THE OVER­FLOW

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - ROSE­MARY SORENSEN

THOSE who self- pub­lish tend to be feisty types. One such, Colin Macpher­son, found his feist ris­ing when he heard about the big whack of dough to be handed out, with much pomp and cer­e­mony, to two writ­ers for the newly es­tab­lished Prime Min­is­ter’s Lit­er­ary Awards. Macpher­son, who has writ­ten and pub­lished two nov­els un­der his own im­print, Mopoke, is ap­palled that self­pub­lished books are not el­i­gi­ble. Macpher­son points out that the Gov­ern­ment is us­ing main­stream pub­lish­ers as the first line in the judg­ing process. But that’s what prizes such as the Booker and Miles Franklin do, said a gov­ern­ment per­son in re­sponse to Macpher­son’s com­plaint. Yes, but those prizes aren’t hand­ing out tax­pay­ers’ money, he replied. This may be an­other ar­gu­ment to add to what should be a wider de­bate about why gov­ern­ments think awards are a good way to show their com­mit­ment to and sup­port of art and cul­ture. RE­AL­ITY television is so un­real, isn’t it? As if to prove that point, the BBC, bless it, is try­ing to hook into a phe­nom­e­non that has been as quick to spread as eczema. In a re­al­ity TV show called Mur­der Most Fa­mous ( the ti­tle of the show just about says it all), Minette Wal­ters, al­ways a wo­man will­ing to have a go, will men­tor six celebri­ties ( mostly peo­ple from other TV shows) on how to write a crime novel. They will be voted off one by one ac­cord­ing to the way they re­spond to the writ­ing tasks they are as­signed by Wal­ters. And the win­ner will be pub­lished. Isn’t that some­thing? HAS any­one read — or re­mem­bers that they’ve read — the first win­ner of the Booker prize? With the 40th an­niver­sary ap­proach­ing, we’re be­ing re­minded that in 1969 a BBC pro­ducer cum nov­el­ist by the name of Howard Newby beat Iris Mur­doch and Muriel Spark to win the Booker with his 10th novel, Some­thing to An­swer For. Com­pare that lit­tle bit of his­tory with our own Miles Franklin award, which kicked off a full 12 years be­fore the Booker, and did so with panache: the win­ner was Voss by Pa­trick White. ‘‘ THE book is a story, it’s my story.’’ Here we go again, an­other fake mem­oir, but you’ve got to take your hat off to Monique De Wael, also known as Misha De­fon­seca, whose au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, A Mem­oir of the Holo­caust Years , re­counted how she es­caped the Nazis when she was six and was ( pause for ef­fect) res­cued and reared by wolves . Now that it has been re­vealed that she was, in fact, not Jewish but the Catholic daugh­ter of a Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor, you won­der how it hap­pened that in 1997, when the book was pub­lished, any­one took it se­ri­ously. GOSH, that was a gag­gle of pub­lish­ing per­sons that the Aus­tralia Coun­cil hosted at Ade­laide Writ­ers Week, un­der its ( un­der­stand­ably) pop­u­lar Visit­ing In­ter­na­tional Pub­lish­ers pro­gram. What be­gan a decade ago as a group of eight has bur­geoned into a footy team- sized group, and we’re talk­ing Aus­tralian foot­ball’s 18, not soc­cer’s 11. From all over they came: New Zealand, In­dia, Ger­many and Bri­tain. Among the group was Lisa Highton, whose name will be well known to Aus­tralian writ­ers and agents as she was pub­lish­ing di­rec­tor at HarperCollins and Hod­der Head­line for a decade be­fore she re­turned to Bri­tain in 2005. No doubt she was pleased to catch up with old friends.

over­flow@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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