasoned writer - Jan perhaps most notably caused quite a scandal when she admitted on 60 Minutes seducing her cabinet minister husband on his parliamentary desk in Canberra.

Susie Elelman shared the story of her father who was a Holocaust survivor, as well as her brother who was conscripted into the Vietnam War, escaping by the skin of his teeth due to flat feet, and subsequently how close to her heart the story of Goodbye Lullaby is.

Paul Howes described his experience as being forcibly adopted and his political drive to rectify the related past wrongs throughout the British Commonwealth. He praised Jan and her novel for tackling the issue of state-sanctioned, widespread and largely undisclosed forceful adoptions. Paul also described with tremendous heartfelt emotion his first meeting with his birth mother - and in Shearer's Bookshop would you believe!

Goodbye Lullaby follows Miki, a young unmarried mother who is forced to give up her child in the 1950s. Two decades later she is a dangerous anti-war activist on the run. She is forced to find her son Dominic as he is conscripted to fight in Vietnam during the 1970s. Miki has his get out jail free card, but has to take on everyone in the process. Goodbye Lullaby is heartbreaking, yet warmly humorous. Murray writes with a fresh and captivating voice, her descriptions as tactile and crisp as a dewy grass knoll.  

Jan gracefully thanked her friends and family for their support and jokingly reminisced with Susie Elelman about their shared time hosting Beauty and the Beast. A special thanks was reserved for Paul Howes' intimate candour. The NSW Government are planning on issuing a formal apology on the 20th September for state-sanctioned forcible adoptions.

Signed copies of Goodbye Lullaby are available at Shearer's while stocks last.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Man Booker Prize 2012 Shortlist

Deborah Levy, Hilary Mantel, Alison Moore, Will Self, Tan Twan Eng and Jeet Thayil are the six shortlisted authors in contention for the Man Booker Prize 2012, which was announced overnight in London.

The judges praised the powerful language and artistry displayed in the six books, whose common themes include old age, memory and loss.

The six books, selected from the longlist of 12, are:

  The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

 Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

 Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

The Lighthouse by Alison Moore

Umbrella by Will Self

 Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil

Of the six authors, two have previously been linked to the prize. Hilary Mantel won the prize in 2009 with Wolf Hall, the first of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, and was longlisted in 2005 for Beyond Black. Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng was longlisted for the prize in 2007 with his debut novel, The Gift of Rain. Four novelists, including Will Self, appear on the list for the first time.

Which of these books are your pick for the 2012 Man Booker Prize? Which ones do you want to read?

Monday, 10 September 2012

Interview: Ambelin Kwaymullina

Ambelin Kwaymullina came to Shearer's to meet our kids book club and talk about her new book 'The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf'. She spoke to Megan about writing and the Australian elements in the book.

'Bradman's War' signed by Malcolm Knox and the last two Invincibles

Cricket fans will love this!

This is a fantastic opportunity to grab a copy of Bradman’s War by Malcolm Knox not only signed by the author, but also by the last two surviving Invincibles, cricket legends Neil Harvey and Arthur Morris. To order your signed copy please call Shearer's on (02) 9572 7766.

Also we have a great event coming up at Oatlands Gold Club, where Malcolm Knox will be speaking about one of the most successful cricketing teams in history. Under the wing of Sir Donald Bradman himself, ‘The Invincibles’ are the only Australians to complete a tour of England undefeated. But what went on behind the scenes during their record-breaking wins?

A three course dinner will be served on the night, followed by a discussion and very special question and answer session with one of the two Invincible team members, cricket icon Arthur Morris. 

The evening will be held at
Oatlands Golf Club, Bettington Road, Oatlands
Single Ticket $95, Family Double Ticket $155, Family of Three $215
(incl. 3 course dinner and 1 signed copy of Bradman’s War).

Bookings Essential. Please call Oatlands Golf Club 9630 1260 or Shearer’s Bookshop 9572 7766

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Event: Patrick Gale 4th September

 Last night we had a return visit from the wonderful Patrick Gale to discuss his latest book A Perfectly Good Man. Patrick explained that it had been conceived as a companion piece to his earlier book Notes on an Exhibition. The central idea of that book was of the difficulty in growing up with a mother who was a mad genius, and in A Perfectly Good Man the madness is on the father’s side.

Barnaby Johnson, the central character, is not just a priest; he is a man who has devoted his life to being as good as he possibly can and inevitably that flows over onto his wife and children.

It’s a kind of moral thriller. At the beginning of the novel when Barnaby prays for the dying Lenny’s soul instead of calling an ambulance, it leads to his having to justify his actions as well as the power of prayer at the inquest, which shows bravery in an age where priests are considered as mere social workers. But Barnaby stands up for what it’s really about.

On another level it’s also a thriller because of a frightening stalker, Modest Carlsson who seems to be excited by death and whose main aim in life is to destroy the “good” Barnaby. Gale told us that he wanted to write about a person who doesn’t realise how his actions affect others.

Patrick regaled us with some humorous stories, saying that the character of Carlsson was based on a woman he had worked with and who displayed many of the traits described in Carlsson. He explained that he has become a spokesperson for the Quakers since Notes on an Exhibition was published, despite not being a Quaker himself, and that he had appeared twice on the cover of a church magazine, much to his very religious mother’s delight!

Patrick Gale described how he wanted to have the book spiralling backwards into Barnaby’s roots and troubled teens and childhood to find out what the answer to his need to be “good” might be. So the book moves in two directions at once (as did Notes on an Exhibition) and he wanted each chapter to feel as contained as a short story.

In the end the novel is about much more than religion. It’s really about family as most of Gale’s books are, and about the dynamics of the family. Gale revealed that his next novel would continue this theme of family in a more personal way since receiving some letters written between his mother and grandmother in the 1950’s concerning a family mystery.

We await his next offering with baited breath!

- Jane