Compulsive Reader

The Compulsive Reader News
Volume 17, Issue 9, 1 Sept 2016



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Hello readers. Here is the latest batch of reviews this month:

A review of Andrei Tarkovsky by Sean Martin

Andrei Tarkovsky An artist who set himself the task of capturing consciousness on the hoof, making tangible the fleeting quail of phenomenal experience, Tarkovsky made things hard for himself and harder still for all directors who would follow in his footsteps. Man, he set the bar high. Even Bergman, one of the true greats, acknowledges that he is without peer. Read more:

Interview with Paul Mitchell

The author of We.Are.Family talks about his new novel, about his need to write, about some of the key themes in his book (among other things, ghosts, angels and UFOs), on writing difficult scenes, his characters, the unusual structure of the book, on moving between genres, the two best pieces of writing advice he’s ever received, some of his favourite books, on living the writing life, and lots more. For the full interview visit:

A review of Nagasaki by Craig Collie

The atomic bomb, that infamous masterpiece of twenty-century technology created by the allies’ best brains trust and costing two billion dollars, was almost brought undone due to military maintenance malfunctions. Craig Collie has skilfully put together a splendid chronological record of mankind’s most successful killing implement and the combined consequences of a double dose of its destruction. Read more:

A review of Farewell to the Father by Tim Elliott

Mary Karr has said that every memoir is a survival story, triumphant just because the people are still breathing. Tim Elliott’s Farewell to the Father is a survival story with a capital S. Max Elliott was a larger-than-live character—full of laughter, a thrower of grand parties, letting Tim and his siblings grow pot in the backyard, walking around naked and performing mock-deaths in restaurants for the amusement of his family. But he also suffered terrible lows. For the full review visit:

A review of Mick: A life of Randolph Stow by Suzanne Falkiner

This first full biography by Suzanne Falkiner of Julian Randolph Stow, known by those close to him as Mick, is thorough and engaging. I first encountered his novels at university twenty-five years ago, and was drawn to the mysterious Visitants, the subject of our study at the time, and later read The suburbs of hell, but it wasn’t until I first heard that this biography was being published that I read two more of his novels to remind myself of his depth and style. Read more:

A review of Prince: Purple Reign by Mick Wall

After reading this book, Prince remains enigmatic, and perhaps that’s part of the tribute. This is a man whose legacy was his music, an oeuvre that not only provided a platform that many of today’s most respected musicians have built their careers on, but one that continues to develop the more you listen to it. There’s so much more to listen to than simply the big hits, though those hits are far more complex than the instant pop accessibility of it would suggest. For the full review visit:

A review of The Dead Man by Nora Gold

The novel will interest other writers because of its narrative features. Ms. Gold avoids murky stream-of-consciousness passages by presenting the story in the third person. Flashbacks are signalled by a shift from present tense to past. A writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, and a prize-winning author, Ms. Gold knows her craft. Read more:

A review of The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

In the end, one of the main characters enjoys a sober happiness, but under it “ran a thin vein of sorrow what millions like her would feel down the years.” To educate readers while entertaining them is no small achievement. Simonson deserves critical as well as popular acclaim for pulling it off in a subtle way. For the full review visit:

A review of Brought to Our Senses by Kathleen Wheeler

In Brought to Our Senses, Wheeler tackles a very sensitive and personal topic with both compassion and pragmatism. Alzheimer’s has been called “the long goodbye”, and while that is unfortunately true, in the case of the Kraus family, the disease brings about some much-needed healing and new beginnings. Read more:

Rebirth of a Troubadour: At Least for Now by Benjamin Clementine

Benjamin Clementine is to be encouraged. Who knows what else he might do? “The decision is mine ‘cause the vision is mine,” he states in the composition “Adios,” claiming ambition, difficulty, mistakes, and possibility—ending with a ramble about angels who sing, falsetto and bass; and Clementine himself singing, returning to the song’s frantic refrain. “St. Clementine-on-Tea-and-Croissants” may be a fantasy—an interrogation, imagined or real, of an irresponsible parent, a questioning that moves beyond polite manners and social ritual. For the full review visit:

All of the reviews listed above available at The Compulsive Reader on the front page. Older reviews are kept indefinitely in our extensive (and growing) categorized archives (currently at 1,979 reviews!), which can be browsed or searched from the front page of the site.



If you you live in NSW, and enjoy attending literary festivals, the St Alban’s Writer’s Festival is a gem. Held in a tiny village at the heart of the MacDonald Valley from the 16-18 Sept, the festival, now in its second year, is an intimate event where you can join in some excellent sessions (including, among other things, poetry round the campfire and literary meals), hobnob with fellow booklovers and writers like Tim Elliott (see our review of his book this week and interview), Fiona Wright, Les Murray and many more. For more information visit:

Roxane Gay has won the $10,000 Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, to honor a person who “represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.” Gay will receive the award on October 6 during the Iowa City Book Festival.

