Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back from FNQ

Frank got back on Saturday arvo from Far North Queensland and came round for dinner for a very normal roast lamb to celebrate his return. Meanwhile, Emilio had vacated, leaving a film of plaster dust over everything, which we are slowly removing. But he did a really good job of the hall and kitchen, plus a little bit of Maria's milkbar for good measure. If anyone needs a good plasterer, and a very gentle man, I can recommend him.

The rest of the weekend was also very normal: by Sunday we were so pooped from all the plaster activity that we did nothing very much at all beyond the Sunday crossword and a bit of cooking. P. cooked a whole snapper for dinner, which was delicious, and the remnants became a very tasty fish broth, courtesy of Jean-Jacques recipe book. More new recipes are in progress tonight with a Stephanie kangaroo fillet with polenta and anchovy vinaigrette.

We have discovered where Alice the Cat lives, though not her real name yet, nor her gender. (In fact, she has been neutered.) But she keeps coming to sit by the fire when her owner is not home. Maria says she spreads herself around the neighbourhood. 'That cat would make a good politician,' she says.

A quite fruitful trip to Penguin and the archive boxes today. The rest of the week will be heads down for the Premier's Award books, plus a bit of work on the new ms. Alice Springs waits for a report on it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Carpentaria wins the prize

The winnah! Alexis Wright wins the Miles Franklin in a canter. In all the publicity she takes a swipe at John Howard for his sledgehammer approach to Indigenous affairs, announced the same day.

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A winning week

The big event this week was Alexis Wright winning the Miles Franklin award for Carpentaria. It was much deserved after 10 years of work, and the book is epic in every sense. Funny, moving and monumental, it is a great read and a real departure in Australian writing. Congratulations to her and to publisher, Ivor Indyk of Giramondo for a job well done.

Also, the printed Maps to Success: successful strategies in Indigenous organisations arrived and looks very good indeed, thanks to Mouli Mackenzie's stylish design work. Apparently, AIATSIS are thinking of reprinting it already. To celebrate, I sent of volume 1: the policy paper for approval the next day. It will be interesting to see what responses that gets.

Also, the same day, John Howard, the rodent, announced his sledgehammer (thank you Alexis for that word) arrangements for Indigenous affairs in the Northern Territory. It is wedge politics par excellence: if you object to what he is proposing, you don't care about the kiddies. Let's hope it buries him, though I doubt it.

Emilio the plasterer is finishing off his good work today in the hall and the kitchen so the danger of plaster falling on our heads is averted for the moment. A new shipment of wood is about to be delivered so we will be warm and toasty again. The neighbour's cat, whom we have christened Alice, has taken up semi-permanent residence during the day. And all's right with the world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Meetings, meetings

My working life is usually relatively free of meetings. It is one of the benefits of being a freelancer. Of course, I often have meetings with authors as I did last Friday, but they are not the kind of round-the-table meetings which are common in publishing houses.

However, on Monday, we had a meeting of the Melbourne end of the research project. Half a dozen of us sat round a convivial table at Donnini's in Carlton and took stock of where we are up to and where we go next. It was quite a productive meeting, and all I have to do now is get the digital recorder I bought the other day to work. Asking around the table, it seems to be a common problem. Our weekly forays into the Penguin archive will continue, perhaps with a little more focus on my part. I was the only person at the table in the happy position of not having to worry about 'publication points', not being in academe, but I still need to worry about publication.

On Tuesday, we had a meeting for the Premier's Non-fiction Award, which was refreshingly free of discord, disrespect and ego-tripping (always a hazard of meetings). We now have a longlist to look at before our next meeting to decide a shortlist and winner. Three weeks of close reading will follow for all of us.

From these rarefied heights, today the plasterer is coming to begin work on our cracking plaster bits. Less literary, but probably more useful than any of the above.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Napoleon's Double

New novel by Antoni Jach, now on sale.
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Large launch

On Thursday this week, there was a launch of Antoni Jach's new novel, Napoleon's Double, at the Spanish Club in Johnston Street. There was a huge roll-up. Several of us remarked that we hadn't seen such a turn out for a launch ever. The room at the Spanish Club is fortunately quite large and the bar staff worked very hard getting everyone served. It was also a who's who in Melbourne's literary world. I haven't read the novel yet, so have to reserve judgment on that, but it was certainly launched with a vengeance and book sales were no doubt very good on the night. It is published by Giramondo who are waiting for the results this week of the Miles Franklin Award which has Giramondo-published Carpentaria by Alexis Wright in strong contention.

