Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Glenda Guest and Siddon Rock

What's she doing writing a blog post about a book she hasn't read, you ask. Well, for one thing I'm waking this blog out of its five-month coma to try yet again to get some order into my thoughts on the topic I know better than any other, that of Australian writing -- though the idea of 'Australian writing' gets more and more problematic as the intertubes kick internationalism along. (On the other hand, I did hear some very nasty, and stupid, nationalist stuff coming out of Central Europe on the radio yesterday so there is obviously resistance to the inevitable.)

Anyway, I'm trying a trick that's often successfully used by bloggers who want to kick-(re-)start their sites and that's to vow to post something -- anything, no matter how brief or glancing -- every day. There's something about the discipline of this that I really like; blogging is not so far away from meditation. And staying in regular touch with developments in my own main skill set can't possibly be a bad idea.

What's inspired me to start today, though, is the news this morning that first-time novelist Glenda Guest has won the Best First Book prize in the Commonwealth Literary Awards for her novel Siddon Rock.

There'd been a bit of a subdued buzz about this book, and Guest herself, after the novel was shortlisted, and I expect her and it to get more publicity in the wake of the win. What with her success there and the brief synopsis I've just read at the website of her publishers, Random House, I'm now curious and enthusiastic enough to seek it out and make the time to read it:
When Macha Connor came home from the war she walked into town as naked as the day she was born, except for well-worn and shining boots, a dusty slouch hat, and the .303 rifle she held across her waist.

Macha patrols Siddon Rock by night, watching over the town’s inhabitants: Brigid, Granna, and all of the Aberline clan; Alistair in Meakin's Haberdashery, with his fine sense of style; Sybil, scrubbing away at the bloodstains in her father's butcher shop; Reverend Siggy, afraid of the outback landscape and the district’s magical saltpans; silent Nell with her wild dogs; publican Marg, always accompanied by a cloud of blue; and the new barman, Kelpie Crush.
It is only when refugee Catalin Morgenstern and her young son Josis arrive in town that Macha realises there is nothing she can do to keep the townspeople safe.

On hearing of her success, Guest told the Guardian that she was 'standing here like a stunned mullet', an epithet that no doubt left English punters bemused at the strange ways of colonials. 'It's not about the money,' she said, 'it's not about the credit, it's about being given verification that this is any good, that I can actually write."