Warrick Wynne’s Poetry Pages

reading, writing and the connections

2005 Books of the Year

The 2005 Warrick Book of the Year Awards

In which the best* fiction, non-fiction and poetry of the year is revealed just in time for the last minute Christmas shopping trip. There is no prize, just the kudos of winning is enough for these authors who clamour for my attention by spending vast amounts of time writing these, then working beaverishly with publishers to assemble them beween attractive colour covers and put them in the window of shops where I can see them. This year the trend was back towards enjoying fiction again, particularly through the discovery of Paul Auster’s work.

Fiction Winner – Paul Auster – The Brooklyn Follies

Paul Auster’s new book is typically full of the layers of story that are there in his earlier work, but this time the stories matter, and you care about them in ways that maybe doesn’t happen in some of Auster’s other work. A man comes to Brooklyn to die, but there’s some other stuff that comes his way first, including strange and improbable adventures in the search for meaning in all this folly.

Also recommended in the world of fiction:

Anything else by Paul Auster: so many wonderful things to discover; Moon Palace, The Book of Illusions, and Oracle Night are all good.

Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men isn’t as powerful as a classic like All the Pretty Horses but if you liked that apocalyptic landscape of the burn Mexican badlands, you’ll like this, and there’s none of that Spanish language to learn.

Allan Holingurst’s The Line of Beauty, with its world of genteel English interiors is also a pretty dark evocation of the inner workings of Thatcher’s Britain and the ruling class, and couldn’t be more different from McCarthy’s American voice.

Non-Fiction Winner – Bob Dylan – Chronicles 1

A better book than we could ever have hoped for, or deserved. Could Dylan ever tell you anything in his prose, that his songs hadn’t already said? The surprising answer is yes! The first volume of Dylan’s autobiography is typically enigmatic, mysterious and evocative, and well written!, though that should be no surprise. Just don’t expect a straight line from ‘a’ to ‘b’, Dylan dodges and weaves and reveals what he likes, and hides what he needs to. But it’s beautiful stuff, and I can’t wait for the next volume. I also prefer the American cover (left) to the streetscape of the Australian cover.

Other non-fiction I liked this year:

Art Spiegelberg wrote a comic about the Holocaust called Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. I’d seen bits of it before; the Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats, and the story is horrible, but if you read the whole thing it’s also strangely inspiring and sobering and the genre works.

Aaron Ralston is the guy who got caught in a rock while hiking and cut his own arm off rather than die out in the desert. He probably had plenty of time to think of the title Between a Rock and a Hard Place, but in the style of Lance Armstron’s recent inspiring recovery stories, Ralston takes up to his private hell, and back.

Julia Horne’s The Pursuit of Wonder is an exploration of the Australian search for natural beauty and the sublime; how did travellers become tourists, how did places like the Blue Mountains become sources of wonder. A wonderful looking book too with just a little too much of the converted thesis about it at times.

I also read both Kokoda histories this year: Peter Fitzsimons Kokoda is a popular history, a bit jingoistic, but also moving at times, and Paul Ham’s Kokoda, which is more scholarly, more broad-ranging, but less emotional.

And, if you want even more of Dylan, try Greil Marcus’s Like a Rolling Stone, a way close-up on the making of that seminal album that is for hard core fans only.

Poetry Winner – Totem by Luke Davies

Luke Davies came to notoriety as the drug novelist of Candy, a devastating tragic love story centred around heroin addiction. I liked the book but it appalled me too, and I didn’t reall think of Davies as a poet at all until Totem, which got my attention when it won the the AGE Book of the Year in 2004, not just the poetry section, the whole thing. You can read a review in Cordite Magazine HERE or a more local review from the AGE HERE and another article about winning the award HERE Luke Davies is in love, opened one review. And that just about sums up these exuberant, over-brimming excesses that sound Dylan Thomas-ish at times but in a mad Australian way.

For me, John Kinsella’s poetry vacillates too much between an all too knowing, all too post-post, all too theoretical and a more authentic, more lived experiential poetry typically centred around the Western Australian wheatfields landscapes. Of course, I prefer the latter, and there’s enough of them in Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems to make this a very satisfying experience. You can read a nice short intro to Kinsella and this book HERE.

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Your Handy Christmas Shopping List (all these books are great!)


The Brooklyn Follies-Paul Auster – Stories within stories – Book of the Year!
The Book of Illusions (Faber) – Paul Auster – This is sometimes seen on sale at Readings
The Line of Beauty – Allan Hollinghurst – Henry James meets gay Thatcher Britain


Chronicles 1 – Bob Dylan (Simnon and Schuster) – for your cool hippy uncle – Book of the Year!.
No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy – for those who love to hunt, or be hunted
Between a Rock and a Hard Place – (Atria) for the kid with the strong stomach who wants to be a doctor.
Greil Marcus – Like a Rolling Stone (Faber) – for the music obsessive in the family who likes to make lists
Peter Fitzsimons – Kokoda (Hodder) – For the popular historian in the family
Paul Ham – Kokoda – For the academic historian in the family
Julia Horne – The Pursuit of Wonder – (Miegunyah Press) Australiana with some depth
Art Spiegelman – Maus (Penguin) – A darkly visual experience

Luke Davies – Totem (Allen and Unwin) – Potent love poems for those who are obsessed
Peripheral Light – Selected and New Poems (Fremantle Arts Centre Press) – wheatlands, grasslands

Written by warrick

July 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm

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