Grendel’s Mum


J. R. R. and Christopher Tolkien

Mariner Books, August 2015


A thousand years on, the sharpness of Beowulf‘s images still strikes us. Longships cruise amid icy spray. A king stares with fear amid the riches of his hall. Then comes the fiend Grendel stalking across the moors. Tolkien’s translation weds to these visions the rhythm and grandeur of language that rumbles even as it exults, which rolls like the swells of the sea. Continue reading

Writers Never Show Their Teeth

Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Granta, $24.99
April 2015

Story of my teeth

Firstly, if clowns and questionable dentistry are not your thing I am just going to warn you that there is a scene in Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth containing both creepy clowns and discussion of teeth and dentistry—enough so that you will be falling asleep with your mouth firmly closed and keeping one eye on all large projection screens in the near future. However, do not let that put you off entering the world of Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sánchez, main narrator of The Story of My Teeth and self-proclaimed best auctioneer in the world, who on the first page announces that he wishes to tell the story of his teeth. This tale is also Highway’s life story–and not just for the fact that teeth generally being in one’s mouth throughout one’s life imply that the teeth and the owner of the mouth have the same story.

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The Trolls Go Marching One-By-One

Troll Mountain Book Cover Troll Mountain
Matthew Reilly
Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $24.99
June 2015

A few years ago I travelled very briefly through Scandinavia. In Norway, I embarked on a train journey through mountainous forest and snowy terrain to get to the town of Voss, nestled at the head of a fjord like a punctus at the end of an exclamation point. The town is horseshoed in by steep hillsides and the fjord itself is bordered by sheer cliffs of mottled grey stone—as fjords generally are.
It was here that I realised trolls were real. And if they were real, then in all probability—as I’d long suspected—so too were elves and other fairy creatures.

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Honoured To Be Sure

The Honours Book Cover The Honours
Tim Clare
Allen & Unwin, RRP $27.99
June 2015





These are the only four words I read prior to cracking open Tim Clare’s debut novel, The Honours, plastered as they were on the four corners of the truncated dustjacket.
There are those who prefer to screen potential reading material, scouring blurbs and reviews until there is barely a reason left to read the book itself. My advice of the day is to save yourself the time investigating and just read, dammit. Read a book you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. This is a matter of wellbeing and should be done at least as often as taking a stroll through a sun-dappled forest—minimum dose: once every twelve months.

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Arrakis [pt.3]


Herbert, Frank (New English Library, ISBN 9780450011849)

Hilary shared an apartment, and thus rent, bills and housekeeping, with Sophie. Like Hilary and me, Sophie supported herself through a mixture of Austudy and various atrocious part-time jobs. After a brief stint working for a telephone sex line, she found her niche as a telephone psychic.

An ineradicable optimism endeared Sophie to you as a friend, but it made her an appalling housemate. It amounted to the faith that when you found yourself without the time or money to do something, you could do it anyway. Continue reading

Arrakis [pt.2]



Herbert, Frank (New English Library, ISBN 978-0450011849)

For Sophie, physical necessity, by itself, didn’t fix the moment when the future must arrive. Time marched rubato, stretching and bending to the individual rhythms of the players. As long as you stuck to the spirit of the arrangement, Time would turn a blind eye to a few extra minutes here or there.

To those with a pragmatic turn of mind, the view must’ve seemed an unmitigated failure. You found Sophie forever running late, out of petrol and waiting on her next paycheque to make the phone work again. Repossession agents chivvied her in flocks while friends she’d failed to meet crammed her answering machine with irate messages. Continue reading

Arrakis [pt.1]



Herbert, Frank (New English Library, ISBN 978-0450011849)

Sophie kept a boyfriend named Alan – the same way that one might keep a housecat or a gerbil. Alan belonged to that shadowy class of persons who somehow leave no discernable impression in your thoughts. You would’ve found him listed in the credits as ‘fireman #3’ or ‘guest at party’.



He had a genial temperament; he’d amble out to see you when you arrived and make small talk. He just appeared underwritten. When you looked up from a conversation, you’d find him standing in the background fiddling with something, as if his actor didn’t have any lines and needed to full up the time pretending to do something. His presence left so scant an impression that to this day I can remember only two facts about him: he owned a video camera and slept heavily. Continue reading

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