Claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

If tim­ing is ev­ery­thing is pol­i­tics, so it is in pub­lish­ing. Jour­nal­ist Paddy Man­ning, a for­mer col­league here­abouts, has some sweet syn­chronic­ity go­ing with his latest book, Born to Rule: The Unau­tho­rised Bi­og­ra­phy of Mal­colm Turnbull, which is due from MUP on Oc­to­ber 26. Man­ning’s pre­vi­ous bi­og­ra­phy, Bo­ganaire ( an aw­ful ti­tle for a good book), was about another self-made multi-mil­lion­aire, Nathan Tinkler. Un­like the new Prime Min­is­ter, how­ever, Tinkler is also a self-un­made mul­ti­mil­lion­aire. David Marr, one of our finest jour­nal­ists, could have had more luck in tim­ing with his just pub­lished Quar­terly Es­say on La­bor leader Bill Shorten, re­viewed on this page by Troy Bramston. Marr’s QE was about to hit book­stores when the sim­mer­ing Lib­eral lead­er­ship ten­sions boiled over. He quickly added some thoughts on the Turnbull as­cen­dancy. Given even the pet shop galah thinks the whole game has changed for Shorten and La­bor, Marr, the au­thor of game-chang­ing QEs on Kevin Rudd and Tony Ab­bott, prob­a­bly wishes he had a bit more time on this one.

Speak­ing of pet shop galahs, the man who added that phrase to the ver­nac­u­lar is the will­ing sub­ject of the most an­tic­i­pated po­lit­i­cal book of the year. Kerry O’Brien’s Keat­ing is be­ing billed as a “col­lab­o­ra­tive bi­og­ra­phy” and the near­est we will get to an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy or memoir by the for­mer trea­surer and prime min­is­ter. The book is based on un­used ma­te­rial from O’Brien’s cel­e­brated four-part ABC TV in­ter­views with Paul Keat­ing, plus sub­se­quent in­ter­views. Due from Allen & Unwin in Novem­ber and weigh­ing in at a shelf-buck­ling 800-plus pages, it prom­ises to be the de­fin­i­tive ac­count of one of the most po­lar­is­ing fig­ures in Aus­tralian po­lit­i­cal history. A month ear­lier, A&U will pub­lish the au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of another di­vi­sive La­bor politi­cian, Peter Gar­rett. Big Blue Sky will be a cra­dle-to-present memoir, cov­er­ing Gar­rett’s child­hood, rock star ca­reer with Mid­night Oil, en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivism and his time as a min­is­ter in the Rudd and Gil­lard gov­ern­ments. This one will be 450 pages or so, and I’m told he has writ­ten ev­ery word him­self. Fur­ther to last week’s dis­cus­sion of the No­bel Prize in Literature, a cou­ple of points of in­ter­est I didn’t have room to men­tion. First, Aus­tralian poet Ju­dith Wright re­ceived two nom­i­na­tions in 1964, the most re­cent year for which we have ac­cess to the ar­chives. Whether Wright was nom­i­nated be­yond 1964 — she lived un­til 2000 — we do not yet know. We do know of course that she did not re­ceive the No­bel. Which brings me to the sec­ond point: you have to be alive to win it. Prior to 1974 you could die any time in the year of the an­nounce­ment and re­ceive the prize posthu­mously, as hap­pened with Swedish poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt in 1931. But a tight­en­ing of the rules in 1974 re­stricted that win­dow to the two months be­tween the an­nounce­ment in Oc­to­ber and the award cer­e­mony in Stock­holm two months later. Whether this fac­tor has any in­flu­ence on the de­ci­sion is any­one’s guess, but it may be worth not­ing that one of the per­ceived fron­trun­ners of re­cent years, Syr­ian poet Ado­nis, is 85. Philip Roth, gen­er­ally con­sid­ered the best chance of break­ing the Amer­i­can drought since Toni Mor­ri­son in 1993, is no spring chicken at 83. It’s def­i­nitely worth not­ing that the 50-1 I’ve seen some book­mak­ers of­fer­ing on EL Doc­torow is way un­der the odds. Fi­nally, while long and in­ter­est­ing ar­gu­ments might be held about the most de­serv­ing writer not to win a No­bel, start­ing with Tol­stoy in 1901, it’s dif­fi­cult to think of an un­luck­ier con­tender than Span­ish philol­o­gist and his­to­rian Ra­mon Me­nen­dez Pi­dal in 1956. Of the 167 nom­i­na­tions re­ceived that year, 103 were for Me­nen­dez Pi­dal. The No­bel went to his poet com­pa­triot Juan Ra­mon Jimenez, who re­ceived one nom­i­na­tion. And, as my old grand­fa­ther used to say, that is why pun­ters catch the tram and book­ies ride in limos.

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