Remembered for his contributions to music and his courage in being Australia’s first celebrity to reveal his struggle with HIV-AIDS, Close to the Flame is an homage to a humble and hardworking genius:
Stuart Challender had already proved himself as the most talented conductor of his generation, with invitations beginning to flow in to conduct renowned international orchestras, when he was diagnosed with AIDS . Bravely, he chose to become Australia’s first celebrity to reveal his struggle with the disease to the public.
A new definitive biography of Challender, Close to the Flame, explores his remarkable career, cut short when he was only forty-four years old.
Challender joined Opera Australia after twelve years of study and work in European opera houses. He was then taken up by the ABC and appointed artistic director and chief conductor of Australia’s leading orchestra, the Sydney Symphony.
Challender was a great champion of the music of contemporary Australian composers and responsible for the premieres of many important Australian works. In his final years, Challender struggled to continue to work while disease ravaged his body. His decision to go public about his condition brings the story to a moving conclusion.
A review by Matthew Westwood of The Australian reveals the depth of the impact Challender had on music in Australia in his short-lived career:
‘Challender’s legacy lives on in a few cherished recordings, not least his performances of Voss, orchestral music by Peter Scul–thorpe and Carl Vine, and Mahler’s Resurrection symphony. And there’s a little bit of Challender on the hour at the head of ABC news bulletins. The Majestic Fanfare is the arrangement by Richard Mills, performed by the SSO in 1988, with Challender conducting.’
Close to the Flame – Richards Davis’s fourth in a line of Australian classical music biographies – is not only a vital piece of Australian musical history, but an inspiring story of courage in adversity.
Close to the Flame (RRP$45.00) is available for purchase online, or from our Mile End bookshop.
Bitter Fruit is a showcase of a collection of early photographs, many previously unpublished, focusing on Indigenous Australians. Presented in a beautiful hardcover, this is a breathtaking document of the Australian experience.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this post, and the book associated with it, may contain images of people who are deceased.
Bitter Fruit: Australian Photographs to 1963 reproduces a selection of photographic materials – most previously unpublished – collected by Michael Graham-Stewart over a 15-year period. It unites orphan images recovered from all over the world, while also allowing little-known episodes in Australia’s fraught history to be told. The book takes as its starting point the year 1963, when the famed Aboriginal photographer Mervyn Bishop undertook a cadetship with the Sydney Morning Herald, and ends with an image of Tasmanian activist Lucy Beeton from the 1860s.
Bitter Fruit focuses on specific information known about the people who took the photographs and, more importantly, those depicted in them, rather than offering a single, overarching narrative that is bound to oversimplify. The authors wanted the book to offer a counterpoint to behemoth surveys of Australian photography that have tended to downplay the interaction between Indigenous Australians and white settlers. Bitter Fruit deliberately eschews critical theoretical analyses and language in the hopes of creating a sourcebook that allows for multiple interpretations and does not claim to offer a ‘last word’.
Graham-Stewart and McWhannell note, ‘We hope that the book will help other non-Aboriginal people to better understand and come to terms with the violent histories in which we are implicated, while also allowing descendants of the Aboriginal people in the images to access their ancestors. Our sincere hope is that more stories will emerge as Australians of all kinds continue to unearth information associated with these images – images that are often upsetting and difficult to look at, but that also represent truths about our past and present.’
About the Authors
specialises in gathering up colonial photographs in order to reconstruct the complex stories that such materials encode. His particular interest is in exploring the ways in which photography operates not only as an instrument of oppression, but also as a means of connecting with people of the past. Michael has published several books on photography, including Surviving the Lens: Photographic Studies of South and East African People, 1870–1920 (2001), Out of Time: Māori & the Photographer (2006), Framing the Native: Constructed Portraits of Indigenous Peoples (2011), and Negative Kept: Māori and the Carte de Visite (2013). A Scot, raised in England, he currently lives between London and Auckland.
is an independent writer and curator from Aotearoa New Zealand. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Museums and Cultural Heritage from the University of Auckland. He has contributed to various publications, including Painting: A Transitive Space (Auckland: ST PAUL St Gallery Three, AUT University, 2017) and Dynamo Hum: Denys Watkins: Selected Paintings 2004–2016 (Auckland: Rim Books, 2017).
All the Kings’ Men records the story of the oldest continuously operating cricket club still in existence in South Australia – the Hindmarsh Cricket Club which now operates under the name of West Torrens – and the stories of the people who built it.
This book also traces the evolution of Club cricket in the Adelaide metropolitan area from the birth of the colony until 1900. It highlights the development of cricket through significant and progressive changes in society, such as industrial relations, transport, education, the telegraph, the press, politics, class and the economy.
