a pair of ragged claws
WOW, this is the first time I’ve been over on the left. It feels quite natural, I must say.
REGULAR readers will know I was one of the judges for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, announced on Friday night. It was a rewarding experience and the highlight for me was the judges as a group proposing Clive James for the $20,000 Special Award and the Premier’s Office agreeing to that suggestion. The award recognises a writer’s lifetime achievement and is not handed out lightly. Previous recipients include AD Hope, Judith Wright, Ruth Park, Rosemary Dobson and Tom Keneally. James, battling leukaemia and unable to travel, wrote an elegant acceptance speech that was read on his behalf. He said he wished he could have received the award in person but was ‘‘chained’’ to the London hospital supervising his treatment, from where he viewed NSW as ‘‘a distant, lost haven’’. ‘‘But it is always with me in my imagination.’’ James grew up in the Sydney suburb of Kogarah, as immortalised in Unreliable Memoirs. He continued: ‘‘To leave a paragraph or a poem in the national memory: it’s the best, the very best, thing a writer can hope for. This wonderful award validates the effort I put into my writing, even when I was too young to strike a moderate tone. In fact none of us, in my generation, were moderate. We wanted the world. But we were right to think NSW was a good place to start wanting it.’’ MELBOURNE think tank the Grattan Institute has published its annual summer reading suggestions for the Prime Minister. The books are: the Robert Manne and Chris Feik-edited The Words that Made Australia; Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essay, Great Expectations: Government, Entitlement and an Angry Nation; Adrian Hyland’s Kinglake-350; Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden; Enrico Moretti’s The New Geography of Jobs; and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Details: grattan.edu.au. All worthy reads, to be sure, but I reckon Julia Gillard should find time for Fifty Shades of Grey, not least because Tony Abbott has. After all, 20 million women can’t be wrong. I WAS chatting to Geordie Williamson the other day about the books we read as teenagers that were a bridge to the world of grown-up literature. Unsurprisingly we both loved Frederick Forsyth. I still think of The Odessa File as having the greatest surprise ending in literature (a view I doubt would survive a rereading). Jeffrey Archer, too, was a favourite. And I was delighted to learn we both thrilled to Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, a book I have re-read in recent years and lost no admiration for. However, there is one difference and I’m glad to report that for once it’s due to a gap in Geordie’s reading, not mine: the adventure novels of the southern African writer Wilbur Smith. I vividly recall devouring these, borrowed from the local library, so this month’s My Favourite Novel column, published to my right, brings back happy memories.
Quote of the week: ‘‘My use-by date has finally come up. I don’t mind that, I’ve had a wonderful life. Part of that wonderful life has been those people kind enough to pick up a Bryce Courtenay book and read it and enjoy it and buy the next one and be with me on what has been an incredible journey. And all I’d like to say, as simply as I possibly can, is thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’’ Bestselling author Bryce Courtenay, who died on November 22 aged 79, in a moving farewell video message to his readers.