南京夜网楼凤

Belief alone won’t beat All Blacks

Pass test ... the Wallabies captain's run at ANZ Stadium yesterday.THE Wallabies are buoyant after repeatedly peaking at the right time during the Wales Test series, but know they are still well short of what is required to be confident of beating the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium tonight.
Nanjing Night Net

Wallabies captain David Pocock yesterday called on his teammates to lift their game and make full use of home-ground advantage.

The Australian Rugby Union has certainly applied the pressure on the Wallabies by focusing its marketing campaign around how it has been a barren decade since they last won the Bledisloe Cup, and that the task may be easier as they are playing two of the three Tests at home.

No wonder Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was provoked into commenting over whether it had been too long since the team had shown off the cup. ''Clearly it's time,'' Deans said.

At least the Wallabies head into the series with some of the attributes needed for trans-Tasman success. After the blip against Scotland in Newcastle, the Wallabies rebounded brilliantly against Wales, one of the best northern hemisphere teams to tour Australia in decades, winning the series 3-0. What was most encouraging was the team's ability to play at their best near the end of each Test and withstand pressure, showing the squad's level of conditioning had improved markedly.

The sign of a good side is that they consistently win the tight ones, and several close victories had the desired effect of boosting the Wallabies' spirits.

''We took confidence out of that series,'' Pocock said. ''As a team you want to win those arm-wrestles right at the end. In these Tests, we stayed in the contest and found a way to win.

''But the Rugby Championship is going to be a totally different beast, and we know those performances against Wales won't be anywhere near good enough.

''We just have to do everything better, and in particular we know we have to start better against the All Blacks. Our general intensity has to go up, because New Zealand tend to take their opportunities. Wales, in the first and second Tests, created a lot of opportunities and didn't take them. But the All Blacks do.''

As importantly, Pocock knows he will play a critical role in the outcome of this Test. The breakdown battle will be decisive, and with the All Blacks showing during the Ireland Test series that their intensity at the tackle is of the highest standard, Pocock's openside breakaway work will be important in providing a handbrake. As important will be how new Wallabies blindside breakaway Dave Dennis, and No.8 Scott Higginbotham, combine with Pocock.

But Deans also argued it is imperative Pocock gets a fair deal. The coach was irritated during the Wales series that Pocock was often held back by opponents after the breakdown so that he had no involvement in the next few phases. Deans called on the touch judges to properly adjudicate that area, as he believes the All Blacks, knowing how pivotal Pocock is to the Wallabies' plans, will try similar tactics.

''It's not so much at the breakdown, but what's happening long after the breakdown is over,'' Deans said. ''The ball is gone, the game is carrying on and players are being denied the ability to participate. It's the touch judges' responsibility because the referee, invariably, is watching the game, which is somewhere else.''

But one area where Deans is forever evasive revolves around his new opposing coach Steve Hansen. As expected, Hansen, in his first Bledisloe Cup battle as head All Blacks coach, has tried to provoke his old Canterbury playing and coaching partner with old-fashioned sledging.

The All Blacks coach this week had a dig at the Wallabies forward pack, and also suggested Deans made a succession of selection bungles during last year's World Cup. The inference was Deans no longer had confidence in World Cup five-eighth Quade Cooper, who has not been picked for this Test.

Asked about the comments yesterday, Deans laughed and said: ''Steve is a very good fisherman. He loves fishing.''

Hansen will keep tossing the burley in Deans's direction during the season. But the ever cautious Australian coach will keep spitting out those smelly bite-sized pieces of pilchard. He has been around too long to attack low-grade bait.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Sitting pretty for the run home

Illustration: Jim PavlidisFINAL WORD
Nanjing Night Net

THE Tigers, in my observation, have more supporters who go to the footy dressed up and in costume than any other club.

Last Sunday, as the Olympics were closing and the Brits were preparing to put on a show to dazzle the world, Richmond was playing the Bulldogs at the MCG.

The Tiger Army, full of ribald chants, was about a dozen rows behind us. Around us were middle-aged women in black and yellow outfits that made them look like semi-inflated wasps and the odd young man in a head-to-toe Tiger suit. In front of us were two demure young Asian women, both dressed in black, one wearing a head scarf which suggested she was a Muslim.

At half-time, unable to contain my curiosity, I leant forward and asked the young women where they were from. They were international students from Malaysia. Someone had given them free tickets to the match. They had cardboard sheets with autographed photos of all the Richmond players.

''The game,'' I told them, ''is crazy, but beautiful.''

They nodded and smiled as if to say that was as they had found it. The Tigers gave the Dogs a thumping. The Dogs played some pretty football but lacked the big, capable players who hold a football team together the way buttons hold a cardigan. It's hard for me to look at the Tigers and think they shouldn't have done better in 2012 but I think about Carlton, too. It's a bias I have towards teams with recognisably individual talent as opposed to teams like Sydney and North Melbourne that have a near-uniform identity.

In the case of the Tigers, I like watching Dustin Martin play.

He's the football equivalent of a four-wheel-drive with a tray full of work equipment and red dust on its sides.

He's quick, strong, reads the play and kicks the ball long. He slaughtered the Dogs. And I like watching Trent Cotchin play. A lot of people do - he's young and good-looking, a one-touch player with a quicksilver mind who is deceptively slow in his movements so that it constantly seems like he is performing tricks or acts of football magic.

A Brownlow for Cotchin would be like an Olympic gold for Tigerland and be received by the Tiger Army with that degree of reverence.

Another team I like watching is West Coast. Mick Malthouse was a mighty coach but I would argue that John Worsfold's Eagles teams have been better to watch than Malthouse's Eagles even though Malthouse's sides had more talent. The Eagles teams of the early 1990s were strewn with great names - Matera, Jakovich, Kemp, Lewis, Mainwaring, McKenna - but the captain of that formidable unit was John ''Woosha'' Worsfold.

A pharmacist by trade, he played with a lot of nous and had a small boy's smile when interviewed after games. On the field, if he got the chance, he'd hit you like a semi-trailer and leave you in a trance. Malthouse's teams were solid as cement. Woosha's teams, for one reason or another, have been more fragile but, again this year, the Eagles are in the finals mix.

The big controversy in Perth this week concerned Geelong coach Chris Scott saying the West Coast crowd was the worst in Australia. This followed Geelong's Tom Hawkins being booed by a small section of the Perth crowd last weekend as he was being carried off senseless.

Seeking to further plumb the West Coast psyche, I found a website for West Coast supporters.

The post I read alleged the Eagles were cheated of the 2005 premiership through the systematic intimidation of the umpires during the course of that season by Sydney coach Paul Roos. It included this view of Worsfold: ''One of the things I most like and respect about Worsfold is that he keeps his trap shut when things don't go our way - he simply has far too much class and fortitude to go all crying to the media when things go wrong.''

It made me realise something I had either forgotten or not properly processed: Woosha is a hero in the West. These are the passions beginning to stir as we close on September and the finals.

Sydney and Adelaide, sitting one and two on the ladder, are looking at home finals, but Malthouse said this week they aren't the two best teams in the competition which, if true, is a serious indictment of the AFL roster. Beneath Sydney and Adelaide sit Hawthorn, Collingwood and Geelong.

Collingwood was built during the terrible depression of the 1890s on the principle that no individual is bigger than the club. As the suspension of Dane Swan showed, Collingwood is still Collingwood. The Pies are a tough, attractive team but Hawthorn played the best footy I've seen this year when it defeated Collingwood in round 17.

