'Copyright Agency has developed Reading Australia to make significant Australian literary works more readily available for teaching in schools and universities. These works are being supplemented with online teacher resources and essays by popular authors about the enduring relevance of the works.'
Source: Reading Australia (http://readingaustralia.com.au/About.aspx). (Sighted: 8/10/2013)
AustLit is providing a series of curated trails for the Reading Australia project. They can be viewed here.
Written for the Reading Australia project, this essay serves as an introduction to Anna Funder's Stasiland. Knox discusses the cultural setting in which the work was first published and examines the narrative techniques that Funder uses to depict her subjects. Knox also discusses how Funder's gender and her status as a foreigner affected her telling of the story.
This essay serves as an introduction to Blackrock, and was written for the Reading Australia project.
This essay, an introduction to My Brilliant Career, was written for the Reading Australia project. It discusses the continuing relevance of the novel, and its representations of romance, a kind of 'anti-romance,' and reading. It also discusses the novel's depiction of bush life and drought.
An introduction to Swallow the Air, this work was written for the Reading Australia project. Novelist Melissa Lucashenko writes: ‘when May Gibson's mother dies unexpectedly beneath the jacaranda tree in the backyard, and her small family disintegrates around her, May's search is not for her Aboriginality. It is, rather, for somewhere to belong as she used to belong in her mother's presence. For somewhere she can feel safe and whole, and simply be loved: probably the most universal of human quests.’
McCredden discusses national myth-making in Cloudstreet, arguing that '[t]he myths of Australian identity are not simply re-told in this novel, but are seen through the psychologies, actions and relationships of individual and intimately drawn characters [...] Australia as lucky and unlucky country? Land of working class battlers who fail, or heroes who make their own way? Cloudstreet seems to embrace the contradictions between these mythic elements without coming down heavily on those who spin myths, perhaps recognising that fiction writers are implicated in such makings.'
Written for the Reading Australia project, this essay serves as an introduction to Nam Le's The Boat. Cole discusses how the book 'offers a new conversation about the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The collection encompasses a diverse geography, from Iran to Colombia, the United States to Australia, Japan and the South China Sea, yet the Vietnam War is an assertive presence too in the collection’s first and last stories, "Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" and "The Boat".' Cole discusses the 'literature of emigration,' gives a synopsis of each of the collection's stories, and examines the structural format of the collection.
Written for the Reading Australia project, this essay serves as an introduction to Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi. Pung discusses the importance of the novel to herself personally, and how it influenced her as a writer. Pung discusses the narrative voice of Josie Alibrandi, and how the novel represents identity, class, and relationships (with family, friends, and boyfriends).
Written for the Copyright Agency's Reading Australia project, this essay serves as an introduction to Alan Seymour's play.
'‘We must stop the boats.’ It’s a phrase every Australian has heard, ad nauseam. It’s been the theme of election campaigns and political advertising. It’s a statement so often uttered on the nightly news that a time when politicians showed empathy to asylum seekers and refugees seems like a fading dream. For over a decade, but particularly for the last five years, this simple saying has sent a blunt message: ‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.’' (Introduction)
'Australians have always been welcoming to crime fiction (Knight, Continent of Mystery, ‘Origins and Sins’ 10–57). Bushranger ballads and squatter thrillers explored varied early wrongs, and rights; Victoria had two of the world’s first women crime writers, Ellen Davitt with Force and Fraud (1865) and Mary Fortune, whose many stories from 1866 often featured the detective skills of mounted trooper Mark Sinclair. Major authors Marcus Clarke and ‘Rolf Boldrewood’ published crime-related novels and Fergus Hume’s The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886), set and first published in Melbourne, became London’s first best-selling crime novel.' (Introduction)
It is eight o’clock in the evening on the 21st of January, 1971, and the heat from an 100-plus degree day dissipates in the night air. Dorothy Hewett’s third serious play, The Chapel Perilous, is opening at The New Fortune Theatre. Built as a fourth wall to the Arts Building at the University of Western Australia in 1964, The New Fortune is a multi-storey outdoor space designed as an Elizabethan stage. The play’s director is Aarne Neeme, a young, sympathetic collaborator with whom Hewett has been working closely in rehearsals. Helen Neeme, Aarne’s wife, is in the demanding central role, and between the Acts she feeds their new daughter, only a few months old. Hewett’s twenty-year-old son Joe Flood is among the musicians tuning up at the side of the stage and his future wife Adele Marcella has a role in the Chorus. Hewett’s other four children, the youngest eight years old, sit in the audience with her husband, writer Merv Lilley. Also attending are some of her students and colleagues from the English Department at UWA, which a week or so earlier had finally awarded her a permanent tutorship, after first appointing her in 1964. Friends of Hewett’s from literature and politics have come too: T.A.G. Hungerford, Hal Colebatch, Dorothy and Bill Irwin, and Nicholas Hasluck among others, as well as a reviewer for the West Australian. As Hasluck recalls, in the front row, in seats reserved especially, are the prominent left-wing lawyer Lloyd Davies, Hewett’s first husband from whom she’d divorced in 1950, and his wife Jo. With a clap of thunder, the action begins in darkness, and a chorus of young actors in school uniforms, with dual roles as ushers, listen to a declaratory female voice: ‘I rode forward through the blackened land. I saw the forests burning and the fields wasted, waiting for rain. Upon a slope I saw a glimpse of light. Then I came to the Chapel Perilous.’ (Introduction)
