Archive for the ‘What this Blog is About’ Category

Hi everone. Lisa from ANZ Litlovers has rightly castigated me for not posting something about my absence of late, and along with Sue from Whispering Gums she’s gently been prompting me to post *anything*… So, all’s well, I have just been taking a break and working on other things but reading more than ever. Expect posts to be irregular, though I always reserve the right to post something here (or on Twitter:@johnlboland) from the Sydney Writers’ Festival!

While I’m here (could this be a return in the making?!?), I’d love to share with you a belated best reads from 2016. Call it a top five that may contain more than five (limited to books published in 2016):

solar-bones-by-mike-mccormackSolar bones by Mike McCormack: wow, the Irish really have it going on, don’t they? If Eimear McBride and Lisa McInerney (gritty and prize-winning The glorious heresies) weren’t enough to convince you of this, then Solar bones will. An audacious stream-of-consciousness novel without a single – yes, that’s right: a single! – full stop in sight. A ‘simple’ story about an ordinary family man but in McCormack’s hands it is transcendent. Solar bones won the 2016 Goldsmith’s Prize, which in only its fourth year is proving to be a ripper of a prize, whose purpose is to “celebrate the qualities of creative daring associated with the University and to reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form”. Solar bones does just that.

the-lesser-bohemians-by-eimear-mcbrideThe lesser bohemians by Eimear McBride: another coming-of-age story from the Irish sensation, with wall-to-wall sex, and self sabotaging, so it’s not for everyone, but it’s worth the journey, with a fabulous ending. McBride’s now signature prose style is more accessible here than in her glorious (Goldsmith Prize-winning!) debut A girl is a half-formed thing. And you have to admire a writer who says James Joyce is her major influence. I think he’d be proud of this much-anticipated second novel.

days-without-end-by-sebastian-barryDays without end by Sebastian Barry. Fuses elements of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood meridian, Annie Proulx’s Brokeback mountain, with a dash of Aussie movie Priscilla: queen of the desert. What makes this a standout is Barry’s singular narrative voice that is so of its time and locale (Civil War era America) that it rivals Peter Carey’s similar feat in his Booker winner True history of the Kelly gang. I had serious doubts before I read it given I admire Blood Meridian greatly but DWE stands on its own feet.


monglow-by-michael-chabonMoonglow by Michael Chabon. Simply sublime. Chabon is such a thoughtful writer. Inserting himself into the action in this delightfully faux memoir, he takes his family history as the starting point for fiction, tracing a story of his (invented) grandparents, particularly his grandfather, who was on the hunt for Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Bruan as WWII came to an end. Flits effortlessly between multiple time frames in the twentieth century. Family secrets abound, and the one Chabon ‘discovers’ about his own bloodline is jaw-dropping.


the-sellout-by-paul-beattyThe Sellout by Paul Beatty. I was ahead of the Booker game last year, reading this before it was even longlisted. What can I say? Daring. Subversive. Funny. A biting satire on race-relations in the US. The narrator, whose nickname is the Sellout, takes on the US government in the Supreme Court in a bid to reinstate slavery. That’s just one strand of this riot of a book. Along the way we see a reworking of Huckleberry Finn, while Dickens’s Great Expectations becomes Measured Expectations. Oh, and the Sellout also credits Tennyson with the start of gangster rap. A wild ride. Often uncomfortable. Not for the fainthearted. Loses a bit of traction in the middle, but it’s not about plot, it’s about making a point. Beatty does that and more.

autumn-by-ali-smithAutum by Ali Smith, the first in her seasonal tetralogy that explores our experience of time. Ah, Ali Smith, reading her is like the best of hugs (if you’re a hugging person!). She’s so inventive and playful and clever. Some hilarious Kafkaesque moments (passport application in the local post office ring any bells?!), pinned against a very fresh take on Brexit (the first post-vote novel?) and the rise of humanity’s darker side in the UK and the lack of dialogue that has come with it (a global issue to be sure). A hymn to transient life. I think the four novels, once done and taken together, will be really special. (Fab cover art too,, from David Hockney. Can’t wait to see the others!)

position-doubtful-by-kim-mahoodPosition doubtful by Kim Mahood. A fabulous memoir and a must for anyone seeking to better understand the nexus between white and Indigenous Australia. Mahood writes with the eye of an artist, the mind of a poet, and the soul of someone born of the desert country. An intensely moving personal journey, and a wonderful tribute to the stunning Tanami desert and lake landscape and the many friends loved and lost over decades of inland travels. Assuming it’s eligible this year, if it doesn’t get shortlisted for the Stella Prize (and many others) then there’s something seriously wrong.