Geelong, meanwhile, is defiant, like Nellie Melba being told the time has come to leave the stage when she can see further great performances ahead for herself.

I have no idea who will win. I don't know anyone who does - it's that sort of year. All I know is that on the last Saturday in September, the season will have a crazy but beautiful climax. People around Australia, and around the world, some in costumes and some with painted faces, will be gathered in groups, shouting at televisions.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Old boys in awe of classy North

GREG Miller was one of the key architects of North Melbourne's dominance through the 1990s. As chief recruiter and later general manager, he helped build a side that featured in seven preliminary finals and claimed two premierships.
Nanjing Night Net

Those North teams, led by the likes of Wayne Carey, Glenn Archer and Anthony Stevens, boasted skill and muscle, something the Kangaroos have not been able to replicate since those heady days - until now.

Miller has watched the Kangaroos intently in recent months and has marvelled at the development of a team that has won eight of its past nine matches heading into tonight's blockbuster against Collingwood at Etihad Stadium.

''This current group are playing the best football since the late '90s - the style of footy and the precision,'' Miller said.

''It is the best assembled group and skill level that I have seen. Their skill level is fantastic. I have seen their sides that have made finals [in 2007 and 2008] - this side is better. Their football is better.

''I have seen the Kangaroos play all their games recently and I can't believe they are playing unbelievably good footy.

''They were just miles ahead of Essendon in their movement of the footy [last Sunday]. Everything they did was first class. They have come a long way.

''They are very fit, obviously. They are leading and moving at one end and moving at the other end. They put Essendon to shame in that regard.''

The victory over the Bombers was pivotal, for the Kangaroos dislodged a team that earlier this year was considered a premiership favourite, prompting Carey to declare his former team had now taken the ''next step''.

Now comes an even mightier step, against a Collingwood side that has embarrassed the Kangaroos by an average of 80.5 points in their past four meetings. The Magpies have won all 16 quarters.

''I think they [North] are one of the form sides of the competition,'' Carey said.

''Obviously, they have got their troubles now with injury, which they haven't had, but the way they played on the weekend, they have certainly proved they have improved as a side and winning games that are important to them.

''It feels like they have taken that next step, but once again it's another challenge this week against arguably the best side in the comp.''

Good management and luck had allowed the Kangaroos to avoid soft-tissue injuries until last weekend, but they have been forced to make three changes with Daniel Wells (calf), Leigh Adams (shoulder) and Nathan Grima (hamstring) out.

Carey said the move to three marking forwards - the developing Robbie Tarrant and Lachie Hansen working alongside veteran Drew Petrie - was working well.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

It’s easy being with Greene

THE MAN WITHIN MY HEADBy Pico IyerBloomsbury, $35
Nanjing Night Net

THERE has been a recent growth in books about writers that are neither criticism nor biography but, rather, use both to deal with the writer and their works as some kind of shadow self, or even role model. There's Janet Malcolm reading Chekhov and Robert Dessaix's books about Turgenev and Gide. Geoff Dyer turned the form into comedy with Out of Sheer Rage, a book about not writing a book about D.H. Lawrence; and in equally downbeat mode, there is Malcolm Knox's On Obsession, about how reading Proust may not necessarily do your life much good at all.

These are books about the relationship between readers and writers, and what reading can do to a person. They are often books that challenge received ideas about form as they also ignore the demand that criticism - writing about writing - try to reduce the merely subjective or personal.

Having a man inside your head is about as personal as it gets - it's how one might describe a lover - and the man in Pico Iyer's head is Graham Greene. Iyer starts out by wondering why he should have lit on someone as unheroic, as interested in compromised and damaged humanity as Greene: why choose as an ideal self someone as distrustful of ideals as Greene?

As the book proceeds though, the portrait he paints of Greene makes it more obvious that for Iyer, this is exactly where Greene's attraction lies. The interest in doubleness and divided characters, the ambiguity, the self-doubt and self-criticism: it's Greene's lack of moralising that attracts Iyer.

It's also Iyer's own background that sharpens his appreciation of Greene, the novelist who spent his career writing about displaced persons. Iyer's parents were Indian and he spent his childhood between England, where he went to public school, and California, where his father was an admired college teacher. His girlfriend is Japanese, which makes him rather defensive about the criticisms levelled at Greene for the depiction of Phuong in The Quiet American.

Iyer, of course, has made a living as a journalist and travel writer, and the reflections on Greene here come interspersed with his own travels, from Bolivia and Mexico to Saigon, places where Greene has preceded him or where he finds people like the characters from Greene's books: an Indian shopkeeper in the middle of nowhere in Mexico; a Vietnamese girl in an internet cafe writing to her Western lover.

The memoir and travel sections curiously come punctuated by disaster: there are two car accidents - one in Ethiopia and one in Bolivia - and Iyer returns to the time when his parents' house was destroyed by bushfires. Iyer finds a way to approach Greene's Catholicism through his own friendship with Louis, from his old school, who lives a life of Christian compassion, one considerably more cheerful-seeming than Greene's own rather dark faith.

''I couldn't quite explain to Hiroko, as I finished this book, which man within my head I was addressing.''

The other figure inhabiting the book is Iyer's father, R.J. Iyer, the distinguished scholar of Plato. Born in a poor family, he was a brilliant young man, who, by 18, was teaching at the University of Bombay and later benefiting from the colonial system of scholarships that sought either to improve the lot of the colonised or remake them in their colonisers' image, depending on how you look at it.

If a comparison between the two men is meant, it's not so easy to know what conclusions to draw: Greene gets much more attention and there is not much sense that Iyer's own father was lacking.

''You're writing about your father?'' Iyer's girlfriend asks him at one point. ''Well, not exactly. There's too much I don't know or couldn't say about him.'' That ''couldn't say'' is tantalising.

If Greene is a father substitute for Iyer, this book leaves undone the psychological work of showing just how the substitution worked and bringing Iyer's relationship with his real father into the light. But then one of the things Iyer seems to have learnt from Greene is not to judge too dogmatically or too soon; not to try to be too neat.

■Pico Iyer is a guest at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Hope springs eternal

Morris Gleitzman concludes his series about a young boy during the Holocaust with After.AFTERBy Morris GleitzmanPenguin, $19.95
Nanjing Night Net

THIS extraordinary novel brings to a conclusion the series in which Morris Gleitzman has taken the Holocaust as his subject and told its story through the life of a small boy, Felix. It began with Once, moved through Then, took a leap to Now and has returned to After.

This fourth book draws Felix's story to its end by filling in the space between Then and Now. Even so, all four novels in the series can be read as individual works and not necessarily in sequence.

To say After is one of the finest children's novels written in the past 25 years or so is no idle statement. It is narrative at its gripping best - nail-biting excitement, tears and affirmation of all that is good, noble and dignified about childhood. Out of the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust, After offers a celebration of life and survival.

The opening is assured and exquisitely paced. It is 1945 and Felix, now 13, has been in hiding for two years in a barn on the farm belonging to his friend, Gabriek. He mistakes a party of men who arrive at the farm for Nazis. Polish partisans are fighting the retreating Germans and unbeknown to Felix, Gabriek is an explosives expert and a partisan.

Gabriek is taken away. Felix pursues him and the two join up with a partisan group in a forest. Here he meets Yuli, a fearless young woman who realises that Felix needs protection not from the suspicious partisans but from his desire to stay with Gabriek.

