Shavers down: it’s Movember. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men, with 3000 dying of it each year – more than the number of women who die of breast cancer. Turn the focus on men’s health with this excerpt from Peter Endersbee’s memoir, Taking a Punt.
Anna accompanied me to the urologist for the biopsy results. I was still clinging to the possibility it might be benign in spite of the terrible PSA readings. When he came into the waiting room he was wearing a stiff white coat that belied his humble open-faced demeanour. He was tall and dark and handsome and younger than I’d imagined. Early forties. Certainly not the battle-scarred senior partner I’d associated with his field of specialisation. He seemed far too young to be playing God to a waiting room of old and middle-aged men. We were shown chairs, and sat down.
I could hardly bear to look at him. He smiled and praised me for having taken myself off to Casualty after I’d experienced the very flu symptoms he’d mentioned as an unlikely side effect of the biopsy. He said I’d done the right thing. His introductory gambit had my hopes up. It would be downhill all the way and I’d soon be walking out scot-free.
But after referring to more papers he looked me squarely in the eye and said they’d found carcinogenic cells from the biopsy. The PSA result had been bad enough, but hearing that I had prostate cancer was like being mentally winded, a feeling of vertigo. I glanced out the window, the plane trees and clear blue sky suddenly in a different world. I only half heard that my Gleason score was a seven on a scale of one to ten. I was told the Gleason was an indicator of how aggressive the cancer might be based on an aggregate number from the biopsy samples, where anything less than seven indicated a reasonable chance of a good prognosis; anything more than seven did not. The surgeon tried to reassure me that a seven was not so bad, at least it wasn’t an eight or a nine, which he had half expected, given my very high PSA. When I asked him what my chances were without the operation he replied, ‘Five to ten years, taking into account your readings and your age.’
As the first shock waves began to subside, I became aware of Anna taking notes.
On the way home we didn’t say much. Even over cups of tea at the kitchen table it hadn’t sunk in.
‘You’re taking it remarkably well,’ she said.
‘What else can I do?’ I was looking at the picture she’d painted on the teacup from which I was taking controlled sips, wishing I’d never answered the telephone that day. I clutched the soothing ceramic vessel.
‘I will support you in whatever you choose to do,’ she said. ‘We’re in this together.’
Find out more about Taking a Punt here.
From the warm and witty Edmund Pegge we have a few thoughts on being a small part of the Dr Who phenomenon:
On being interviewed at a Dr Who convention in Adelaide the following conversation occurred:
Int: How did you approach your part?
Ed: Probably learnt my lines and hit my marks. It was a long time ago.
Int: What did you think of being in Dr Who at the time?
Ed: Nothing. It was just another job.
Int: How did being in Dr Who affect your career?
Ed: It didn’t until now.
The gathering were slightly astonished at how casual and perhaps irreverent I was being in what is now seen as iconic television. At the time Dr Who was just a popular series with a widening fan base. In retrospect there is a strong case for saying that Tom Baker and Louise Jameson were the most convincing Doctor and offsider. Baker was highly intelligent and had an intellectual charisma.
The episode in which I played Meeker in ‘The Invisible Enemy’ had a notable first appearance – K9 the robot dog. This was most gratifying as we all earned heaps of overtime as K9 kept breaking down. What is more, I was pleased to hear that he was voiced by John Leeson, an actor friend of mine whom I last saw at a Dr Who convention in London.
That was my first experience of a convention. There was only myself, John and another actor, the other eight were technicians and a tea lady from those days. In other words, anyone vaguely connected was invited along. I signed dozens of DVD covers and posters and all insisted on a photo with me. I was their star buddy in a flash. It took a lot less than 15 minutes!
To read more about Ed’s adventures as a working actor, have a look at his hilarious and astonishing memoir, Forever Horatio, available here.
In late September Wakefield Press had the honour of launching Liz Williams: Body Language, a beautifully photographed book dedicated to the works of the late South Australian ceramicist.
Below is an excerpt from author Margot Osborne’s speech at the launch.
