The title sort of says it all. Amazing final panel with Don Walker and Margot O’Neill, terrific “Conversation Hour”/radio session with Richard Fidler (a great in-depth interviewer – and very funny man), a quick detour to check out some Australian Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies (how could I not?), a trip to visit some wildlife, a brilliant outing to Brett’s Wharf where celebrity chef Alastair McLeod whipped up some croc n’ roo, then a quick jaunt to Sydney where I marveled at the opera house. You know how sometimes you get to a site or work of art you’ve been dying to see and it disappoints? Well, Jorn Utzon’s opera house is MORE staggering than I’d imagined. Tomorrow night I’m eating at Rockpool, then I’ll go back to the opera house to see Bangarra Dance Theater. Aida’s up as well (tempting), but I figured this would be my only chance to see this amazing dance/theater performance. I’ve lost my voice a bit from so many interviews, but I’ve found that drinking bourbon helps (sterilizes). All in all, a great trip to an amazing country. The interviewers are very involved and incisive, and the readership here is quite engaged. I’ve had a terrific time meeting readers from Australia, and many fellow authors as well.
One of my favorite things about attending book festivals and touring in different countries is that there’s always a good amount of overlap with other authors. Books, for me, are one of the best ways to gain entry to a new culture, to understand a country and its quirks and history. I leave in a few days for New Zealand and Australia and in preparation for numerous panels and interviews and on-stage conversations, I’ve received over the past few weeks a steady stream of books written by the authors who will also be in attendance at the various events and venues. What’s cool is some of these are not books I would come across on my own, so I’m getting a view of a new cross-section of lives and voices – stuff I wouldn’t normally get to dip my hands into. Most of these books aren’t available in the US – must be ordered through amazon NZ or the like, but I can’t emphasize enough how stimulating it is to spend a few days reading books from countries I’m about to visit for the first time.
So…I read five books in the past couple days.
THE DEAD PATH by Stephen M. Irwin about a man who, after his wife’s tragic death, starts to see ghosts. Everywhere. He returns to his home in Australia to confront the woods that have always been a source of dark allure for him.
ICE by Louis Nowra, an incredible story that tells two parallel stories. One is a biography of Malcolm McEacharn, the man who towed an iceberg to early Sydney and introduced electricity to Melbourne (before becoming its Lord Mayor). McEacharn was obsessed with his first wife, and his tale of longing is interwoven with the present-tense story of the husband of McEacharn’s biographer, a woman who lies in a coma after a random attack. The husband has finished writing the biography as an homage to his wife, who like McEacharn’s first wife, remains frozen, suspended in time.
BLIND CONSCIENCE by Lateline journalist Margot O’Neill, which tells the incredible story of the people who fought to get the asylum seekers out of detention during the Howard government. It offers insight into the political struggles of a country – struggles which are at once distant and familiar.
SHOTS by Don Walker. This guy is a legendary songwriter and musician in Australia, and this memoir of his childhood and rise – his story, really – is told in half- to one-page “shots,” poetic riffs that are gorgeous and haunting and shot through with a wild Beatnik energy. I loved this book.
And finally…Lisa Unger’s DIE FOR YOU. Lisa will be a fellow American over at the Brisbane book festival. I’ve heard much about her (all of it good) and we’ll be sharing a stage at one point, so this was a good excuse to finally read her. It’s a great thriller, really focusing on family relationships and the ways they strain and break under incredible pressure. She’s a real talent.
Now I feel nicely read and ready to fly out to experience some of this firsthand.