There are many poignant moments, handled with great poise by Gleitzman. Felix's parents have disappeared in the round-ups of Jews and he has kept a faint flicker of hope that they will have survived. Gabriek is wounded and sent away.

In counterpoint, Gleitzman does not resile from portraying the Holocaust in all its savagery. People are shot, farms are burnt and many people sent on forced marches starve to death.

Yet he never allows the candle of hope to be extinguished. As a partisan recruit, Felix helps a doctor tend the wounded. And the maternal Yuli shows him the kind of tactile affection, restrained as it is, that he has longed for from his mother.

It is a measure of Gleitzman's awareness of his audience that he brings the context of family life into sharp relief. There is much for readers to identify with. The action of the novel is unwavering. The setting changes frequently as Felix, Yuli and the partisans attack or escape the Nazis, search for food and encounter Hitler Youth fanatics and hiding Jewish children.

But nothing can prepare readers for one of the most moving and unexpected conclusions. That we do not see it coming makes it all the more powerful.

There are no weaknesses in this brilliantly imagined and unforgettable story. At its heart, After is about love and we are edified by reading it.

■Morris Gleitzman is conducting a workshop in writing for children and young adults at the Melbourne Writers Festival. mwf南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Different shades

Chloe Hooper found returning to fiction liberating.''I HAD a dark night of the soul after this book went to the printer,'' Chloe Hooper confesses. ''I thought, 'Don't tell me I've just done a literary Fifty Shades of Grey'.''
Nanjing Night Net

Let's be clear about this. Hooper's second novel, The Engagement, is not a sadomasochistic romp designed to titillate millions of women readers. It's a sophisticated, many-layered work that combines the headlong appeal of a thriller with a nuanced mystery about our darker sexual and romantic desires.

What it does do, however, is pose much the same questions as everyone is asking about the extraordinary Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon: what is it that women fantasise about, and why? Do they want to be their dream man's bride, or sex slave?

Hooper, a tall, slim woman with clear pale eyes, is best known in Australia for her acclaimed 2008 non-fiction book, The Tall Man, but started as a novelist (her first novel, A Child's Book of True Crime, came out in 2002 and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for women's fiction). She did her homework after she finished The Engagement and read Fifty Shades of Grey, which she found very formulaic.

''I don't think it's that different from what's been out there as erotic romance for some time,'' she says. ''But there's something interesting to be said about the nature of fantasy. Are most fantasies inherently conservative? Do they spring from some deep well? Is it like myth - are there a limited number we're calling on or find ourselves lost in?''

We wonder if it's possible for a woman to have a progressive-feminist fantasy, and we burst out laughing at the idea.

''I'll have to get back to you on that,'' Hooper says. ''Fantasy can take you to places that aren't politically correct. And I'm not talking about a cheesy, 'Bring on the manacles, Christian Grey'.''

The Engagement is about an affair between Liese, a young Englishwoman visiting Australia, and Alexander, the blandly handsome scion of a family that made its fortune off the sheep's back.

At the start of the novel, they are driving to Alexander's ancestral pile in the Western District of Victoria for a naughty weekend. The reader senses at once there's something odd about this couple. Alexander pays Liese for sex, Liese takes his money and encourages him to believe she's a professional.

In the grand tradition of the Gothic novel, Liese gradually finds herself trapped in the spooky family mansion and also in Alexander's fantasy. Or is it her fantasy? The borders ripple and blur. ''It's a story where two fantasies collide and it's difficult to know who's in charge,'' Hooper says.

''I do love all those Gothic classics - Jane Eyre, Rebecca, The Castle of Otranto, those stories of women trapped in big houses.''

The cover design suggests a period setting and there's a forced betrothal, anonymous letters, knives, guns, gutted animals and a vicar who comes to dinner, but it's a contemporary tale and Hooper has been at pains to make it seem authentic. Alexander's house is based on real homesteads: ''I was lucky enough to enjoy some old-fashioned Western District hospitality. It's fairly Gothic around that area.''

She plays with two classic fantasies: the whore and the bride. ''I like the idea of a fantasy that seems harmless but is actually dangerous. Marriage is one of the last fantasy rituals: you put on a white dress and hire a vintage car and get a cake, and there are reasons to be quite frightened of doing that when a third of marriages end in divorce.

''Even though we talk about people marrying less, and more children are born out of marriage, there still seems to be such a lot of pressure on women to formalise things. Girls grow up with a picture … do you ever get over reading Cinderella?

"We live in times where we think we're very progressive about sex and everybody's reading Shades of Grey

and what's meant to be a whole lot of gymnastics. But, actually, we're mediaeval in our attitudes to female desire and sexuality."

She also liked the idea of writing a thriller. ''When you read a good thriller, you feel a surfeit of emotions. Your shoulders tense up and your hairs are meant to stand on end. But you enjoy feeling anxious. It's almost an S&M experience. That's what gives the genre its spark - and it's also a very good medium to look at the ambivalence about marriage.''

Does this ambivalence extend to Hooper's personal life? Her partner is writer Don Watson, and they have a baby son, Tobias.

''Marriage is not out of the question, but there do seem always to be other things to deal with,'' she says.

They manage parenthood in Fitzroy with help from Hooper's mother and father and a part-time nanny. Do they help each other with their work? ''He reads my work more than I'm allowed to read his. I guess that's just the way it is.''

Her best-known work, The Tall Man, has the narrative pull and urgency of a thriller, but it's a non-fiction account of the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island, and the subsequent trial of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. It won the Western Australian Premier's Book Award and the respective New South Wales and Victorian premiers' literary awards for non-fiction, and had glowing reviews here and overseas. Robert Drewe called it ''the country's finest work of literature so far this century''.

Hooper had started work on The Engagement when she became involved with the case, following Brisbane criminal lawyer Andrew Boe and writing a Walkley-winning report for The Monthly magazine. Then she decided so much compelling material should go in a book, which meant putting her novel aside.

Returning to fiction was ''a terrific freedom … One of the first days I was back, I closed the door on my study and nobody could get me. This character wouldn't hop off the page, there wouldn't be a lawsuit, nobody would ring me and abuse me. It had been so long since my first novel, I almost had to learn how to write a novel again … but writing The Tall Man probably made me a better writer. I've used different muscles.''

There was, however, an interruption - although a very welcome one. Ten months ago, Hooper gave birth to Tobias. She had hoped to get the novel done by then, but it didn't work out that way. ''The book was hopelessly overdue; I had to finish it. In the beginning, I would write when Tobias was asleep. When he was awake more of the time, we needed help in the house. I was lucky that this book was at a place where it was kind of writing itself, so I would … know what to do.''

Hooper's career to date sounds like a dream run for a young writer. She had short stories published while at the University of Melbourne, then at 23 she won a Fulbright scholarship to Columbia University in New York, where she studied creative writing. Her first novel was written as part of the course.

But there was a dark afternoon of the soul. She couldn't find an agent for A Child's Book of True Crime and was running out of money. Philip Roth suggested she show it to his agent, the famed Andrew ''the Jackal'' Wylie, and she sent the manuscript as a last resort. Convinced he wouldn't want it, she spent the afternoon weeping and making plans to fly home. ''I was calling up friends and offering them my sleeping bag. And then he rang that night.''

Wylie sold the novel to 13 countries, including Australia, and did a double book deal for The Tall Man and The Engagement for a reported $300,000 advance in Australia (a figure Hooper's publisher, Ben Ball, has since said is wrong). Hooper doesn't offer a comment on the money, but she's wry about the gossip the deal sparked: ''One of the reasons I wrote this novel was I was interested in writing about women and money and their price. It got me thinking a little about this world we're in, where everything is commodified.