Meanwhile, I am still ploughing through the Premier's non-fiction award books to get to a shortlist, and had a pleasant and fruitful meeting with a new author on Friday on a book which will keep me busy over the next few months.

The Meanjin saga has reached a kind of conclusion. See the article in today's Sunday Age for a more-or-less accurate account of the resolution. Along with the rest of the Board (except the chair), I've been sacked according to the article and a memo to the chair from the vice-chancellor. I'm not sure of the legal status at present, as I've received nothing official, so I suppose I'm still on the Board. I'm not sure who can actually do the sacking, or indeed appoint a new board, as the article suggests. We'll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, mercifully, Meanjin continues independently for the moment.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Up to the armpits in books

This last week, I've been very busy reading through the Premier's Award non-fiction offerings and extending my knowledge of all manner of unlikely things, including war graves, courtcases and so on. Our first meeting is next week to sort out a long shortlist. As well, I've been puttering along with the policy document, which is hard work.

Meanwhile, the Bryony groupies went to the Society of Editors dinner meeting to hear her talk about the Blackman/White letters. P. was astounded that she hardly repeated anything from her launch speech. It was a very enjoyable night, and good to catch up with Sister Hope (unregistered) as well. Before the event started Lorraine and I sat downstairs playing 'pick the editor' as people arrived. It's not hard. The manuscript sized bags are a dead giveaway. There is also a kind of odeur-de-nun about some editors. Not all, I hasten to add.

Coffees with Jo B. and Rochelle J. punctuated the week as well as a Liz Kelly memorial vego lunch on Queen's Birthday at the local Lentil as Anything. We had a very convivial time. Ann de H. came down from Castlemaine and it was good to catch up with Rennis, Polly and Sal as well. Lots of gossip and scuttlebutt appropriate to the occasion. Sadly, Sydney Polly couldn't come because of a crook ankle.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Milkcrate Men frolic

The Milkcrate Men (or are they Women) of Abbotsford. How long will they last?
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Milkcrate Men

The Milk Crate Men are near Victoria Park Station, at least for the moment. Pics: Peter
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

What say you to policy?

Finally, on Friday the draft policy paper turned up, so now I have the jolly task of beating it into shape. Unfortunately, it did not arrive in time for the designer to work on it before she heads overseas, so we'll be doing the whole operation electronically between here and Wales. I kid you not.

Otherwise, life continues pretty much as normal. I find it very hard to define reading books as work, but that is what I have been doing this week for the Premier's Awards. Lots of good books, even very good, but so far, not brilliant. Keep reading! We have a meeting in two weeks to discuss a shortlist.

On the home front, there have been some home improvements and more to come. We had our first fire of the season yesterday, after Dean the Chimney Sweep came and did his stuff. Even if it is ecologically unsound, there is nothing like sitting in front of a roaring fire on a wintry night. (And enclosed woodfires are not all that bad, we say to ourselves.)

And, on Friday, Wayne the Leadlighter came and took away the wobbly leadlight from the front door. It will return, mended, one hopes, in a week's time. No luck with the plasterers yet, though we might have to give priority to the water heater which seems as if it is about to die. Fortunately, one of the power companies has a special on them at present, just in time.

On Friday night, Dad and Sal came for a delicious roast lamb dinner (I can say this as P. cooked it) from the saltbush leg from the Slow Food market, followed by passionfruit icecream. The lamb was very tasty indeed, with all the trimmings, as they say. Tonight, Frank is coming and we are having roast pork with some trimmings.

It appears I will be doing some university teaching in second semester. It fits in quite well with the University of Western Sydney research project, though it means I'll be a much busier budgie. The preparation must be done. A class full of post-grads waits for no one. Come rain, come hail, come sleet, come snow...