All the Kings’ Men teases out the social impacts of cricket in the new colony of South Australia and, in particular, the western suburbs of Adelaide, providing insights into the hardships that the working class endured to play competitive sport. The text profiles many of these players, and the detailed statistical records highlight the talented cricketers of the nineteenth century, such as Arthur Harwood Jarvis, the first South Australian cricketer to represent Australia.
About Denis Brien:
Denis Brien has been a lover of cricket and its history since school. He is a former 1st-grade player, administrator and has coached state women’s and junior men’s teams. Denis worked as a teacher and student counsellor and became a cricket historian on retirement. His keen interest in South Australia’s first international representative inspired him to write this history. He has also written publications on counselling, environmental studies and cricket and education history.
Below is an extract from the new release Bush Mechanics: From Yuendumu to the World, edited by Mandy Paul and Michaelangelo Bolognese. The book explores the wildly popular TV series of the same name that aired on the ABC from 2001 – 2002, and goes behind the scenes showing readers the highs and lows of life in the remote Australian outback.
Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders are warned that this extract and video may contain the names, faces and voices of deceased people.
Extract from page 8 of Bush Mechanics:
‘While memories of the humour, indignity and anguish associated with a technology of invasion opens the Bush Mechanics series, the stories soon turn to the ways that Warlpiri themselves have taken to automobiles. While Europeans first brought motor vehicles into the Central Desert, now these Warlpiri men leave the community to bring them in for their own purposes and according to their own values. Cars and the things that yapa do with them have become saturated with meanings and embedded in practices that reflect the possibilities and constraints of life in Yuendumu. Perhaps most notably, the distinct car culture portrayed in Bush Mechanics is a contemporary expression of an earlier subsistence economy that continues to be strong in the present.
Crocodile, the dapper advocate of humpy living in the fourth episode, wonderfully demonstrates the ongoing importance of bush food in contemporary Warlpiri life. As he digs a kangaroo out of the ashes, Crocodile proudly declares that he is able to provide his family with a big feed without a supermarket. Automobiles are similarly placed, by choice and by necessity, within a local subsistence economy that continues to thrive alongside the cash economy. By incorporating cars within that system, the bush mechanics have devised ways around the material deprivations that characterise their lives in Yuendumu. They have created their own ways of being men with wheels, based on an impressive disregard for the orthodoxies of individual car ownership, the economics of the car market, and the professionalisation of automobile repair. In so presenting the bush mechanics as mobile makers – foragers of mechanical parts and disseminators of alternative solutions – the series offers upbeat parables of the men’s self-determined survival within settler colonialism.’
A brilliant example of the ingenuity and determination of the Bush Mechanics can be seen in the following video. The mechanics are returning home after a paying band gig in a nearby town and run into some trouble with their car – more than once!
Bush Mechanics is available online or in store at 16 Rose st, Mile End
Wakefield Press had the great honour of launching bestselling author Stephen Orr’s latest novel, Incredible Floridas, at the beautiful Carclew centre in November. Launched by John Neylon, the evening featured a performance from SINGular Production’s upcoming musical Innocence, based on Stephen Orr’s novel Time’s Long Ruin.
Below is the wonderfully researched speech made by John Neylon on the night:
‘Why do novelists write about artists and the world of art?
It’s a fair question because there it’s a well – established genre with historical form.
Consider: Emile Zola’s classic L’Oeuvre (The Work/Masterpiece), (1886) which like Stephen Orr’s Incredible Floridas takes as a starting point, a well-known artist – in Zola’s instance, Paul Cézanne. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey (1890), Joyce Carey, The Horse’s Mouth (1944), John Berger, A Painter of Our Time (1958), Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961) and Lust for Life (1934). More recently there have been a swag of novels that look at art or society through the prism of real or imagined artists including: Tracey Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs (2013), Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch (2013), Ali Smith, How to Be Both (2014), and Don DeLillo, Underworld (1997).
Australia has made its own distinctive contributions including Peter Carey, Theft: A Love Story (2006) and Patrick White, The Vivisector (1970).
I suspect the reason writers are drawn to artists as subjects is that some lead interesting lives. Consider the ongoing public fascination with figures including Vincent van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Ai Weiwei, Andy Warhol, Tracey Emin and in Australia, Brett Whiteley. It’s the total package audiences are drawn to underlaid by the assumption that artworks are windows on talent and genius. And that brings us to Incredible Floridas. Stephen admits that the historical figure of Russell Drysdale fuelled the idea of writing about not so much him, but the idea of him, as a kind of artist. Roland Griffin in his book bears a close resemblance to the real life Russell Drysdale who, along with other artists (notably Sidney Nolan and Arthur Boyd), dominated Australian landscape art in the post–WW2 era. What propelled Drysdale’s imagery in to the public imagination was that he gradually populated his arid, some say, mutant landscapes, with Australians: Aboriginal people standing their ground and staring white society down, stockmen, cooks, diggers, rabbit trappers, families and above all battlers – the people he saw, sketched and photographed on his expended travels in land to the Top End from the 1950s onwards.