''I've been very fortunate that the stars aligned and I was able to make a career out of writing. It keeps the baby in Huggies. Just.''

Hooper is keen to keep working, although she also loves being a mother: ''It's terribly tempting just to play with blocks and crawl around on the floor.'' She would like to write another non-fiction book, though learning about indigenous lives in the far north of Australia was often a harrowing experience.

''You forget the pain of a book, like childbirth. What's left in terms of pain is the inequities that book details. I think of my son: he's had the best prenatal and antenatal care, he has clean clothes and a safe place to sleep, and that's not the case for a lot of kids I know.''

So what to write next? ''For me, the new challenge is I can't just get on a plane - with a small child, that kind of travel is far more difficult. I have lots of ideas, but they're in far-flung places. I need a non-fiction story in Melbourne CBD between the hours of 10am and 11.30am and 2pm and 3.30pm.'' She laughs. ''That's when he sleeps.''

■The Engagement is published by Hamish Hamilton on Wednesday. Chloe Hooper is a guest at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Unmatched terror in the children’s crusade

BENEATH THE DARKENING SKYBy Majok TulbaHamish Hamilton, $29.95
Nanjing Night Net

READERS of Beneath the Darkening Sky, Majok Tulba's graphic and gruesome depiction of the enlistment of child soldiers in Sudan's civil war, will sup a book full of horrors. Tulba begins with the sacking of the village of young Obinna. Shock forces clarity of observation from the boy: ''The only things moving slowly are the soldiers.'' Their faces are shiny with sweat and ash - ''it looks like face paint for the village dances''. A boy decapitates an old man. From his temporary vantage in a tree, Obinna can only think of how ''the old man knew so many songs''.

Obinna's role as spectator is wrenched to an end. Lined up with other boys from the village, his height is macabrely measured against an AK-47 rifle. Just tall enough, he is impressed into the rebel army.

Tulba draws on his own terrible story, save that he was just short of the rifle's height. His brother was not. Their village was destroyed by forces of what would become the army of South Sudan when that country achieved a fragile independence in July last year. Both sides in the war used child soldiers. Free for the time being, Tulba joined tens of thousands of refugees in camps along the border of Uganda and Sudan.

In 2001, when he was 16, Tulba was granted refugee status in Australia. Settled in Sydney, almost unimaginably far from the land of his childhood, he is now chief executive of LifeCare Sudan, a writer and filmmaker. Beneath the Darkening Sky, his first novel, has a dedication that explains his cause: ''For the children who died in battle, the villages that were burned, the rights that were lost, the lives not lived, and the voiceless everywhere.''

''Soldiers are dreamers,'' Great War poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote. As often as he can, Obinna (renamed Baboon's Ass as part of abusive and demeaning induction rituals) conjures the future as a doctor for which he had wished, as well as returning to memories of the ''gunless'' life he had known, with its hallowed and now forever-lost patterns of work and of ceremony.

As he says, haltingly, ''the village can just be in my head and I can visit it at any time''. Gradually, though, he is deadened by, and towards, his experiences: ''I've been a soldier for years. Countless first days.'' He has seen deaths from shooting and cholera, his brother's castration so that he can join the rebel commander's eunuch bodyguard, death from mines: ''The boy is covered in cloud. The pebbles fly so fast they gouge into his skin, then exit the other side.''

Tulba's novel is in crucial formal respects a version, or maybe a ghastly parody, of one of the most familiar kinds of war narrative: the initiation of a recruit, a litany of first things. To begin with, he joins the unit (but by violent coercion), then he meets his comrades. Some are children like him. Others are seasoned adult fighters - Parasite, Priest, Mouse and the malevolent Captain, who ''looks like he's been made in the wild, out of earth and darkness''.

Obinna has already seen his first bodies - in his own village. He undergoes training (with wooden guns, then the AK-47). Not long after his initial sexual encounter, he takes his first life. Baboon's Ass has been transformed, for the sake of the unit's morale, into People's Fire. Now he helps to inflict the terrors that had been visited upon him and his family: ''Once this village had a name. Not any more, not since we came. Now it's just chaos.''

The title of the novel comes from the wishful words of a song that the young soldier sings (and, for doing so, is tortured): ''The world will carry us home beneath the darkening sky.'' Tulba's is a blackly eloquent tale, one that seems altogether without consolation. Perhaps its most terrible element is the loss of childhood for so many, Obinna the emblem for them. The storytelling is not without awkwardness, as unfailingly sharp as its images. Tulba's materials are not easily subdued to anything ordered or - from this distance - comprehensible. Nonetheless, he has written a war novel of an originality and fidelity that has scarcely been matched in Australia.

■Majok Tulba is a guest at the Melbourne Writers Festival. mwf南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Small eyes, big prize

An illustration taken from The Runaway Hug by Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood.THE winners of the 67th annual Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards were announced yesterday. The results are unlikely to cause controversy, although a dominance of heavy themes may raise the familiar debate about whether the awards reflect - or should reflect - what resonates with young readers.
Nanjing Night Net

That said, the CBCA has always maintained that the intention of the awards is to recognise literary merit, not popularity. In any case, the titles selected this year might just tick all the boxes.

OLDER READERS

OF THE 77 books nominated for this category, The Dead I Know by Victorian writer Scot Gardener came out on top. The compelling story focuses on teenager Aaron Rowe, a sleepwalker with a lot of instability at home, as he starts a new job at a funeral parlour.

It's a memorable read that manages to be understated while tackling heavy subject matter and delivering believably complex characters.

The judges called Gardner's book ''a confronting story'', praising it for balancing ''the violence and desolation of Aaron's life in the caravan park with the routine and studied peacefulness of the funeral parlour in exquisite counterpoint''.

Bill Condon's A Straight Line to My Heart and Robert Newton's When We Were Two were named Honour Books (the latter, a 1916-set road-trip story about two brothers - with shades of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men - won the Prime Minister's Literary Award this year). Michael Gerard Bauer's Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel, Ship Kings: The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan and my personal favourite, The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky, rounded out the shortlist.

An additional 16 titles were listed as Notable Books, including works by previous CBCA award-winning authors Steven Herrick, J.C. Burke and Barry Jonsberg.

YOUNGER READERS

KATE Constable, another Victorian writer, took out top honours in this category with her time-slip story Crow Country, about a young girl, Sadie, trying to right the wrongs of generations past in a small country town where indigenous and white Australians fail to understand one another.

The judges said Constable's work was ''strongly Australian'', and ''sensitively handles difficult subject matter in a narrative that is engaging and powerful''.

The similarly themed Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French was named an Honour Book alongside the more light-hearted, London-set mystery, The Truth about Verity Sparks by Susan Green.

The wonderfully versatile Emily Rodda took two of the remaining three shortlist spots, one with the utterly Australian Bungawitta (a fun-filled, uplifting story of a drought-stricken rural town) and another with The Golden Door, the start of a new fantasy adventure series. John Flanagan's Brotherband: The Outcasts - another ripping adventure - was also shortlisted.

EARLY READERS

PICTURE-book masters Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood joined forces to win this category with The Runaway Hug, which turns an unremarkable domestic scene into a story that's fun, wonderfully warm and perfect for bedtime reading.

''It is a picture book to ponder and appreciate, being deceptively simple, yet marvellously harmonious in concept,'' the judges said. ''The lively detailed illustrations and lyrical text work closely together to add humour and pathos.''