I was driven to do this book on Liz Williams to honour her lifetime of artistic achievement and to ensure that there is a record of her unique contribution to Australian ceramics. It struck me when I heard about her illness that despite her receiving numerous grants and residencies, I was among the many in the Adelaide art scene who had more or less taken her presence for granted, as someone who would always be there to bump into on the Parade and engage in long enjoyable conversations. Meanwhile over the years she worked away quietly maintaining a low profile presence in her Norwood studio, making her wonderful coil-built sculptures and travelling overseas to investigate how the art of other cultures might influence her own work. At her death she had never received the in-depth attention of a long-form essay, or a career survey exhibition and catalogue. Nor was she represented in the Art Gallery of South Australia by any work more recent than a sculpture from her Receudos exhibition in 1993.
This book is a first step in addressing that situation.
In addition to my own essay on the evolution by Liz Williams of a figurative sculpture language in clay, the book includes three earlier re-published essays by Catherine Speck, Damon Moon and Wendy Walker.
Another dimension to the book are the tributes from Liz’s artist colleagues and friends – Jeff Mincham, Anna Platten, Jane Sawyer, Karen Genoff, Milton Moon, Donald Richardson and Margo Hill-Smith. These writers were all
personally selected by Liz shortly before her death.
At the creative heart of the book are the glorious images of Liz Williams ceramics by Grant Hancock, photographer to the artists of Adelaide. Grant worked with Liz photographing her work from 2006 to 2016. There are some 70 full page images of Liz’s ceramic taken by Grant, as well as his photographs of her beautiful home and studio taken earlier this year.
And now finally, I come to Anna Platten. Anna was there at the start of this project and was entrusted by Liz to have oversight and ensure the book turned out as she would have wanted. In the weeks after Liz’s death Anna decided she would make the drawing that we have on display tonight. Normally she works from life but as that was not possible, she recreated Liz in her studio from a blend of photographs. It is a moving image of Liz, full of light and life, even though she was already gravely ill. Titled ‘Inside the Head of the Quiet Woman’, it conveys the contrast between the appearance of the gentle ageing woman and the art that grew out of her intensely imaginative inner life.
Thank you everyone. It’s been a wonderful project. Now all we need is for you to buy the book.
To purchase the book and to find out more, visit our website here
Open State festival has a packed program which kicks off on Thursday 28 September and runs through to Sunday 8 October. Publisher Michael Bollen brings you the Wakefield Press Reader’s Guide to Open State.
My, my. It’s an eye-opener and source of pride, browsing the Open State program, reminding us how books and reading interweave past, present and future. Picking through the goodies on offer, the mind thinks inevitably, Hmm, could be a book in that. And thinks too: Now, which of our existing books best fits that theme?
One session, Blast From the Past, is about getting our stories on screen. We have a host of possibles. Maybe a soapie set in Adelaide’s first gaol, feeding off Rhonnda Harris’s Ashton’s Hotel with its cast of intriguing characters. Or tales from underground, using Carol Lefevre’s beautiful book of true stories, Quiet City: Walking in West Terrace Cemetery.
Then again, perhaps Simon Butters’s YA novel, The Hounded, about alienation in Adelaide’s hinterland, is the best screen fit. Though it works also with the question that obsesses our town – Adelaide is one of the world’s most liveable cities: fact or fiction?
You can take a stroll to decide in the Future Adelaide Walking Tour. Have a browse along the way in Lance Campbell’s and Mick Bradley’s deluxe book, City Streets, which showcases the CBD in 1936 and 2011. Whither now?
Dickson Platten have helped shape the Adelaide landscape through people-centric place-making since the 1960s, and you can celebrate that 50 years of achievement at the opening of their exhibition, On Show. We have books from both Dickson and Platten: Addicted to Architecture, Hybrid Beauty and the lovely Lure of the Japanese Garden.
From one design icon to another: the beloved Jam Factory present Drink. Dine. Design. featuring finely crafted objects, ideas and applications that enhance the joy of eating and drinking. Learn more about the Jam Factory in its fortieth-anniversary book, Designing Craft / Crafting Design.
Nick Jose has written both fiction (Avenue of Eternal Peace) and non-fiction (Chinese Whispers) about China, so its no surprise to see him as one of the co-curators of Writing China, a day-long series of transcultural, transmedia events. Brian Castro is a prominent participant, likely mentioning his novel On China (and why not also add Drift and Double-Wolf to your bedside reading pile).
