Books

Australasia

TV comic John Clarke once mocked an Australian Prime Minister’s claim that Australia’s future was in Asia. “I told him Malaysia’s future was in Canada,” said Clarke, playing the then Malaysian PM Mahathir bin Mohamad. I’m not sure Australia’s become any more Asian (or Malaysia any more Canadian) in the intervening decade.

The relationship really consists of a two way flow -- Asia sends Australia migrants who enrich our social fabric, Australia sends Asia backpackers who get drunk in Phuket or Bali and return with Australian flags tattooed on their biceps.

Perhaps this explains my curiosity about the $110,000 Australia-Asia Literary Award, initiated by the Western Australian Government and won this year by David Malouf. There just doesn’t seem to be any reason for it. You can celebrate excellence in Asian writing or Australian writing. There are many prizes that will recognise good writing wherever it’s from. Why this seemingly arbitrary prize?

I can only imagine that it’s to encourage a sense of connectedness between the two continents. Yet the prize seems to be based on literary merit alone, irrespective of whether the Asian books have any Australian themes or the Australian books any interest in Asia.

In addition, the eligibility criteria seem highly flexible. The defining feature is that the nominated novels must be written by Australian or Asian residents or set in Australia or Asia. Ceridwen Dovey’s Blood Kin made the shortlist, despite the author being a South African residing in New York City.

Blood Kin is a remarkable book and I gave it a particularly positive review early this year. But it’s not an Australian book. If it’s set anywhere, I’d plump for a South American country -- the languorous, tropical feel and the militaristic environment certainly don’t feel Australian. Dovey attended high school in Australia and has family here, but I doubt that she considers herself an Aussie.

It’s hardly surprising that an Australian prize jury would claim Dovey as one of our own. 2008 Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga holds dual Indian-Australian citizenship and the Aussie press wasted no time in adopting him. His high school education in Sydney is hardly the defining characteristic of a life that has spanned four continents.

We’ve also latched onto Nam Le, a Vietnamese-born Australian now on his way to take up a writing fellowship in the UK. Le, the winner of the 2008 Dylan Thomas prize for his story collection The Boat is an exciting young talent and did at least spend a sizeable portion of his life down under. In fact, he’s probably the best-suited person in the world to take home a prize looking at the complex relationship between Asia and Australia. And he wasn’t even longlisted.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.