COMICS! Inescapable! For example: a school course in Germany that includes a comic called The Search . As part of the course students are asked to imagine what they’d do if, like Esther in the comic, they were confronted with the choice of either saving themselves or being taken to a concentration camp along with their parents. A long way from Donald Duck, that one. And now, from May, the controversial Philip Pullman, frowned on by those who believe the His Dark Materials books are dangerously atheistic, will be writing for a new weekly comic, published by Random House in Britain. It’s Tintin and Asterix for the 21st century, says David Fickling, the publisher. Does this put children’s book publishing on notice for a big and aggressive wave of celebrity comics? YOU spend three years on a journey by horse from Mongolia to Hungary on the trail of Genghis Khan. You accumulate nine journals documenting this story. You park your car, with the journals sitting on the back seat, in St Kilda in Melbourne and someone nicks them. No wonder writer Tim Cope, to whom this happened last month, is feeling as drained as the River Murray. If anyone out there knows anything about these diaries, Cope is offering $ 500, no questions asked, for their return: tim@ timcopejourneys. com. THE short list for the inaugural Barbara Jefferis Award ( for a novel that empowers the status of women) includes three novels from smaller presses: Karen Foxlee, The Anatomy of Wings ( University of Queensland Press); Rhyll McMaster, Feather Man ( Brandl & Schlesinger); and Geraldine Wooller, The Seamstress ( University of Western Australia Press), plus Michelle de Kretser’s The Lost Dog ( Allen & Unwin). Judged by The Weekend Australian literary editor Deborah Hope, novelist Rosie Scott and academic Leigh Dale, the $ 35,000 prize, funded by a bequest from Jefferis’s husband John Hinde, is administered by the Australian Society of Authors and will be announced on March 28. Speaking of awards, a poet winning the big one is always news: John Tranter took out the South Australian Premier’s Award, for Urban Myths . WHEN Max Barry ( for Company ) was chosen, along with Barry Heard ( for Well Done, Those Men), by readers in Victoria as their favourite summer reads, he responded: ‘‘ The most enjoyable and impressive part for me was the opportunity to blog alongside all these excellent authors. Usually it’s impossible to keep that many writers sober.’’ This did not make us wonder whether Barry’s stereotype of the drunken author was accurate, but rather why he imagines that most blogs are written by sober folk. The evidence suggests the opposite. BRILLIANT idea, a Proust dinner as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine festival held last month. Dining and reading are often compatible desires, so Olivier Normandin, the owner of Chez Olivier, made Marcel Proust the topic for discussion at his bookish dinner. Imagine his surprise when people who inquired about the event asked if Proust would be there in person. One of the writers who was there, Antoni Jach, says what a lovely thought, Marcel turning up for a chat and chew.
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