Among the many events that make up Writing China is Reimagining: Panel and Readings. This panel considers how fiction can take the world you know – your city – and make it new. A full-on accompaniment might be Stephen Orr and his latest book of short stories, Datsunland. In the words of Kerryn Goldsworthy in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘[Orr’s] work continues to have a prominent place in the literary mapping and recording of South Australia and Adelaide’.
For the last weekend of the festival, we’ll be selling our wares at the annual State History Conference. This year’s beguiling theme is Hearts and Minds: revaluing the past. There’s much of that in our new Colonialism and its Aftermath – the first comprehensive history of Aboriginal South Australia since Native Title.
We at Wakefield look forward to seeing you round this Open State as we venture from our normal habitat: gladly chained to the wheel, churning out South Australia’s tales to the world.
Richard Zachariah’s Vanished Land is an ode to what once was within the picturesque Western Districts of Victoria. His rich language frames anecdotes of rose-tinted childhood musings alongside despairing soliloquies on the modern state of the once majestic region. With a balance and pace that immerses the reader within the author’s thoughts and understanding, Zachariah opens up a world that has been lost.
A keen July wind touches us. I’m standing at the entrance to Hexham Park, which my old friend David Armstrong sold at a time of rural recession a decade ago. The paddocks are invisible under a plague of pine trees. A hundred and fifty years of the Armstrongs’ Western District hegemony has faded like a rainbow in the sky. The Camelot of my boyhood dreams is gone. No one at this moment feels safe from talk of grief.
When he greets us, David is amiable and brave. Artist Robert Whitson is there with me to paint what is left of the beloved place.
David’s key to the gate doesn’t work. The locks have been changed by the new owners, one of the timber companies whose tax-driven tree ventures have disfigured the Western District. Hexham Park, once a haven of undulating paddocks and river flats, is now a vivid scar of pine trees over sprayed weeds.
David is apologetic as we climb the locked gate and walk the mile long red gravel drive to his forsaken birthplace.
When I think of the towns to the northwest, the contrast is stark.
As a teenager, I knew Streatham, Skipton and Lake Bolac as the heart of a grazing and cropping nirvana, but today those towns are bereft and sinking, while proximity to a big city has handed Birregurra freshly painted cottages, organic cafes, a destination restaurant and a burgeoning future in lifestyle real estate.
Then I see the miracle of crops. Vast areas of sheep country have gone under the plough, defying traditional claims that the wet, heavy soil would drown any monetary return. Farmers have confounded the rules by raising the beds 15 centimetres and creating depressions between them to drain water. Once drained, the rich volcanic soil pushes up white and red wheat in unprecedented quantities interspersed with ripening canola in swathes of ludicrous hi-vis yellow.
Steel mammoths with rubber legs rumble through widened gates where utes once bumped along. Workers give way to machines ruled by laptops and satellites, driven by GPS-RTK auto steer, replacing manpower and emptying the towns.
Visiting outback Australia, the English writer Bruce Chatwin discovered the Aboriginal custom of measuring a journey in songs rather than kilometres. Out of this visit came The Songlines (1987), which lit up an ancient culture by interpreting the dreamtime as a parallel reality that exists alongside our quotidian existence, preceding us and lasting long after our deaths. Chatwin believed that our time-challenged lives would be enhanced if we discarded the angst of measuring kilometres so that a destination became a way of seeing and redefining ourselves.
The Songlines mythology came to me travelling in a car with Peter Learmonth, a fifth-generation Western District dictionary of ownership, bibliography of people and compendium of history. In the spirit of Chatwin, he measured our trips by properties passed and people remembered. Kilometres were irrelevant, never mentioned.
Find out more about this bestseller here.
The Miles Franklin announcement is not far away. This award is arguably the most important on the Australian literary scene. In his Brief Take on the Australian Novel, Jean François-Vernay structures his approach by borrowing from another popular art form: film. Here we have his ‘Low-angle shot of the Miles Franklin Award’.