Sonya Hartnett's Come Down, Cat!, with illustrations by Lucia Masciullo, and Elizabeth Honey's That's Not a Daffodil! were named Honour Books, while No Bears by Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge, The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen and James Foley, and Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay were shortlisted. Winner of the Prime Minister's award, Goodnight, Mice! by Frances Watts and Judy Watson, wasn't shortlisted but featured on the list of 23 Notable Books.

PICTURE BOOK

BOB Graham's picture books are award magnets and he's done it again, winning this category with A Bus Called Heaven.

Graham's books always imbue a wonderful sense of community and validation of the role of young people in society. This one is no exception, seeing a young girl gather support and rally to save an abandoned bus called Heaven.

''This is a heart-warming and inspiring work that amply demonstrates the expertise of its creator, his capacity for subtle inclusion and his strong affection for ordinary people,'' the judges said.

The author-illustrator partnerships of Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks, and Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, have proven successful once again, with the duos receiving Honour Book status thanks to The Dream of the Thylacine and Flood, respectively.

McKinlay and Rudge's No Bears was shortlisted in this as well as the Early Childhood category, this time alongside For All Creatures by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool, and Look, a Book! by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood.

THE EVE POWNALL AWARD FOR INFORMATION BOOKS

ONE Small Island: The Story of Macquarie Island by Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch is the winner of this non-fiction category.

This insightful picture book tells the story of the tragic degradation of a natural marvel, bringing together historic documents with detailed illustrations and simple, straightforward text.

''The stunning illustrations reinforce the unique characteristics, the isolation and the beauty of this small island,'' the judges said. ''The final landscape that we view is Macquarie Island's sunrise, accompanied by words of environmental hope.''

The Little Refugee by Anh and Suzanne Do, with illustrations by Bruce Whatley, was the sole Honour Book selected.

The shortlist included Surrealism for Kids from the Queensland Art Gallery, Playground by Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle, Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell and Mark Jackson, and Carole Wilkinson's Fromelles: Australia's Bloodiest Day at War.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

The Beat goes on

Paradise lost ... Sam Riley stars as Kerouac's fictionalised alter ego, Sal, in Walter Salles' adaptation. Eye-opener ... Kristen Stewart, already a fan of On the Road did extensive research for her role as Marylou.
Nanjing Night Net

"The only ones for me are the mad ones,'' runs Jack Kerouac's most famous sentence. ''The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars …''

If Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, wrote Ray Manzarek of the Doors in his autobiography, ''the Doors would never have existed''. Perhaps a lot of other things wouldn't have existed, either, at least not quite as they subsequently did: new journalism, the counterculture, sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. No Charles Bukowski writing about his low-life high jinks, no Tom Wolfe hanging out with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, no Bruce Springsteen whooping that he was born to run. ''It changed my life,'' Bob Dylan wrote, ''like it changed everyone else's.''

On the Road is an account of five road trips between New York and San Francisco, up to Chicago and Denver and down to Mexico, taken by Kerouac - renamed Sal Paradise for fictional purposes - alone and with various friends in the late '40s, going to bars and pool halls and living in humpies with seasonal workers.

He wrote the first version in three weeks in 1951 on a continuous scroll of drawing paper, glued together and trimmed to fit the typewriter so he need never stop; Kerouac called his method ''spontaneous writing''. No publisher would have a bar of it. It took six more years, many rewrites and some intrusive editing by unknown hands at Viking before it came out in 1957.

The New York Times gave it a rave review. The long delay, moreover, ensured its appearance was timed impeccably; literary rebels were in the news. Two weeks earlier, the poem Howl by Kerouac's friend and mentor Allen Ginsberg had been the subject of a famous obscenity trial that was, at that moment, yet to be decided. In the tight atmosphere of Cold War America, these people were like an explosion of defiance. Kerouac, by nature a silent observer - ''the great rememberer'', Ginsberg called him - found himself the spokesman for what he had dubbed the Beat Generation.

''Beat'' meant poor, beaten down, scrabbling with the dregs; as so often with Kerouac, it was an expression he had absorbed in conversation, this time from a street hustler, junkie and sometime writer named Herbert Huncke, who told him one day, ''I'm beat to my socks.''

For Kerouac, it took on an additional meaning derived from ''beatific''; the road was part of a quest that was religious, his characters fiery angels. For everyone else, it summoned images of the bebop jazz that infuses his writing. Influential as they were, however, the Beats were less of a movement than a coterie of literary romantics, all of them disaffected or marginalised in some way: gay Allen Ginsberg, drug-addicted William Burroughs, Buddhist poet Gary Snyder and, above all, the thrillingly delinquent Neal Cassady, whose manic personality as the barely fictionalised Dean Moriarty propels On the Road in a rush of speed and words.

Part of the book's power was that, despite the pseudonyms Viking insisted Kerouac use, people knew it was mythologised truth: the drugs, the frenzied sexual adventures, the gleeful poverty, crazy all-night driving and all that passionate reading and writing really were taking place somewhere in what Kerouac called ''the holy American night''.

What ignited it, however, was the fire of language. Nobody else had written with such exuberance; the sentences raced across the page, despite being jammed with poetically babbling turns of phrase that often made no ostensible sense. The literary establishment hated it: its lack of discipline, its excess, its cast of ''sideshow freaks'' with their appalling ''outlaw'' values.

These academicians had no idea how much young readers, recoiling as Kerouac himself had done from the postwar promise of a prosperous life of respectable lawn-mowing, longed for the freakish and the outlawed. On the Road, opined The Village Voice, was ''a rallying cry for the elusive spirit of rebellion of these times''.

You would imagine a film would have quickly followed. In fact, Kerouac was offered $US20,000 for the rights, a tidy sum in the early '60s, but he refused it; there were about 10 attempts to bring it to the screen, including one by Francis Ford Coppola.

But they all collapsed, one way or another; the Brazilian director best known for The Motorcycle Diaries, Walter Salles, is the first to have managed it.

His On the Road, to be released in Australia next month, was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Sam Riley, who played Ian Curtis in Control, plays Jack/Sal; Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame plays Marylou (her real name was Lu Anne Henderson), who was 15 when she married Dean; Kirsten Dunst plays Camille/Carolyn, Cassady's second wife and the author in real life of a memoir called Off the Road.

Cassady, the ''hero of the Western night'' who turns into Dean Moriarty, is played by a little-known actor called Garrett Hedlund, who took a bus for three days from Minnesota to audition, wrote about the trip and read what he wrote to Salles.

''It seemed like Neal Cassady was writing to us,'' Salles says. Salles was 18 when he read the book and fell in love with it.

''It was the opposite of what we were living in Brazil in 1977. We had a dictatorship. Everything was forbidden. Even inside families, life was very conservative and in this book it was the opposite. I read it many times after that.''

I was 17 when I read On the Road, just a couple of years before Salles found it. Did it change my life? It certainly gave voice to things I wanted, given I had thus far spent most of my time in school uniform staring at a square of sky above Elwood between bouts of homework. I can't remember how I knew about the Beat writers, but in those days, the mid-'70s, even fashion mags ran features on cool writers and artists.

The poet who ran City Lights bookshop in San Francisco and published Howl, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, certainly came to me that way; I also recall an interview with Ginsberg and his lover Peter Orlovsky, talking about being gay. That sounds ordinary now, but we still snickered about our lesbian teachers in the '70s. There was the sudden sense of a cultural world that existed outside ours but was there for the taking.

