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