Friday, September 9, 2016

Serialised e-fiction: The Jewel Sea

Though nothing will ever replace the joy of a book-in-hand for me, there are situations when only an electronic device will do.  I almost always have my phone on me, so ‘sneak-reading’ (that’s another blog post) is a bit easier when a big open book isn’t visible.  Recognising the ubiquity of the smart-phone, the clever folks at The Pigeonhole have come up with a pretty innovative way to deliver their books. They send it to you in segments which they call Staves (a nod to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol I think).  The staves are delivered directly to your phone in their free app, and you can read them anytime after they arrive, or read along with their online bookclub, discussing the book with others, and making use of bonus content which they’ve incorporated - things like interviews, maps, pictures, little tidbits of information directly embedded into the text.  The conversations are also embedded into the text - all very discretely - you can ignore it or read as you go or read later.  

Not that I don’t already have a massive TBR stack - some on the go already - but the site was so slick and nicely designed, that I was tempted to check it out by joining in the reading of Kim Kelly’s The Jewel Sea which  started yesterday. So far I read the first stave and am enjoying it quite a lot.  The story is set in 1912, mostly on a fictionalised SS Koombana, a real boat that disappeared on a journey from Port Hedland to Broome. So far the narrative has drawn me in, and I’m looking forward to reading the second stave, which arrived in the past hour, tonight in bed (with the lights off - sometimes backlighting makes a lot of sense - sorry Kindle and paperbacks - I still love you - more the paperbacks than the Kindle).  One thing I noticed which was particularly cool about this reading, is that the author is joining in the conversation, and I’m pretty confident she will respond to questions if they arise.   Another nice thing is that the release a number of slots free for each book.  If you get in quickly, you can join in the readings that interest you free (there are lots of free classics too), and even if you don’t, the cost is pretty reasonable.  The Jewel Sea had 200 free slots, and there are still 3 free ones left.  If you’re quick, you can still join in at no cost and check it out here:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Compulsive Reader Sept Newsletter is out

The latest issue of Compulsive Reader News has now gone out.  The newsletter contains 10 new reviews, a copy of Paul Mitchell’s just released We. Are. Family up for grabs, as well as a pretty thorough round-up of literary news including the Miles Franklin, the Ngaio Marsh, the James Tait Black, and the Arthur C Clark. If you’re a subscriber, a copy should be hitting your email inbox soon if it hasn’t already.  If you don’t want to wait for the monthly newsletter you can read the reviews and interviews the moment they come in on our Facebook Page (thinking I might do a few Facebook giveaways soon too, so go forth and like if you want to win some books).  If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up free at the website:  If you can’t wait for email or you want to check the newsletter out first, you can grab yourself a copy here (but giveaways are subs only): Compulsive Reader Archive.  Happy reading!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Poetry Monday: Michel Faber’s Undying

I was working on a novel that seemed to be progressing well - right through my mother’s illness - writing chapters on the airplane, in the hospital after her kidney was removed, or at her house late at night through a jet lag haze in between taking her to the bathroom. But once my mother died, I couldn’t write prose anymore.  It seemed wrong: inappropriately linear; too beholden to cause and effect.  Only poetry worked for me, and poetry was a lifeline - a way to inhabit the entirely new space of grief and explore the complexity of the pain I was feeling. So I understand Faber’s move away from fiction and into poetry in the wake of his wife Eva’s death.  His new book, Undying, is almost like a memoir, centred around the last few weeks of Eva’s life, through the worst of her treatment and a remission, and that terrible space of mourning in the weeks and months after Eva died.  The poetry sometimes undermines itself with little rhymes, but mostly it’s a powerful expression of Faber’s anger, grief and sense of loss as he begins to make sense of life without his wife.  I sat blubbering through the book, crying right through to the end, which is transcendent:

And it is not for me
to show you that death is not the end.
But you left lucencies of grace
secreted in the world,
still glowing.  ("Lucencies (2)")

One of the poems that hit me hardest was “Don’t Hesitate to Ask” which you can hear Faber read on ABC Adelaide:

By way of a taster, here is a tiny bit of it, though I urge you to listen to the whole thing: 

since you offer, 
Would you mind driving me
headlong through the universe
at ten million miles an hour,
scattering stars like trashcans
scorching the sky?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Poetry Monday: Round the campfire with Les Murray

Les Murray is arguably one of Australia’s best known poets.  His work sits very tidily in the gap between eco-poetics and bush-poetry, is wholly accessible, and often luminous with insight.  If ever there was a poet whose work should be recited over a campfire, it’s Les Murray’s.  Murray will be reading some of his poems to a relatively intimate gathering at the St Alban’s Writers’ Festival on Saturday the 17th of Sept around 9pm. The event is free, and I would think, the only one of its kind anywhere.  You can be part of the gathering, and many more literary events in this most intimate of literary festivals by dropping by:

In the meantime, here’s a sample from “Vertigo”, a poem from Murray’s latest collection Waiting for the Past.  For the full poem, just click on the title or visit:

"Later comes the sunny day when
street detail whitens blindly to mauve

and people hurry you, or wait, quiet."

Compulsive Reader News for August is out

I nearly forgot to mention that the new issue of Compulsive news has gone out.  The latest issue has reviews of new books by Wallace King, Joel Deane, Cynthia A Graham, Roland Albrecht, Robin Gregory, and Mary Kay Andrews, as well as interviews with  Tiffany McDaniel, Dane Cobain, and my podcast show with Joel Deane.  We also have several giveaways, music reviews, chess, and a literary round-up, as usual, of the big lit news.  If you haven’t received your copy, you can grab one here in the Compulsive Reader Archive.   If you would like to subscribe just drop by Compulsive Reader and sign up.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Poetry Monday: Verity La’s new poetry podcast (and Phillip Gijindarriji Hall)

Ooh I love me a good podcast. Verity La has just started up a new poetry podcast,
adding a bit of audio depth to their already wonderful free creative arts magazine. The inaugural podcast features Alice Allan interviewing Phillip Gijindarriji Hall, who talks about his time with Diwurruwurru (The Borroloola Poetry Club), and reads from his poem “Concourse for the Borroloola mob”:

"true god, we really are an arterial kaleidoscope
                                  of silt-laden language." 
Hall also reads one of his favourite poems, Dorothy Hewett’s “Inheritance
“I have travelled a long way from my origins...”  

If you’re not familiar with Verity La, you should be. Managing Editor Michele Seminara does a wonderful job, is warm and inclusive, and the journal publishes a new (free) creative piece each week, including lots of poetry, and is always stimulating, fresh, and exciting.

To listen to or download the 30 min podcast, drop by here:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Poetry Monday: Joel Deane’s Year of the Wasp

I’ve just finished my first (and definitely not my last) reading of Joel Deane’s Year of the Wasp.  I’ll be writing a much longer review shortly, but can’t wait to talk about it.  The book is relatively short at 55 pages, but is dense, rich, intense.  The poems focus around the central theme of aphasia: Joel’s 2012 stroke and his struggle not only to renegotiate his language but to reevaluate the world and what it means to make sense in the aftermath.  The result is stunning, moving imperceptibly between the personal and the political, and creating new meaning in the gaps between language and sensation:
                 Night rain sweeps
from the west,
wearing a slip
                of silken smoke
                                   to mask memories.
For more, you can read three excerpts from Year of the Wasp at Verity La:  Joel and I will be chatting on air early next month at Compulsive Reader Talks.