Young people always feel like that, of course, which is why On the Road is still a reading rite of passage. Stewart is 22; she read On the Road only eight years ago. Same thing.

''I was like, 'Wow, I've got to meet people like this; otherwise, I'm not going to be as cool as I could be, as smart as I could be, as challenged as I could be, you know what I mean?'' she says.

''I kind of identified with Sal's character: I've never been one to lead the way, but I wanted to surround myself with people I want to run after, people who kind of shock me.'' It became her first ''favourite book''. ''I didn't enjoy reading before that but I ripped through it. It … opened so many doors.''

The funny thing here is that On the Road is often assumed to be a primer for boys. That's certainly what its literary haters say - that it is ''mainly read by young men'', as if it were a book about cars for petrolheads. (Kerouac confesses he hated driving; Dean calls Sal ''fearful of the wheel''.) It is true, admittedly, that a teenage girl reading On the Road in the 1970s had to imagine herself a boy, like one of those brave, disreputable women pirates of an earlier era.

Women were, in fact, central to these men's lives - Kerouac lived with his mother, along with a succession of wives, until he died, at 47, of a massive internal haemorrhage caused by alcoholism - but they were peripheral to the myth they were making of themselves.

Worse, they were the brakes in a world where acceleration was everything.

At one point, Sal is thinking of marrying a virtually invisible character called Lucille.

''I want to marry a girl,'' he tells Dean and Marylou, ''so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old.'' A few pages later, however, he is reflecting morosely the hopelessness of it.

''She would never understand me because I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you.''

For a woman to hit the road alone would have been unthinkable. There must be a fair number of girl readers who grew up to become feminists, not in order to be prime minister but because they wanted to do this, the crazy stuff.

In fact, the original scroll version of On the Road, which was finally published in 2007, included more about the female characters; Kerouac had stripped them out, at the publisher's instruction, to give the story focus. In his film, Salles says, he lets Sal and Dean drive off and stays with Camille as she struggles to support Dean's children.

''It shows that loneliness is painful and that she has a job; she is probably going to leave the baby with a neighbour and off she goes to work in a hospital,'' he says. ''Yes, this quest is memorable, to amplify all forms of freedom is memorable, but there are consequences.''

Not that these women were all doormats. Stewart met Lu Anne Henderson as preparation for playing Marylou. Unlike the men of her youth, she was thriving in her 80s. ''The difference between the two is that in the book she does seem quite used,'' Stewart says. ''But she is a bottomless pit, you can't waste her and she expects just as much in return; she is so f---ing generous.''

Salles saw Marylou as a real, if unacknowledged, adventurer. ''She makes the decisions to go or to stay and she doesn't have that Catholic sense of sin that is ingrained in Kerouac. She is an explorer just like Dean is an explorer.''

By the time On the Road was published, Kerouac was barely recognisable as Sal Paradise. At 35, drink and dysfunction had turned him into a filthy old bigot. He detested the hippies and yippies who claimed On the Road as inspiration and was loud in his support for the Vietnam War and McCarthy's communist witch hunt. McCarthy, he told an interviewer, had ''all the dope on the Jews and the fairies'' who apparently lived at the bottom of his brain's addled garden. Ginsberg, who was pretty much the poster boy for both these categories, was beatifically forgiving; asked in the interview I read whether Jack himself was ''a fairy'', he let his lover and fellow poet Orlovsky answer.

''In a tiny sense of the word,'' Orlovsky said. ''Perfect,'' Ginsberg said.

But for the wider world, it didn't matter how crackers Kerouac had become. He died in 1969; the mercurial Cassady had died of a combination of drink and drugs, aged 41, in the Mexican desert the previous year.

Like the readers who had pulled on torn Levis and headed out along the highway for themselves, On the Road had its own life by then.

It had left home, hitchhiked around the world via millions of bookshelves and was part of the lives of all the would-be writers and rebels who aspired to join the social movements Kerouac had so vituperatively disowned.

It is 55 years since the book was published. ''Nobody knows what's going to happen to anyone beyond the forlorn rags of growing old,'' Kerouac writes on the last page, as he watches the sun go down in ''the long, long skies over New Jersey'' and contemplates the vast bulk of land between the coasts.

As it turns out, the book that was about the man he loved, this ''most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world'' full of ''a yea-saying overburst of American joy'', is a requiem. ''I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty,'' he says finally.

As I write this, I touch the book on the desk and think of him, too.

On the Road opens September 27.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Little victories

Picture-book heroes … Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood's The Runaway Hug.The Runaway Hug won the early childhood category.
Nanjing Night Net

The winners of the 67th annual Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards were announced yesterday.

The results are unlikely to cause controversy, although a dominance of heavy themes may raise the familiar debate about whether the awards reflect - or should reflect - what resonates with young readers.

The council maintains that the awards should recognise literary merit, not popularity. In any case, the titles selected this year might just tick all the boxes.

Older readers

Of the 77 books nominated for this category, The Dead I Know by Victorian writer Scot Gardner came out on top. The compelling story focuses on teenager Aaron Rowe, a sleepwalker with instability at home, as he starts a new job at a funeral parlour.

It's a memorable read that manages to be understated at the same time as tackling heavy subject matter and delivering believably complex characters.

The judges called Gardner's book ''a confronting story'' and praised it for balancing ''the violence and desolation of Aaron's life in the caravan park with the routine and studied peacefulness of the funeral parlour in exquisite counterpoint''.

Bill Condon's A Straight Line to My Heart, and Robert Newton's When We Were Two were named ''honour books'' (the latter, a road-trip story about two brothers set in 1916 - with shades of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men - won the young adult fiction Prime Minister's Literary Award this year). Michael Gerard Bauer's Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel, Ship Kings: The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan and, my favourite, The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky, rounded out the shortlist.

Another 16 titles were listed as ''notable books'', including works by previous award-winning authors Steven Herrick, J.C. Burke and Barry Jonsberg.

Younger readers

Kate Constable, another Victorian writer, took out top honours in this category with her time-slip story Crow Country, about a young girl, Sadie, trying to right the wrongs of generations past in a small country town where indigenous and white Australians fail to understand one another. The judges said Constable's work is ''strongly Australian'', and ''sensitively handles difficult subject matter in a narrative that is engaging and powerful''.

The similarly themed Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French was named an honour book alongside the more light-hearted London-set mystery The Truth About Verity Sparks by Susan Green.

The wonderfully versatile Emily Rodda took two of the remaining three shortlist spots, one with the utterly Australian Bungawitta (a fun-filled, uplifting story of a drought-stricken rural town) and another with The Golden Door, the start of a new fantasy adventure series. John Flanagan's Brotherband: The Outcasts - another ripping adventure - was also shortlisted.

Early readers

Picture-book masters Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood joined forces to win this category with The Runaway Hug, which turns an unremarkable domestic scene into a story that's fun, wonderfully warm and perfect for bedtime reading. ''It is a picture book to ponder and appreciate, being deceptively simple, yet marvellously harmonious in concept,'' the judges said.

''The lively detailed illustrations and lyrical text work closely together to add humour and pathos.''

Sonya Hartnett's Come Down, Cat!, with illustrations by Lucia Masciullo, and Elizabeth Honey's That's Not a Daffodil were named honour books, while No Bears by Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge, The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen and James Foley, and Rudie Nudie by Emma Quay were shortlisted.

