The week in writing – October 18

Kate Beaton, of Hark! A Vagrant, is interviewed by The AV Club. Beaton has also written more Wuthering Heights comics.

Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Žižek appears at Occupy Wall Street: Part 1, Part 2. And The Chronicle looks at the philosophical origins of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Author James Bradley provides a form guide for the Booker Prize.

In an ambitious project researchers have collected over 6,000 personal letters of Ernest Hemingway. They expect to publish them across 16 volumes and the first,  The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 1907-1922, is now available. Although Hemingway did not want his letters published his surviving son has said that the letters “will elucidate his humanity, which is what people are always looking for in a writer”.

The week in writing – October 4

As the announcement for the Nobel Prize for Literature is due, The Wheeler Centre takes a look at the seasonal speculation on the Nobel Winner and the attempts and arguments for the prize, valued at over $1,000,000, to go to American novelist Phillip Roth.

PORT magazine interview Sylvia Whitman who now runs Shakespeare and Company, the Paris book shop made famous by George Whitman, her father, who describes the shop as “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore”.

Meanjin interview five Australian writers (Kerryn Goldsworthy, Mathew Condon, Peter Timms, Delia Falconer, and Sophie Cunningham) about their work writing about Australian cities for the UNSW Press series.

Baker Street Irregular Michael Dirda writes about his first encounter with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes in The Paris Review.

The Slap, an 8 part ABC television series premieres this week. Based on the novel by Christos Tsiolkas there are interviews from The First Tuesday Book Club, The Book Show, and a Q&A.

Katie Beaton takes on Wuthering Heights at Hark! A Vagrant. Also, NPR speak with her about her new book.

Some published letters:

  • from T.S. Eliot to Virginia Woolf: “Forgive the unconscionable delay in answering your charming letter and invitation. I have been boiled in a hell-broth…”
  • from Ernest Hemingway to Ursula Hemingway: “You must be having a whangleberry of a time with that sledding, I’m glad you’re such a good sport about getting hurt and I’m sure that the boys appreciate it too.”
  • the letters of Ezra Pound written every few days, sometimes every day, to his parents have been published: “You have my hearty sympathy for having possibility of genius in the family but I suppose it cant be helped…”

Banned Books

This week Americans celebrate Banned Books Week, September 24 – October 1.

Portrait of Ern Malley by Sidney Nolan (1973). via National Portrait Gallery

Australia has a long history of censorship and most people are familiar with recent films that have been refused classification and banned.

However Australia has also had a long history of banning literature. There are some well-known books such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence which was banned until 1965, or the trial of Max Harris, who was charged with indecent publication when he published the poems of ‘Ern Malley’ in Angry Penguins.

A vast range of books have been banned in Australia for reasons including depictions of sex, homosexuality, violence, crime and drug use. In 1935 the responsibility for banning books fell on the Department of Trade and Customs who could ban the import of any book it deemed “obscene, indecent, blasphemous and seditious, or those identified to excessively emphasise sex, violence or crime”.

Prominent novelists and writers who had books banned in Australia include Gore Vidal, Vladimir Lenin, Aldous Huxley, Barry Humphries, William S. Burroughs, James Baldwin, Honor de Balzac, Charles Bukowski, Simone de Beauvoir, Norman Mailer, George Orwell and Leonard Cohen. The James Bond novel The Spy Who Loved Me was banned in 1962 adding Ian Fleming to list. Ernest Hemingway also makes the list; A Farewell To Arms, his semi-autobiographical novel about an ambulance driver at the Italian front during World War I, was banned from 1931 until 1935 possibly because the original book includes the words “shit”, “fuck” and “cocksucker”.

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger was banned by Customs in 1956. The book was not referred to the Literature Censorship Board presuambly because Customs did not feel that the book was sufficiently ‘literary’. Copies of the book were even seized from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library however the ban was soon lifted in 1957.

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis is still banned in Queensland. It is available, albeit restricted, in public libraries and for sale to readers over 18 in all other states.

Katharine Susannah Prichard’s novel Coonardoo won first prize in the Bulletin’s annual literary competition. The novel, which was serialised in the Bulletin, details a sexual relationship between a white station owner and an Aboriginal housekeeper. One of the judges of the Bulletin competition declared that no white man was capable of any “higher emotion” than pity for an Aboriginal woman, and in the controversy that surrounded the story it was refused publication in Australia, notably by Angus & Robertson. It was published in London by Jonathan Cape in 1954.

James Joyce also makes the list. Dubliners was banned from 1929 until 1933. Ulysses was banned from 1929 until 1937. Ulysses was accused of being blasphemous and obscene. After the ban was lifted Catholic organisations in Australia campaigned the Literature Board to ban the book again. The book was again restricted in 1941 with the ban being lifted in 1953 after it was considered ineffectual considering how many copies were already in circulation.

James Joyce getting a Face Full of Fart by Robert Goodin

To celebrate Banned Books Week we direct you to the (filthy) love letters of James Joyce.

Joyce wrote a number of letters to his lover Nora Barnacle. Joyce and Barnacle had a complex relationship; they met on June 10 1904 and had their first romantic liaison on June 16 1904 – this date was chosen for the setting of Joyce’s Ulysses and is celebrated around the world as Bloomsday. Although, in 1931, Barnacle eventually married Joyce, she had written many letters to her sister complaining about his personal qualities and his writings.

In 2004, one of Joyce’s love letters was sold for $445,000 USD at auction. The letters are very explicit and seem to chronicle every encounter and desire. As Nora herself wrote about Joyce: “I don’t know whether my husband is a genius or not, but he certainly has a dirty mind”.

Enjoy them in the spirit of Banned Book Week.

You can also read more about banned books in Australia at:

We are all bitched from the start


“Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it— don’t cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist— but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.”

– Ernest Hemingway

Great American Writers and Their Cocktails : NPR


Hemingway was not one for pretension, literary or otherwise. In a famous incident at Costello’s, a New York writers’ haunt, he found just the opportunity to make those feelings known. After drinking in back with friends, he passed John O’Hara at the bar. O’Hara was carrying an Irish blackthorn walking stick (shillelagh) and Hemingway began to mock him for it. Defensively, O’Hara claimed that it was “the best piece of blackthorn in New York.” Hemingway immediately bet him fifty dollars that he could break it with his bare hands. Then in one swift move he smashed the walking stick against his own head, snapping it in half. The broken pieces hung over Costello’s bar for many years.

He was, however, fond of mojitos, a drink invented at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway drank them:

6 fresh mint sprigs
1 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. light rum
Lime wedge

Crush 5 mint sprigs into the bottom of a chilled highball glass. Pour in lime juice, simple syrup, and rum. Fill glass with crushed ice. Garnish with lime wedge and remaining mint sprig. Sometimes a splash of club soda is added.

Just a little something for a Friday afternoon, or perhaps for a sunny spring weekend.

Great American Writers and Their Cocktails : NPR.