The Outrun, Amy Liptrot’s account of reconnecting with nature in her native Orkney after leaving a troubled life in London, has won this year’s Wainwright for the best UK nature and travel writing. The Outrun saw off five other acclaimed examples of the boom genre including Common Ground by Rob Cowen, The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury, A Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks, Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane and The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy.

The Jan Michalski Prize for Literature is attributed each year by the Foundation to crown a work of world literature. An original feature of the Prize is its multicultural nature. It is open to authors from the world over and is intended to contribute to their international recognition. The Prize will be awarded for works of fiction or non fiction, irrespective of the language in which it is written. The winner will receive an amount of CHF 50,000, offering the possibility of greater dedication to her or his art.

The American Literary Translators Association announced its longlists for the 2016 National Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose, which “includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work.” The winning translators, who receive $2,500 each, will be announced in October at ALTA’s annual conference in Oakland. The shortlists will be announced in September. You can see the complete longlists here:

The Not the Booker prize 2016 longlist of 147 contenders has been narrowed to six novels, all of them from indie publishers. The list, with number of votes appended – includes: The Combinations by Louis Armand (Equus) – 123, The Less Than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote by Dan Micklethwaite (Bluemoose Books) – 101, Walking the Lights by Deborah Andrews (Freight Books) – 99, The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel (Scribe) – 98, Chains of Sand by Jemma Wayne (Legend Press) – 80, and What Will Remain by Dan Clements (Silvertail) – 61. You can help choose on the 17th of October by visiting:

This year’s category winners of the 10,000 pound (about $13,010) James Tait Black Prizes, which are awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures, are 1606, William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear by James Shapiro (biography) and You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits (fiction).

The Arthur C Clarke award for 2016 has gone to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time, about humans who leave a dying Earth for a terraformed planet where they meet a strange new species. Tom Hunter, director of the award which was set up with a grant from science fiction giant Sir Arthur C Clarke in 1987, said the winning novel “has a universal scale and sense of wonder reminiscent of Clarke himself, combined with one of the best science fictional extrapolations of a not-so-alien species and their evolving society [that] I’ve ever read”. Previous winners of the Clarke award include Margaret Atwood, China Miéville and Lauren Beukes.

A. S. Patrić won the AU$60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award, honoring a novel “of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian life in any of its phases,” for Black Rock White City. Speaking for the judging panel, State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville, said “the novel delivers a powerful and raw account of the migrant experience in Australia, exploring the damages of war, and the possibility of redemptive love, in the context of debilitating emotional and physical dislocation…. it is a novel of compassion and challenge, its driving, urgent narrative envelops the reader in one of the great issues of our time.”

Finally, Paul Cleave has won the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel for Trust No One. He had previously won the prize in 2015 and 2011. The judging panel praised Trust No One, published here by Atria, as “a stunningly audacious novel that functions as a literary hall of mirrors… it succeeds brilliantly on many different levels.” The inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel went to Ray Berard for Inside the Black Horse, which the judges called “a lucid and potent portrait of good people and gangsters that is unmistakably Kiwi in flavor and tone… a fine crime story with considerable depth.”

Have a great month!



Congratulations to Anita Yancy, who won a copy of The Seed Apple by Sheldon Greene.

Congratulations also to Jeffrey Malis, who won a copy of Beulah’s House of Prayer by Cynthia A Graham.

Our new site giveaway is for a copy of We.Are.Family by Paul Mitchell (check out our interview). To win, send me an email at with your postal address and the subject line “We.Are.Family”.

Good luck everybody!



We will shortly be featuring reviews of Undying: A Love Story by Michel Faber, Tenderness and Temperature by Caroline Bachmann and Stefan Banz, Someone Must Die by Sharon Potts, Behind Closed Doors by B.A Paris, The Three Books of Shama by Benjamin Kwakye, and lots more reviews, news, interviews, and giveaways.

Don’t forget to drop by The Compulsive Reader talks (see widget on right hand side of the site) or at to listen to the latest interview with Tim Elliott, who reads from and talks about his memoir Farewell to the Father.

To listen, visit the show page or you can listen directly from the site widget (right hand side of the site).

You can also subscribe to the show and get updates automatically. Just find us under podcasts by searching for Compulsive Reader. Then just click subscribe.

(c) 2016 Magdalena Ball. Nothing in this newsletter may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher, however reprint rights are readily available. Please feel free to forward this newsletter in its entirety.

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