Winner of the Prime Minister's Award, Goodnight, Mice! by Frances Watts and Judy Watson, did not make the shortlist, but did feature on the list of 23 notable books.

Picture books

Bob Graham's picture books are award magnets, and he's done it again, winning this category with A Bus Called Heaven.

Graham always imbues his books with a wonderful sense of community and validation of the role of young people in society. This one sees a young girl rally support to save an abandoned bus called Heaven.

''This is a heart-warming and inspiring work that amply demonstrates the expertise of its creator, his capacity for subtle inclusion and his strong affection for ordinary people,'' the judges said.

The author-illustrator partnerships between Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks, and Jackie French and Bruce Whatley, have proven successful once again, the duos receiving honour-book status with The Dream of the Thylacine and Flood, respectively.

Meg McKinlay and Leila Rudge's No Bears was shortlisted in this and the early childhood category, this time alongside For All Creatures by Glenda Millard and Rebecca Cool, and Look, a Book! by Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood.

Information books

One Small Island: The Story of Macquarie Island by Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch is the winner of the Eve Pownall Award for information books, which rewards non-fiction.

This insightful picture book tells of the tragic degradation of a natural marvel, bringing together historic documents with detailed illustrations and simple text.

''The stunning illustrations reinforce the unique characteristics, the isolation and the beauty of this small island,'' the judges said.

''The final landscape that we view is Macquarie Island's sunrise, accompanied by words of environmental hope.''

The Little Refugee by Anh and Suzanne Do, with illustrations by Bruce Whatley, was the sole honour book selected.

The shortlist included Surrealism for Kids, from the Queensland Art Gallery, Playground by Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle, Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell and Mark Jackson, and Carole Wilkinson's Fromelles: Australia's Bloodiest Day at War.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Interview: Chloe Hooper

"I had a dark night of the soul after this book went to the printer,'' Chloe Hooper confesses. ''I thought, 'Don't tell me I've just done a literary Fifty Shades of Grey'.''
Nanjing Night Net

Let's be clear about this. Hooper's second novel, The Engagement, is not a sadomasochistic romp designed to titillate millions of women readers. It's a sophisticated, multilayered work that combines the headlong appeal of a thriller with a nuanced mystery about our darker sexual and romantic desires.

What it does do, however, is pose much the same questions as everyone is asking about the extraordinary Shades of Grey phenomenon. What is it that women fantasise about, and why? Do they want to be their dream man's bride, or sex slave?

Hooper, aged 39, a tall, slim woman with clear pale eyes, is best known in Australia for her acclaimed 2008 non-fiction book The Tall Man, but started out as a novelist (her first novel, A Child's Book of True Crime, came out in 2002 and was shortlisted for the British Orange Prize for women's fiction). She did her homework after she finished The Engagement and read Fifty Shades of Grey, which she found very formulaic.

''I don't think it's that different from what's been out there as erotic romance for some time,'' she says. ''But there's something interesting to be said about the nature of fantasy. Are most fantasies inherently conservative? Do they spring from some deep well? Is it like myth, are there a limited number we're calling on or find ourselves lost in?''

We wonder if it's possible for a woman to have a progressive feminist fantasy, and we burst out laughing at the idea. ''I'll have to get back to you on that,'' Hooper says. ''Fantasy can take you to places that aren't politically correct. And I'm not talking about a cheesy 'Bring on the manacles, Christian Grey'.''

The Engagement is about an affair between Liese, a young Englishwoman visiting Australia, and Alexander, the blandly handsome scion of a family that made its fortune off the sheep's back. At the start of the novel, they are driving to Alexander's ancestral pile in the Western District of Victoria for a naughty weekend. The reader senses at once there's something odd about this couple. Alexander pays Liese for sex; Liese takes his money and encourages him to believe she's a professional.

In the grand tradition of the Gothic novel, Liese gradually finds herself trapped in the spooky family mansion and also in Alexander's fantasy. Or is it her fantasy? The borders ripple and blur.

''It's a story where two fantasies collide, and it's difficult to know who's in charge,'' Hooper says. ''I do love all those Gothic classics - Jane Eyre, Rebecca, The Castle of Otranto, those stories of women trapped in big houses.''

The cover design suggests a period setting and there's a forced betrothal, anonymous letters, knives, guns, gutted animals and a vicar who comes to dinner, but it's a contemporary tale and Hooper has been at pains to make it seem authentic. Alexander's house is based on real homesteads. ''I was lucky enough to enjoy some old-fashioned Western District hospitality,'' Hooper says. ''It's fairly Gothic around that area, full of eccentrics and dark family secrets.''

She plays with two classic fantasies, the whore and the bride. ''I like the idea of a fantasy that seems harmless, but is actually dangerous,'' she says. ''Marriage is one of the last fantasy rituals: you put on a white dress and hire a vintage car and get a cake, and there are reasons to be quite frightened of doing that when a third of marriages end in divorce. Even though we talk about people marrying less, and more children are born out of marriage, there still seems to be such a lot of pressure on women to formalise things. Girls grow up with a picture … do you ever get over reading Cinderella?

''We live in times where we think we're very progressive about sex and everybody's reading Shades of Grey and what's meant to be a whole lot of gymnastics. But, actually, we're mediaeval in our attitudes to female desire and sexuality.''

She also liked the idea of writing a thriller. ''When you read a good thriller, you feel a surfeit of emotions,'' Hooper says. ''Your shoulders tense up and your hairs are meant to stand on end, but you enjoy feeling anxious. It's almost an S&M experience. That's what gives the genre its spark - and it's also a very good medium to look at the ambivalence about marriage.''

Does this ambivalence extend to Hooper's personal life? Her partner is the writer Don Watson, 33 years her senior, and they have a baby son. ''Marriage is not out of the question, but there do seem always to be other things to deal with,'' she says. They manage parenthood in Fitzroy with help from Hooper's parents and a part-time nanny. Do they also help each other with their work? ''He reads my work more than I'm allowed to read his,'' she says. ''I guess that's just the way it is.''

Hooper's best-known work, The Tall Man, has the narrative pull and urgency of a thriller, but it's a non-fiction account of the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee from Palm Island, and the subsequent trial of senior sergeant Chris Hurley. It won the Western Australian Premier's Book Award and the respective NSW and Victorian premiers' literary awards for non-fiction and had exceptionally glowing reviews here and overseas. Robert Drewe called it ''the country's finest work of literature so far this century''.

Hooper had started work on The Engagement when she first became involved with the case, following Brisbane criminal lawyer Andrew Boe and writing a Walkley-winning report for The Monthly magazine. Then she decided so much compelling material should go in a book, which meant putting her novel aside.

Returning to fiction was ''a terrific freedom'', she says. ''One of the first days I was back, I closed the door on my study and nobody could get me. This character wouldn't hop off the page, there wouldn't be a lawsuit, nobody would ring me and abuse me. It had been so long since my first novel, I almost had to learn how to write a novel again … but writing The Tall Man probably made me a better writer. I've used different muscles.''

There was, however, an interruption - although a very welcome one. Ten months ago, Hooper gave birth to Tobias. She had hoped to get the novel done by then, but it didn't work out that way. ''The book was hopelessly overdue, I had to finish it,'' she says. ''In the beginning, I would write when Tobias was asleep. When he was awake more of the time, we needed help in the house. I was lucky that this book was at a place where it was kind of writing itself, so I would get to work and know what to do.''