In line with the wishes of Stella Franklin, who bequeathed almost all of her estate estimated at £8,996 to establish this literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award must give preference to a published work ‘of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases’. Founded in 1957, the award has ever since crowned 58 novels with glory and increased their sales.
As is the case with any respected prize, the Miles Franklin has had its share of controversies. In 1994, the jurors unleashed a debate by excluding Frank Moorhouse’s novel Grand Days (1993) from the competition, claiming that its Australian content was practically insignificant. The story traces the career of a young Australian woman who, after the Great War, works for the United Nations in Geneva. In 1995, the committee tried to make amends by celebrating The Hand That Signed the Paper by Helen Demidenko, but it later transpired that the author was a Ukrainian-impersonating plagiarist. After this scandal, the jury decided to play it safe in 1996 with Highways to a War by Christopher Koch. Pocketing the prize money, Koch started another controversy when he revealed his uncharitable thoughts about academia.
Today, some people think it is high time the overly restrictive selection criteria of this award should be revised in order to take into account novels whose characters, settings, themes and plots are located outside Australia. The list of recipients of the Miles Franklin is also widely criticised for comprising chiefly middleaged novelists, few of whom are women (approximately one third of all prize-winners), let alone Aboriginal (Kim Scott and Alexis Wright being the exceptions). There is a sneaking suspicion that the judging panel might almost be guilty of ageism, sexism and racism. Despite the criticism, this national and nationalistic prize is still regarded as a reliable benchmark for identifying great Australian novels. The winner in 2010, Peter Temple’s Truth, indicated that popular genres like crime novels are now taken seriously.
For more close-ups, panoramic views and special features on the Australian novel, see here.
Last Thursday marked the celebration and re-launch of City Streets, a chronicled answer to the past 75 years of Adelaide’s architecture. As author Lance Campbell says, it’s a great big book about a great small city.
We were hosted at the beautiful Living Choice Fullarton and joined by many of our Wakefield Press authors and friends, including the event’s emcee, Keith Conlon. And to top it all off, we had some fantastic Coriole sparkling!
The new edition includes a foreword and by the SA Premier, Jay Weatherill – here we present some highlights of the Premier’s kind words and insights from his launch address.
This is not merely a beautiful book. In its detail and its scale, it’s also an invaluable record of the growth and evolution of our city’s “square mile”.
City Streets is the work of two gifted people. The photographs, by the late Mick Bradley, are superb – precise and expansive, capturing Adelaide’s special quality of light. Though they’re ostensibly of buildings, the images are rich with people and movement and energy – just like those taken by Baring back in the 1930s. As for the writing, who better to sneak behind the facades and tell the stories of our town than Lance Campbell. Lance is an outstanding reporter and writer. Whether the topic is sport or the arts or, from time to time, politics, his prose is elegant and insightful – revealing and describing things many of us would otherwise not have noticed
As I suggest in the foreword to the new edition, City Streets is likely to generate mixed feelings in some readers. More than most comparable cities, Adelaide has managed to retain a large number of attractive buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. But – along the way – we’ve probably allowed some special ones to slip through our fingers.
One of those was the gracious Grand Central Hotel – which later housed Foy’s department store – and used to sit on what we now call “Hungry Jack’s corner”. For some reason, it was decided to demolish that lovely pile in 1976. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, we pulled down “paradise” and put up a parking lot!
As I’ve said publicly before, I think we should see cities as – first and foremost – communities, rather than just collections of buildings and houses and roads. In line with the fact, one of the prevailing and very welcome things about our current city centre that can’t be fully captured in words or pictures is its vibrancy.
The tale of this city will go on and on. And the buildings we love today and are part of our collective consciousness will – in time – go the way of the old ones featured in City Streets. I hope and suspect that, one day, others will follow in the footsteps of Mick Bradley and Lance Campbell. And the Adelaideans of, say, the 2080s or 2090s will reminisce about – who knows? – the Adelaide Convention Centre or the Federal Courts building in Victoria Square. For now, however, we have this new edition of City Streets – and we’re very happy and appreciative, indeed.
