A pair of

Ragged claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

WHEN I think of my favourite Aus­tralian nov­els, Shirley Haz­zard’s The Tran­sit of Venus (1980) and Miles Franklin-win­ning The Great Fire (2003) loom large. Haz­zard, 81, was born and schooled in Sydney but, the daugh­ter of a diplo­mat, she moved over­seas in her mid-teens and has been an ex­pa­tri­ate since, liv­ing mainly in Italy and the US. In 1963 she mar­ried Amer­i­can writer Fran­cis Steeg­muller, a lead­ing Flaubert scholar. He died in 1994. In re­cent years Haz­zard’s main home has been in New York, and it is there that next week a sym­po­sium on her life and works will be hosted by the Univer­sity of NSW. The Septem­ber 8 event at Columbia Univer­sity has been or­gan­ised by UNSW aca­demic Brigitta Olubas, au­thor of a just-pub­lished mono­graph, Shirley Haz­zard: Lit­er­ary Ex­pa­tri­ate and Cos­mopoli­tan Hu­man­ist (Cam­bria Press), which Ge­ordie Wil­liamson will re­view in these pages next week. Sym­po­sium par­tic­i­pants in­clude Sydney-based nov­el­ist Gail Jones, British writer Martin Stan­nard, who be­came friendly with Haz­zard when he was re­search­ing his bi­og­ra­phy of her friend Muriel Spark (he’s also a bit of an ex­pert on an­other of her friends, Gra­ham Greene), Amer­i­can poet and critic Jay Parini and a host of Aus­tralian and in­ter­na­tional aca­demics. The dis­cus­sions will fo­cus not just on Haz­zard’s ac­claimed fic­tion but also her crit­i­cal writ­ings on the UN and her pub­lished re­flec­tions on friends such as Greene. The idea, Olubas says, is to ‘‘help es­tab­lish Shirley Haz­zard’s place in Aus­tralia’s in­ter­na­tional lit­er­ary canon and ac­knowl­edge her achieve­ment as a writer’’. De­tails at http://hu­man­i­ties.arts.unsw.edu.au/ (scroll down to the What’s On sec­tion). ONE of the hap­pi­est mo­ments of my re­cent life was the day I re­alised my son, now seven, wouldn’t have any dif­fi­cul­ties with read­ing. I’m not sure why I was so wor­ried about it; I sup­pose it was be­cause I imag­ined my­self in his shoes and from that per­spec­tive the chal­lenge of de­cod­ing the squig­gles in a book looked hard in­deed. And it is hard for some chil­dren, none more so than those in re­mote in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, who lag well be­hind the av­er­age when it comes to read­ing and writ­ing skills. The In­dige­nous Lit­er­acy Foun­da­tion does won­der­ful work to try to close this gap, pro­vid­ing books and other lit­er­acy tools to 230 in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties throughout Aus­tralia. The foun­da­tion’s pa­tron is Therese Rein and am­bas­sadors in­clude David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Geral­dine Brooks, Sally Mor­gan, Anita Heiss, Kaz Cooke and Andy Grif­fiths. This Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 5, is In­dige­nous Lit­er­acy Day, with events in Queens­land, NSW, Vic­to­ria and Western Aus­tralia. Grenville will be speak­ing in Sydney, for ex­am­ple, while Grif­fiths will be do­ing sev­eral events in Queens­land, in­clud­ing at the Bris­bane Writ­ers Fes­ti­val. It’s a very good cause. De­tails at www.in­dige­nous­lit­er­a­cy­foun­da­tion.org.au. I’VE no­ticed some crack­ing book cov­ers lately, in­clud­ing the car-up-a-tree im­age on Josephine Rowe’s story col­lec­tion Tar­cutta Wake, which we re­pro­duced with a re­view of the book last week. But the bovine mail­box cover of Man of Let­ters, the new novel by Miles Franklin win­ner and part-time post­man David Fos­ter, takes the bis­cuit. Man of Let­ters will be pub­lished by Puncher & Wattmann on Oc­to­ber 22.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.