Hooper's career to date sounds like a dream run for a young writer. She had short stories published while still at the University of Melbourne then, at 23, she won a Fulbright scholarship to Columbia University in New York, where she studied creative writing. Her first novel was written as part of the course.

But there was a dark afternoon of the soul. She couldn't find an agent for A Child's Book of True Crime and was running out of money. Philip Roth suggested she show it to his agent, the famed Andrew ''The Jackal'' Wylie, and she sent off the manuscript as a last resort. Convinced he wouldn't want it, she spent the afternoon weeping and making plans to fly home. ''I was calling up friends and offering them my sleeping bag. And then he rang that night.''

Wylie sold the novel to 13 countries, including Australia, and also did a double book deal for The Tall Man and The Engagement for a reported $300,000 advance in Australia (a figure that Hooper's Penguin Australia publisher, Ben Ball, has since said is wrong). Hooper doesn't offer a comment on the money, but she's wry about the gossip the deal sparked.

''One of the reasons I wrote this novel was I was interested in writing about women and money and their price,'' she says. ''It got me thinking a little about this world we're in, where everything is commodified. I've been very fortunate that the stars aligned and I was able to make a career out of writing.''

Hooper is keen to keep working, although she also loves being a mother: ''It's terribly tempting just to play with blocks and crawl around on the floor.''

She'd like to write another non-fiction book, though learning about indigenous lives in the far north of Australia was often a harrowing experience. ''You forget the pain of a book, like childbirth,'' she says. ''What's left in terms of pain is the inequities that book details. I think of my son; he's had the best prenatal and antenatal care, he has clean clothes and a safe place to sleep, and that's not the case for a lot of kids I know.''

So what to write next?

''For me, the new challenge is I can't just get on a plane - with a small child, that kind of travel is far more difficult. I have lots of ideas, but they're in far-flung places. I need a non-fiction story in Melbourne CBD between the hours of 10 and 11.30 and 2 and 3.30.'' She laughs. ''That's when he sleeps.''

The Engagement is published next week by Penguin Australia, $29.99. Chloe Hooper will speak at Gleebooks in Sydney on September 18.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

Sheens holds fire but Hasler has no sympathy

TIGERS coach Tim Sheens felt ''hard done by'' last night after his side found themselves on the wrong end of a number of dubious refereeing in their one-point loss to the Bulldogs.
Nanjing Night Net

Not that Des Hasler had any sympathy for him, complaining about the 7-2 penalty count against his side.

While Sheens was proud of his side's effort against the competition frontrunners, he conceded he wasn't impressed with the match officials, particularly video referee Sean Hampstead's decision to award Jonathan Wright a try despite strong protests for an obstruction by Josh Morris on Blake Ayshford.

''There's obviously going to be some discussion about it but I'd rather talk to [Bill] Harrigan and [Stuart] Raper about it,'' he said.

''The same thing happened in State of Origin. There are some grey areas there that need to be addressed, I suppose.

''[Robbie] sat down in one at the other end because he [would've ran around his own player]. You can't run around [a player] and take advantage of it. I know it was an unusual one, but [Pritchard] ran around the lead runner, and took advantage of it. We'll wait and see what the referees' coordinators come up with.''

Hasler disagreed, arguing his side were playing to the rules.

''Read the rules, my friend,'' he said when asked about the try. ''All the key indicators were met. Do you understand what I mean? All the indicators were met, you should know what they are. It's a try.''

Farah took aim at on-field official Ben Cummins following the decision, saying: ''Since rugby league was created, you can't run around your own player - it's a shepherd.''

The Tigers captain, who was battered and bruised following the gruelling 89-minute encounter, refrained from his post-match media conference commitments in fear of unloading on the referees.

He was also filthy about Hampstead's decision not to award him a try in the 50th minute, ruling he'd been held up in the Ben Barba tackle, despite Farah saying he was ''1000 per cent'' certain he'd grounded the ball which would've seen the Tigers take a 16-12 lead.

While obviously frustrated by what could have been, Sheens, who again reinforced his stance against golden point extra time, opted to take the positives out of the one-point loss that saw the Bulldogs stretch their winning streak to 12 matches.

''The effort was there - we asked for the effort and we worked hard this week in a short week to get the effort … and it was there'' he said.

''It was a tough game and we probably blew a couple of chances in the first half, but the effort was there. We had our chance to win it a couple of times but we didn't hit the field goal well. I'm not going to sit here and whinge about it because I know it's not going to get me anywhere. I'm not going to cost the club any money, and it's not going to change things either. But people would agree we were pretty hard done by, I think.''

While the loss has already come at a huge price for the eighth-placed Tigers, it may get even worse today after the results of the scans to their injured players are released.

Beau Ryan and Tim Moltzen are among the biggest concerns.

''We've got a couple of issues, but I'll wait for the doctors report tomorrow,'' Sheens said.

"But we haven't come out of it unscathed. At this stage, there's ice on every player in there.''

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago
南京夜网楼凤

St Kilda brave, but goal rush too much

THEY were brave and bold and five minutes into the final term looked some chance of upsetting the Geelong applecart when they got within a point of the premiers in the final term.
Nanjing Night Net

But as quickly as that hint of a shock win entered the mind it was obliterated by a rapid and late goal rush by the Cats, who piled on seven majors to temporarily lift themselves into sixth spot on the ladder, which keeps Chris Scott's team hopeful of securing a home final.

For St Kilda, the prospects of a post-home-and-away campaign in 2012 are diminishing rapidly. The defeat leaves the Saints on 40 points, four behind Essendon (which plays Carlton today) and Fremantle (which meets Richmond in Perth today) and relying on events outside their control.

Tom Hawkins was the architect of the Cats' victory with a slashing six-goal haul, while Stephen Milne and Ahmed Saad, with four and three respectively, were the Saints major contributors.

The Saints lost youngster Rhys Stanley to injury in the third quarter. He was taken to hospital with suspected fractured ribs. And Lenny Hayes is likely to come under scrutiny over his second-quarter clash with Taylor Hunt.

The veteran midfielder crashed into the Cat youngster's head, leaving the 21-year-old battered and bruised and forced to leave the ground, although he returned later. From the subsequent 50-metre penalty, Steven Motlop slotted home a goal for the Cats.

The Cats had already begun to dominate on the stats sheet and establish their superiority on the scoreboard. Four Tom Hawkins goals in the opening half helped them to a 34-point lead at the interval and they looked set to coast to victory against a team that seemed to lack the required fluency and intensity.

But Milne, who so often provides a spark for his team, breathed life into a lacklustre St Kilda with an early third quarter goal - his fourth of the night - to spark a revival that would get the Saints to within 13 points at the final change. In the process the Saints did something that has not been done for a long time in keeping Geelong goalless for a quarter.

St Kilda coach Scott Watters subbed off the ineffective Justin Koschitzke then rejigged his front line, relying on the smaller men - Milne and Ahmed Saad - to keep them in touch as they went for broke to salvage the win that would keep their season alive into the final fortnight of the campaign.

It looked a distinct possibility as the outsiders got on a roll and kicked five in a row to close within a point of the reigning premiers early in the final term as the tension rose among the 38,000-plus crowd.

But Geelong's resilience was not to be denied. Hawkins pushed the advantage out to seven points, Jordan Murdoch gave the Cats a 13-point breathing space soon after and defender Andrew Mackie produced a monster kick from outside the 50-metre mark to extend the advantage to 19 points. When Hawkins drilled his sixth goal of the night in the 22nd minute of the final term he was icing the cake.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

By admin, ago