On behalf of the State Government, I commend Wakefield Press for its initiative, for continuing to tell great stories and – through this book – for helping to chart the history of our built environment.
Photographs by Brad Griffin.
Learn more about City Streets .
‘What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.’
― Neil Gaiman
In an age of Internet sales a humble bookshop could seem archaic. In a march to digitise and automate, something so small as a bookshop could be considered an afterthought. Yet, those of us who frequent shelves and bookstalls, who know of other lives and worlds and realms within pages, we know a bookshop is more. It is the soul of a place, wherever that place may be, and the heart of a community.
This Saturday 12 August marks Love your Bookshop Day, an occasion that invites anyone to celebrate his or her local bookshop, with events and programs throughout Australia. Drop into your local this Saturday to support and celebrate what makes your bookshop special.
A taste of the events happening around Adelaide:
- Booked at North Adelaide has a giant book raffle (drawn at 4 pm)
- Dillons Norwood Bookshop has book readings (2 pm), face-painting and giveaways
- Imprints Booksellers on Hindley Street has countless of activities and prizes
- Matilda Bookshop in Stirling has book-buying advice from authors, an illustrator in residence and a competition for a stack of books
- Mostly Books in Mitcham will be championing a young writers group along with raffles and more
And of course we are open with our Mile End store, 1 – 5 pm. All books are 3 for 2 (cheapest book free) with a free cat or dog book bag if you spend over $75. We have an I Love My Dog and My Dog Loves Me book giveaway as well.
Christine V. Courtney’s first career was as a professional dancer, moving from Adelaide to Britain to dance with the Ballet Rambert and directing her own small ballet company before returning to Australia to work as a teacher and producer. She first visited Venice while leading fine arts tours to Europe in the 1980s. The city provided the inspiration for her first book, Venetian Voices.
What is your favourite memory from your time in dance?
My favourite memories are of the incredible camaraderie we shared under difficult conditions in the Ballet Rambert. We were on the road 42 weeks a year, in a different city each week, and travelled by train on Sunday between venues. Our six-week tour of the Middle East in 1963 opened my eyes to the world of Islamic sculpture, architecture and the history of that extraordinary area. We all coped with Dame Marie Rambert’s quixotic nature and those she did not break grew stronger. Fortunately I fell in the latter camp. The six years I spent with the company as a young artist (joining at age 19) were the most exhilarating of my life. I was doing what I believed I was born to do, and travelling, two of the four pillars of my life. I will leave you guessing as to the other two.
Would you ever move to Venice?
I would love to have the opportunity to move to Venice for a year simply to gather material for a second volume on the city. Ideally, I would move from district to district and island to island soaking up the atmosphere and local stories. To live in a Palazzo on the Grand Canal for a month would be a dream come true as I would be following in the footsteps of Richard Wagner and Marie Taglioni, the famous Italian ballerina, and many others.
What do you find to be the most difficult thing about writing poetry?
Distilling the essence of what I want to say, working as many drafts as needed, then being disciplined enough to put it aside to rest for some days. Coming back one sees the work with fresh eyes. Some poems came in one rush while others involved an arm wrestle to forge them into shape. When time and circumstances opened up in 2000 and I wrote my first poems I did not have a clue what I was doing except that some imaginary door opened and I stepped through it into the world of words. I’d found a pathway back into the exhilarating feeling of being creative and truly alive. It has been a struggle to find my ‘voice’, and I am still not sure I am there, wherever ‘there’ is. I’ve been plagued by self doubt, but upheld by a belief that I have something to say and needed to find a way to express myself.
What will you be working on next?
This is hard to predict. A new poem about Venice flew into my mind last week following an exchange with a friend relating an experience when he and his wife visited the city. Another local poem jumped out during the Wonder Walls event at Port Adelaide. Dr John Couper-Smartt wants me to again get involved in the reprint of Port Adelaide Tales from a ‘Commodious Harbour’ which we co-authored in 2003. For the time being I am enjoying reading other poets and keeping all my options open.
What is your favourite Italian food and why?
