Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Australian Canon?

Book readers love nothing better than a list of books. What's in it? What's been left out? Have you read any? Have you read them all? Sadly not a position I've ever been in. Today has seen the birth of another list, this one focusing on the 15 books that Every Australian Should Read. Wow, no grandiose claims or hyperbole here. Just some gentle summer reading suggestions. But these aren't quite your typical beach reads.

 Lisa over at ANZLitLovers has provided us with the pared down list (although I've added in the other two Maloufs that were mentioned, it's hard to tell, but I presume if they're mentioned then they're recommended). I thought it would be fun to treat it like the BBC list meme that will not die. The ones I've read are in red, and the ones I've started and not been able to finish are in italics.


Eucalyptus- Murray Bail 1998
True History of the Kelly Gang- Peter Carey 2000
For the Term of His Natural Life- Marcus Clarke 1874
Our Sunshine - Robert Drewe 1991
Night Letters - Robert Dessaix 1996
Gould's Book of Fish- Richard Flanagan 2001
My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin 1901
The Children's Bach- Helen Garner 1984
Monkey Grip - Helen Garner 1984
The Getting of Wisdom - Henry Handel Richardson 1910
The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney - Henry Handel Richardson 1930
Capricornia - Xavier Herbert 1937
Johnno- David Malouf 1975
The Great World - David Malouf 1991
An Imaginary Life - David Malouf 1978
The Harp in the South- Ruth Park 1948
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead 1940
The Slap- Christos Tsiolkas 2008 (see my review)
Voss- Patrick White 1957
The Twyborn Affair - Patrick White 1979
The Tree of Man - Patrick White 1955
Cloudstreet - Tim Winton 1991
The Riders - Tim Winton 1995
Carpentaria - Alexis Wright 2006

Non Fiction

The Tyranny of Distance - Geoffrey Blainey 1966
The Australian Ugliness- Robin Boyd 1960
A Fortunate Life - A.B Facey 1981
The First Stone - Helen Garner 1995
The Female Eunuch - Germaine Greer 1970
The Lucky Country - Donald Horne 1964
The Fatal Shore - Robert Hughes 1987 (4 pages counts right?)
Damned Whores and God's Police - Anne Summers 1975

Hmmm. I thought I'd done pretty well when I read the article, but now that I see it in black and white, and not too much red, it doesn't look that impressive. 8 finished. 3 not-finished. I've meant to read more. The only one I've never heard of is The Australian Ugliness.

It's a bit unfair though. I have slogged through one Patrick White (Fringe of Leaves), just not those 3. I'm not sure whether I'll get to Mr White again, or if he should be placed with Virginia Woolf in the read when I'm dead category.


Susan said...

I'm not Australian, but that seems a poor excuse for having read zero of these books. I did go out and buy An Imaginary Life after reading Malouf's Ransom. But it's still on my TBR pile. Maybe I should hurry up and read it so I don't feel quite so bad.

Louise said...

Oh Susan I shouldn't feel too ashamed. Some of them are rather obscure to those not in our isolated little corner of the world. I've read Ransom too, which I enjoyed but found to be almost a bit too literary and over my head at times- I'm not at all familiar with The Iliad, but it could be read as a rather gripping story too. I'm going to try and get through some more of these. Probably starting with Ruth Park- she just died last month, and I've never read any of her work, so it seems now is the time. I shall probably leave Patrick White til last even though the guilt at being an Australian reader who hasn't made a decent effort at White is rather overwhelming. I have read one, and one day (oh glorious day that will be) when I have more time, I may try again.

Susan said...

It's only that it's overwhelming to think of all the good books out there in the world-- all over the world. I should think of it as a good thing. The world is richer for it. I shouldn't view it as a vast to-do list that I could never complete in a million years!

Louise said...

It is overwhelming isn't it? It is of course a great thing. Naturally we don't get to read all of it- but there is a world of opportunity out there. I hope you get to read some of these eventually.