There you go, proof that seven into five does go!

Goodness. I intended this to be a short post and now look what I’ve done. Some things don’t change, eh?!






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… the love of a good book … and the love affair with great ones: for a perfect illustration of the joy of reading, and the magic that a great read can inspire – and what this blog will seek to capture, have a look at the following vid by hte NZ Book Council.


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A journey once begun, has no end.” 

– Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

Believing wholeheartedly in the magic of serendipity, I find myself propelled by this thought, and so here is my first step on a journey without end.  The purpose of this intrepid adventure is to explore my thoughts on – and reactions to – works of literary fiction for the most part, though I shall dabble in commercial fiction, non-fiction – particularly as it pertains to the world of authors and creation – and perhaps the occasional foray into the arts, architecture and design, and the world of travel and cultural exchange. 

I am no literary critic, nor have I an English Lit degree gathering dust upon my wall, but I have a love of all things lyrical, poetic and beautifully formed, and I have a well-worn and hefty Penguin English Dictionary to keep me company.  Whilst I dabble in all forms of literary fiction from the classics right through to post-modern and whatever terms describe the fiction of now (or in Bolaňo’s case perhaps, the fiction of the future?), I have a love of magical realism and will always return to its shores like the pelicans who flock to Lake Eyre when it is in flood and gorge on all that is good and wondrous therein.  Yet, hand-upon-heart, I recognise that genius exists in all forms of creation, and I intend to explore them all.  I hope that people will find my thoughts accessible rather than tertiary and will be able to enjoy the passion I have for great writing in any form, short or long.  I hope you will take pleasure in taking a step or three with me on my journey, with its occasional stumble, many peaks, and all manner of pesky interruptions into the world of literature that we all share as soon as we turn the cover of a new work and breathe in the scent of newly imprinted paper – or perhaps wallow in the wine-infused, dog-eared, and otherwise well-loved favourite we just needed to finger our way through once again!

A short list of my favourite books would include: anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Gabito!), the few works of Jose Saramago I’ve read, Gunter Grass’s divine The Tin Drum, the best works of Salmon Rushdie – The Moor’s Last Sigh (wonderful), East West (delightful), Midnight’s Children (sublime) – and Peter Carey – Illywhacker is a personal favourite; also, Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, Richard Flanagan’s first three works including Gould’s Book of Fish.  But I also love some of the classics, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is wonderful, as is Persuasion.  I admire Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and the ‘erudite poeticism’ of her writing in general.    

A sample of the books I have on my shelves in the TBR category and which I hope to get to at some stage in 2010:


  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A few from the more contemporary end of things:

  • The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabito
  • The History of the Siege of Lisbon by Jose Saramago
  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaňo (& 2666 if I can manage it!)
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • Underworld by Don deLillo
  • The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

And at the very nowness of now and/or perhaps at the somewhat more commercial end (though I don’t like to pigeon-hole in this fashion):

  • The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers by Paul Torday.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Anne Shaffer & Annie Barrows
  • A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

I also intend to sample the works of: Sebastian Barry, Marilynne Robinson and authors whose surname is all that’s required (and all of whom I have yet to read (shame on me!)): Ondaatje, Ishiguro, Roth and Mantel.  I may also sneak in some Coetzee and Winton.  There will always, always, be room for serendipitous purchases, and the purchases that come after what seem like hours of foraging, as if one’s life depended upon the tasty morsel discovered thereafter.  Whilst I have a penchant for a great Aussie read, I aim for a wide geographical coverage with North & Latin Americas, British, mainland European, Indian, Pakistani, African, and Japanese authors all planned for 2010. 

I have already made it through three works this year: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday, The Pages by Murray Bail, and Amulet by Roberto Bolaňo  – all of which I enjoyed for a variety of reasons.  I am now halfway through The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai which won the Booker Prize in 2006.  More on these reads soon.

Come join me on my peripatetic literary wandering.

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