Through the agency of a fictional artist (Griffin) Orr deflects our gaze from Drysdale’s actual paintings with their seductive dramatics to the workings of a creative artist’s mind. In doing so he transports a kind-of Drysdale narrative into the realm of art with all its surprises and contradictions. Griffin’s circumstance epitomises the post–WW2 Australian art world scene where figurative artists, like Drysdale, were confronted with a global trend to abstraction – something which caused him, and many of his contemporaries to stop in their tracks and question if it was still possible for images sourced from everyday life, to have any power to mean anything. Add to this, the push back that expressionist and surrealist artists faced from a conservative public, pining for their lost blue and gold Australian Impressionist arcadias. That’s the back story. So yes, is does enhance the reading of Incredible Floridas to know how courageous artists were in this era in turning their back on comforting myths of nationhood. But you don’t have to get very far into Stephen’s compelling narrative to appreciate that it’s really about the total package, about being an artist and also a husband and father. The business of trying to be an artist often occupies centre stage. The incessant need to keep producing work, find suitable subjects, satisfy dealers and the like. To constantly battle the indifference and ignorance of people around him who wondered why he didn’t get a proper job. Or believe, as one character says of his, that it’s all dogs rooting fence posts. Good for hanging in dentist’s waiting rooms.
Then the heartland of the novel, his struggle (and that of his wife Ena) to continue to love and understand their son Hal throughout the destructive journey his demons lead him.
The manner in which the author constructs a sense of fractured relationships between family members and Roland (in particular the so, Hal) has the hallmarks of Drysdale outback townscape where everyone is watching each other, straining for some line, even a word that might lead to some authentic exchange of feelings. The frustration that Griffin feels as an artist is mirrored in the fragmented exchanges with Hal as he once again lashes out in tormented anger at everything and everyone around him. The depths are reached when Hal, on a North End trip, fires a gun which brings his father running. ‘I heard a shot’ Roland says. Hal’s bitter response: ‘You couldn’t paint a corpse.’
We are into the book almost 300 pages before Stephen rewards us with an extended exchange between father and son, on the road to Ayers Rock (Uluru). ‘At some point Roland felt the desire to hug him but knew that his son wouldn’t let him. ‘All he wanted, (as the text says) was to make him happy, make a journey for him and meet him on the other side.’
And so the narrative unfolds – driven both by the thoughts that spring to Roland’s mind and by others. These are classic ‘watcher on the cast iron balcony’ interludes with characters swapping roles between observing and being observed. They occur like cinematic jump cuts that underscore the fragmentary nature of relationships. In these exchanges both Roland’s take on his art, his family and life is exposed to the core. So too are the contradictions of Hal’s own state of mind which swings wildly from savant insights which go to the heart of the matter and inchoate rage.
Now, if I was writing this book I would have been tempted to get Rimbaud in to the act about midway and toss this brew of uncertainty and trauma into some metaphysical thermo mix and spin it into some mythic dish. But in keeping Rimbaud at bay – apart from the book’s title and referencing that author’s Drunken Boat (and also Drysdale’s depiction of a boy with a boat) when Roland shows him how to make a paper boat (‘as fragile as a butterfly in May’) the author takes us to a real ‘there’, one that can be recognised in the laconic language of what used to be known as working class Australians (whatchername, you gonna getta hiding) and numerous references to an Adelaide (based in part on the author’s own Thebby childhood) that has slowly slipping below the horizon such as ‘schizos’ (as Hal is name-called) being sent to Glenside, the Cheltenham racetrack, cheap lino from McLeay’s, Lawlers the White Ant People, making apricot jam, wet sour sobs, half –empty salt and pepper shakers on old country pubs, the drive in, jacarandas and blue stone gutters – and , one of the most evocative sketches in the book, ‘dozens of bored children falling from monkey bars into a sea of wild oats’ (Rimbaud – match that!). Then there are the broader mindsets of a bye gone era such as Hal’s response to school speaking for many (‘I hate the place – the shit about Hastings and Nefertiti’), to this the enduring idea that somehow, the inland desert experience cures all ills – the idea that Hal would be OK if ‘you could get him under the stars, talk, keep busy.’ ‘Sort him out’.
Through this fascinating counter posing of aspiration and reality aspects of what it means to lead a creative life appear. This life is often messy and holds no promises beyond the next act, the next painting – or book. In the end Roland had no clear idea of why he was ‘doing it’. ‘Except that a man had to do something to stop himself from going mad.’ Forget talent and genius. This is as ordinary and basic as it gets
Francis Bacon once said that ‘Painting has become, all art has become, a game by which man distracts himself. And you might say that it has always been like that, but now it’s entirely a game. What’s fascinating is that it’s getting more difficult for the artist. He must really deepen the game to be any good at all so he can make life a bit more exciting’. I rather like Hal’s perspective, ‘There were millions of things to do in life, but all you needed was one thing you were good at, and could bear repeating every day.’