'Fire is an element deeply embedded in the Australian consciousness. In recent times it has been associated with natural disasters such as Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday, terrifying and deadly bushfires with biblical monikers. The danger of fire has been always been present in our literature, too, from the works of Dorothy Mackellar to Judith Wright to Les Murray. It tears through communities with devastating consequences, but in the bush it also has the capacity to renew and regenerate – that is, after all, how Indigenous Australians have applied fire to the land for thousands of years. But as Andrew McGahan’s extraordinary novel The White Earth (Allen & Unwin, 2004) reveals, some blights on the national conscience can never be scorched clean.' (Introduction)
'The underlying theme in Marcus Zusak’s novels is ordinariness. Whether he is writing from the perspective of two working-class brothers struggling to get noticed for their boxing abilities in Fighting Ruben Wolfe (2000), or from that of Ed in The Messenger (2002) – ‘the epitome of ordinariness’ – the theme looms in complex ways over his writings. Even a character such as Death in his best-known work, The Book Thief (2005), is depicted as facing the same mundane issues as most human beings: he is easily distracted, he can’t make up his mind, he feels overwhelmed by his demanding work.' (Introduction)
'In the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s there was a flurry of what were called ‘single issue’ or ‘problem’ novels for teenagers. The books focused on problems or issues that frequently confronted teenagers, such as bullying, anorexia, child abuse, depression, suicide, unplanned pregnancies, struggles over friendships, puberty, divorce, and more. These were indeed matters faced by young people, and the rationale was that by reading about others in similar situations, teenagers would feel less alone and might also find ways of coping. ‘Reading novels dealing with social and personal problems is a safe way to bring these issues into focus and give adolescents a chance to talk about their own experiences or relate their own lives to what others have gone through’ (Diana Hodge, The Conversation, 13 June 2014). There is a whiff of bibliotherapy (books and reading as therapy) in this view which seems to undermine the notion of reading and evaluating books for their literary merit.' (Introduction)
'It’s not easy having a weird name, as many teenagers with foreign or experimental parents can attest – or unusual looks, or a stutter, or being too fat or too skinny, or shy, or any other characteristic that marks a child out from a very narrow mainstream. In a school where Class A bullies rule, the results can be devastating. It’s not inevitable: I never copped it for having a foreign name, though I went to an overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon school. In fact, two kids at the top of the social pecking order there carried a Greek and an Italian name. But where bullying does occur, it can potentially leave scars for life.' (Introduction)
'Evil Genius is set in real-world Sydney, but it is driven by a compelling fantasy: what would it be like to wield power that can change the world? Cadel Piggott, the protagonist of the novel, is a genius. We first meet him, aged seven, in the office of psychologist Thaddeus Roth, where he has been escorted by his adoptive parents after being caught hacking computer systems.' (Introduction)
'It is almost impossible to believe: ten young women, all of them aged under twenty-five, held captive because of their past sexual transgressions. Can this be happening? In twenty-first century Australia? This is the world into which you step when you open The Natural Way of Things.' (Introduction)
'Published in 2011, Margaret Wild’s picture book Vampyre is a hallucinatory marriage of minimal text and symbolic imagery, rendered in a subdued colour palette. Echoing the image and writing style, the story pivots on a complex exchange of ideas. Chief among these is the individual striving for personal salvation. The journey is fraught and the end remains ambiguous, paradoxical.' (Introduction)
'by the river evokes the textures of a small Australian town in 1962 through lean episodic poems that drift along gently until moments of intensity break their banks. Through a leisurely accumulation of detail – houses on stilts, fruit bats, a blotchy carpet of mango pulp, wisteria, cricket, bags of lollies – the town comes into focus, along with the lives of its people, especially protagonist Harry Hodby and his family.'
'Just Macbeth! is Shakespeare like I’ve never read him before. It’s raucous and disgusting, immature and absurd. Kings sing karaoke, there is a time-travel potion made from dog saliva, and children plot regicide for Wizz Fizz rewards. What makes Shakespeare’s collection of works timeless is its ability to be reinterpreted across mediums, regardless of era, culture or language. Macbeth is no different, having been famously reworked countless times. But never have I read the script adapted for a younger audience to include fart jokes and bedwetting. Many Australians may have never read anything written by Shakespeare, let alone seen one of his plays. This book aims to persuade children that they should. While it could easily be seen as cringe-worthy toilet humour, there is a method to the madness (note the Hamlet reference) of Just Macbeth!. Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton’s interpretation manages to disguise learning as a good time. A really good time.' (Introduction)
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