That’s simple: it is whatever I am eating at the time. I adore Italian food. The first orange gelatti I ever tasted was in Spoleto and had the ice-cream poured inside a whole hollowed out orange skin. It was the most beautiful refreshing juice I had ever tasted. One just squeezed the orange and sucked; a sensual experience. Likewise the Baccala Manecato provided at the launch of Venetian Voices was absolutely delicious and a food fit for the Gods. While reading Donna Leon’s books on Commissario Brunetti I become inspired to cook some of the dishes she describes.
What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?
As an admirer of C.J. Dennis’s work, I loved every aspect of An Unsentimental Bloke. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed the works by Dr Philip Jones such as Boomerang and Ochre and Rust. The monographs on artists like Robert Hannaford and Nora Heysen are always a pleasure to peruse. If I could read everything Wakefield produced it would be wonderful, but my life is now running short and I still have much to do, so it is a case of balance!
Award-winning journalist Michael McGuire has worked for more than twenty years at the Australian in Sydney, and the Adelaide Advertiser where he is now senior writer. He has also dabbled in state and federal politics. His first foray into fiction, Never a True Word, has been called ‘a political novel for our times’ (Australian).
What were you like as a child? Did you ever get into trouble?
Mostly okay, I think. There were two parts to my childhood. Up until I was 10 I lived in Glasgow, Scotland. Most of my memories from that time involve playing football or watching my dad playing football. I was fairly obsessed. Most people would say that hasn’t changed a great deal. It’s that old Jesuit saying – give me a boy until he is seven and I will give you the man. Just substitute the Jesuits for football and Celtic.
After we left Scotland we moved to Naracoorte for around four years. That was a great place to grow up. Lots of freedom and days running around the streets with friends. Being the country there was also lots of sport. Footy on Saturday and two games of soccer on Sunday. Bliss. It also gave me my first introduction to cricket. I couldn’t bat or bowl so I became a wicket keeper.
The other memories of childhood revolve around books. Famous Five, Biggles, Hardy Boys when I was younger then lots of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley, Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth. I always had my nose in my book. When I was eight I went to the Louvre in Paris with my family and caused some bemusement by reading a Peanuts book the whole way around. ‘Look son, there’s the Mona Lisa …’
What prompted you to write Never a True Word?
Probably several things. There had been a long-held desire to write something, anything. But I either didn’t have an idea I liked or just blamed the fact that life was too busy. Eventually, I decided I should just stop complaining and get on with it. By this time I had turned 40 and thought unless I start something soon, I will never get around to it. I had worked in politics for a while and found it tough, but fascinating. The personalities, the power, the egos. All the stuff that is hidden away generally from public view. I had loved shows like Yes Minister and, in particular, The Thick of It, but I hadn’t really read anything explained politics as I knew it to be. I wanted to write a book about how politics worked for people who were outside that world.
What is the biggest difference between working in journalism and politics?
They are two sides of the same coin. Now that I am on the side of the angels again in journalism, it’s all about holding politicians and politics to account. Politicians are not the enemy as such but you have to be wary. There’s different mindsets at work. Journalism is more about holding an attacking mentality – we are always chasing a story, pursuing a lead. Politics is often about defence. Killing that story, plugging the leak. There is much more paranoia in politics than media. The bunker mentality is the prevailing mindset in most political offices. Everyone in politics thinks the media is out to get them at all times. There may be some truth in this, but it also breeds an unnecessarily narrow world view and is responsible for much of the short-term thinking you see in politics at the moment.
What’s been the best reaction you’ve had so far to the book?
Lots of people have been very supportive which has been lovely. It’s been well reviewed in the Australian and the Age. On the ABC Peter Goers said many positive things about the book. As a journalist, it’s a bit weird when people are nice to you. It’s hard to know how to handle it.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Can I be seven again? I would come back as one of the great Celtic players. One of the European Cup winners of 1967, maybe Jimmy Johnstone, or my hero growing up, Kenny Dalglish. Although, unlike Dalglish, I wouldn’t have ruined my career by joining Liverpool.
What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?
I couldn’t possibly go past the excellent Red Silk: The Life of Elliot Johnston QC by my friend and colleague Penny Debelle. Although, for a story from the other side of the legal tracks, Dead by Friday by another colleague and friend, Derek Pedley, is also a cracking read.