In this regard, Stephen, in continuing to write, you have obviously come to terms with your destiny. And we are all the beneficiaries. Congratulations on Incredible Floridas – this not so crumpled paper boat is now launched.’
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.
‘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.
Guys guys guys, the book world is out of control at the moment. Everyone’s having way too much fun and just needs to calm down a little.
For example? Well, the New Yorker has picked up on the fact that every single book seems to be called The Girl on the Something at the moment, and they’ve run this glorious spoof. Funny book-related content + an astute observation of the issues of depicting sexual assault + casual references to lacrosse teams? I’m in.
Next, romance seems to be the genre that just keeps giving. There’s this list of the greatest romance covers of all time, which also links to one of the most ridiculous readings of all time. Then there’s the news that KFC has legit released their own romance novella starring the Colonel, with their own schmaltzy promo video. Legit.
Finally – and this one’s for the editing dorks – the New York Times now has a copyediting quiz series so you can test your editing chops. Here’s a hot tip: it’s a good idea to be on top of your who/whom usage before you start. So much fun. So dorky.
And now, to get your weekend off to a good start, let Wakefield FM court. YouTube get you in the mood. A bit of Pharrell seems appropriate for a Friyay … Have a good weekend, everyone!
Sally van Gent has lived adventurously. She’s dined with the Bedouin, dived deep into the Arabian Sea, and climbed aboard a tanker for a midnight rendezvous. Her latest memoir, The Navy-blue Suitcase, is a collection of stories from her travelling life told with ‘optimism, humour, an indefatigable faith in a better future, and a powerful sense that life is what you make of it, no matter what cards you’ve been dealt’ (ANZ LitLovers LitBlog). Today we’re sharing a little snippet from the years that Sally spent living in Doha, Qatar.
Patterns in the rock
There are no fancy restaurants or indoor cinemas in Doha. Those Westerners who work for the oil company have their own pool and sporting facilities, but for the rest of us, our social life centres around a modest sailing club and whatever home entertainment we can devise.
We know all of the expatriates in Doha who drink and want to let off steam: the Lebanese, the Armenians and French, the Germans, Brits and South Americans, Singaporeans and Aussies. Between them they throw some wonderfully wild and varied parties – so good that no one wants to fly home for Christmas.
There’s no work on Fridays, and in summer we sail or swim. Winter brings with it mild, balmy days, and we take our children into the desert to explore old forts or to slide down sand dunes on cheap tin trays.
We’re heading north one afternoon, driving along a track parallel to the beach, when there’s a flash of pink and we spot a dozen flamingos wading through the shallows. To our left a limestone outcrop rises from the sand, and we drive over and park beside it. The children in the group run off to play on its slopes while we adults lay out the rugs,
unpack the picnic baskets and pour coffee.
Before we can drink it, Angus and his friend Hamish wave to us from the top of the hill and cry out, ‘Come and see what we’ve found!’
I climb up the slope and the boys lead me to where a rectangle has been cut deep into the rock, perhaps for the purpose of catching rainwater. Strange indentations spread out around it – circles, and holes set out in rows, reminiscent of a board game the locals play. There are boat-shapes with what look like oars. I call out to my friends and for an hour we search the rocks, finding more and more carvings. Who would do this? And why?
As evening unfolds the wind stills, and the late-afternoon light casts a rosy glow onto the desert. I look out over its vast sameness and am reminded of how the Bedouin pick out subtle variations in the sand, recognising landmarks that we Westerners will never see.
It’s time to pack up the picnic things and take our children home. The sun is going down and on our way back to the city we pass cars pulled over to the side of the road so their owners can turn to Mecca. They prostrate themselves on the ground and pray.
Later we ask our Qatari friends about the carvings in the rock but few have seen them. Those who have tell us they are very old, ancient even, but as to who made them or for what reason, they have no idea.
Find out more about The Navy-blue Suitcase here.
We had so many wonderful entries for our January newsletter’s Summer Rose Giveaway, thank you all for taking the time to send us your beautiful roses.
We all agreed, however, that the $250 Wakefield Press voucher should go to Ray Tyndale who sent in this lyrical, floral poem:
scant apologies to Tennyson!
Come my poppy
Fling open your flaming petals
Give to me your black heart.
Come my pansy
Toss back your knowing head
Share with me your secret thoughts.
Come my rose
Fill the air with your pungency
I will swim in your scented sea.
Come into the garden
My poppy, my pansy, my darling rose
Entwine with me.
The sun shall succour your black heart
The moon will keep your secret thoughts
And I will drown.
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