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John Williams' 1960 novel has been hailed as part of a pantheon of western masterpieces. Pam Morris

Long read: the ideology of nature in Butcher’s Crossing

Despite the huge and belated praise now surrounding John Williams’ novel Stoner (1965), much less attention has been cast to his earlier novel, Butcher’s Crossing (1960). Still, it’s been rightly hailed…
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson speaks to a group of young readers. Tulsa City-County Library/Flickr

The lesson about diversity at this year’s National Book Awards

In his 2005 book The Economy of Prestige, James F. English influentially argued that prizes thrive on scandal. Just last week, scholar Kathleen Horning claimed this year’s National Book Awards could change…
Jacob and Wilhelm were Grimm, no question. Wikimedia Commons

Reader beware: the nasty new edition of the Brothers Grimm

Fairy tales have a tumultuous and fragile history. They originated as tales told by “folk”. They were passed down over generations to while away long winter nights, to provide entertainment at special…
Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest has won the inaugural Voss Literary Prize. Tambako The Jaguar/Flickr

The Voss Literary Prize celebrates a fine new Australian novel

The Voss Literary Prize, for which I was a judge, was awarded for the first time this week. The winner, Fiona McFarlane for her novel The Night Guest, was chosen from a shortlist that included Hannah Kent…
William Boyd’s latest protagonist. Land Rover Our Planet

Literature’s long love affair with product placement

Best-selling novelist William Boyd’s decision to take a commission from Land Rover to write a short story might strike some as a sell-out of the highest order. Indeed, some publishers and writers claim…
Literary awards can have a profound impact on sales – and, in the future, which books get published and promoted. QQ Li/Flickr

How this year’s National Book Awards could change the face of children’s literature

There’s a lot of attention right now on diversity in children’s books – or, more accurately, the lack of it. It’s not a new problem. White people have been talking about this issue since Nancy Larrick…
Oh, no, wait – it’s the 21st century! Carl Guderian

Sorry kids, men are better writers than women

It’s official: men are better writers than women. The news came as something of a shock to a hardened feminist such as myself, but a quick survey of prescribed and suggested texts set for senior English…
A nation that understands tragedy is one that respects limits. José María Pérez Nuñez

Tragedy is dead in Australia, long live laughter and weather reports

Tragedy is a peculiar thing. More than a style, different from genre, it cuts across art forms to carve out its own non-Euclidean aesthetic space. In the 4th century BCE Aristotle, in his Poetics, famously…
This prize seems set to reward off-beat, experimental and innovative books. The Conversation

The Most Underrated Book of 2014 is one of these three

It can take decades for critics to catch up with the great reads of the century. Even a cursory glance at the history of literary awards will confirm that cosy, comfortable, safe, or merely popular books…
Writing programs don’t just produce strong writers, they produce critical thinkers with strong skills for the workplace. mpclemens/Flickr

University writing programs deliver, so let’s turn the page

Whether creative writing can be taught is a question that has been debated on and off for decades. Are writers born, is the question, or can they be made? Neither side of the debate has offered incontrovertible…
When superheroes die on the page, fans have learned not to mourn their deaths. FRacco/Wikimedia Commons

Wolverine’s dead! (well, for now)

Among comic book fans, there’s the joke that the only characters in superhero comics who stay dead are Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, Batman’s parents, and Captain America’s sidekick Bucky. For everybody else…

A Spurr to abandoning the literary canon

Most people had little call to know of University of Sydney poetry professor Barry Spurr until a series of his emails were published by New Matilda. The messages contained racist slurs, misogynistic attitudes…
We don’t seem to be able to shake our cultural status anxiety. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

The Book Club, Flanagan and our endemic cultural cringe

Writing in the Bulletin in January 1899, Henry Lawson complained about the difficulties of making a living as a writer. In this article he offered the emerging author a piece of unvarnished advice: [S]tudy…
This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Patrick Modiano, a worthy - and noble - winner. EPA/IAN LANGSDON

The Nobel Prize rewards noble writers over literary merit

There is a tendency in academic job applications to refer to the “prestigious x prize (or fellowship)” that a candidate has been awarded. It’s a phrase that turns out to be self-contradictory, since all…
YA fiction. It’s a thing. Get over it. josefnovak33 Little Readers

In defence of children and their literature

This is not the first response to writer and radio presenter Helen Razer’s recent piece on young adult (YA) fiction in the Daily Review, the latest in a trend to either shame adult readers who enjoy the…
Secretary to the Swedish Academy Peter Englund emerges to announce the 2014 Nobel Prize winner. EPA/ANDERS WIKLUND

Fierce battles underly judging for the Nobel Prize in Literature

Yesterday’s decision to confer the Nobel Prize for Literature on revered French novelist Patrick Modiano has sent even the most widely-read English speaking critics scurrying to find copies of his books…

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