The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - ROSE­MARY SORENSEN

HOW rep­re­hen­si­bly mealy- mouthed was Peter Gar­rett’s re­sponse to the news that the Na­tional Li­brary of Aus­tralia would take a big cut to its bud­get in the ‘‘ ef­fi­ciency div­i­dend’’ im­posed by the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment. ‘‘ There is no dis­tinc­tion un­der this Gov­ern­ment be­tween where the ef­fi­ciency div­i­dend falls as to where it fell un­der the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment, so it works in the same way,’’ he ap­par­ently said. The Arts Min­is­ter clearly has no idea of the im­por­tance of our cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions if he thinks a cut of $ 1.186 mil­lion to the op­er­at­ing bud­get of our na­tional li­brary in the name of ef­fi­ciency is some­thing that can be ‘‘ man­aged within their own pro­gram de­liv­ery as well as they can’’ with­out putting a dent in ser­vices. NICK Earls, who has pub­lished a swag of books in­clud­ing Bach­e­lor Kisses with Pen­guin ( al­though ear­lier books were pub­lished by Univer­sity of Queens­land Press) will move to Ran­dom House next year, with a book called The True Story of But­ter­fish . Earls cites the lure of the Vin­tage im­print, whose pub­lisher in Aus­tralia is Meredith Curnow, as his rea­son for the swap. Curnow has been with Ran­dom since she left the Syd­ney Writ­ers Fes­ti­val in 2002 af­ter a suc­cess­ful five years as di­rec­tor. WILL Gail Jones take out the $ 15,000 fiction prize when the Fes­ti­val Awards for Lit­er­a­ture are an­nounced at the Ade­laide Writ­ers Fes­ti­val to­mor­row? With a book ti­tled Sorry , you would have to say such a win would be zeit­geist- ish. She’s up against J. M. Coet­zee’s Diary of a Bad Year , El Do­rado by Dorothy Porter, Car­pen­taria by Alexis Wright ( this is a bi­en­nial award, and Wright has won just about ev­ery­thing else in the past cou­ple of years, so she must be short odds, too), The Bal­lad of Des­mond Kale by Roger McDon­ald and Janette Turner Hospi­tal’s Or­pheus Lost. LOOK­ING at the books of Nancy Phe­lan, who died in Jan­uary, aged 94, I was sur­prised to find her most re­cent work was pub­lished five years ago, her ‘‘ se­lec­tive mem­oir’’, Writ­ing Round the Edges , and that in 2004 she re­ceived the Pa­trick White Award. What a writ­ing life Phe­lan had, from her first travel book in 1958, through the bi­ogra­phies of her rel­a­tives Charles Mack­er­ras and Louise Mack, and a swag of nov­els. Speak­ing of long writ­ing lives, good­bye to Alain RobbeGril­let, who died last month aged 85. His work was an­noy­ing but it rein­vig­o­rated novel- writ­ing in the last cen­tury. YOU have to be jok­ing, you Mac­quarie Dic­tionary Word of the Year Com­mit­tee peo­ple. ‘‘ Pod slurp­ing’’! is ‘‘ in­ven­tive and sen­su­ous’’? Oh, maybe there’s a cer­tain unc­tu­ous ef­fi­cacy to this term for down­load­ing large quan­ti­ties of data from a com­puter to an MP3 player or me­mory stick. Sen­su­ous, no. But evoca­tive, yes. MICHAEL Por­tillo, chair­man of the Man Booker Prize panel, on his in­au­gu­ral and en­dear­ingly stiff blogspot: ‘‘ The trou­ble with a novel is that if you do not fin­ish it you may miss the twist or the end­ing that makes it re­mark­able and mem­o­rable. On the other hand, if you can­not bear the first hun­dred pages you are un­likely to feel that it is the out­stand­ing novel of the year.’’ Clearly, Por­tillo, a for­mer Bri­tish Con­ser­va­tive Party politi­cian, is keen on stat­ing the ob­vi­ous. As part of the prize’s 40th an­niver­sary, read­ers can vote for the Best of the Booker award. De­tails at www. the­man­book­er­prize. com.

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