Fiona McFarlane has won the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas prize for her “deliciously unsettling” short story collection, The High Places.
Flitting across continents, eras, and genres, McFarlane’s 13 stories examine the spectrum of emotional life, with moments of uneasy anticipation, domestic contentment and ominous desperation. Praised as “deliciously unsettling” by the Observer, The High Places includes stories as varied as a scientist living on a small island with only a colossal squid called Mabel and the ghost of Charles Darwin for company, a middle aged couple going on a disastrous holiday with friends in Greece, and an Australian farmer who turns to Old Testament methods to relieve a debilitating drought.
Writers are made, not born, by investing time and money (usually their own) in their development, Forge says. They buy time to write by reducing paid working hours, writing hundreds of words for underfunded literary magazines and other outlets for a nominal fee (or for nothing but “exposure”) and spending every spare moment “practising their scales”. And support comes from a small, low-paid or voluntary army of workers: editors, festival directors, editorial assistants.
By Jane Sullivan; more at The Age, 12th November, 2016.
Too often I hear (usually from men) that women never did anything in history to write about. What they are generally referring to are those ‘great deeds’ of men who were able to dedicate their lives to and sustain an uninterrupted focus on their area of specialisation. Women’s yearnings were sidelined and their lives circumscribed by multiple childbirth.
A.H. Chisholm wrote a ‘complete’ biography of Elizabeth Gould in 1944. In contrast, Melissa Ashley has written a fictional biography, or biographical fiction, of her in The Birdman’s Wife, which revitalises Elizabeth, colouring in her passions, her struggles, her continual negotiation of the demands of being a working artist and a mother.
This beautifully written novel presents a ‘complete’ picture of a family unit—that one man’s crowning achievements were in fact a family enterprise. John Gould may have been able to strut about like a peacock, but his ‘story’ his more complete when put in context alongside the female of his species, their young, and the materials from which he made his nest.
Donald Knowler first heard of the Glass Bottom Bus tour when he came to Tasmania more than a decade ago. The idea of tourists viewing vast numbers of animals squashed on the bitumen – an ironic in-joke among the wildlife and tourism fraternity – inspired him to compile his own checklist of what lay flattened on the island’s highways and byways. The journey led him to dead Tasmania devils and quolls…but also to the work of scientists researching the scale of the toll and looking at measures to reduce the carnage which results in an animal dying every two minutes on Tasmania’s roads. Riding the Devil’s Highway presents an itinerary for such a tour and a field guide to the flattened fauna of Tasmania – the roadkill capital of the world.
(Apologies … video quality’s not as high as I’d have hoped. Ralph)