April 2022

Blog Archive - May 2022

2 May 2022

A simple preference for the International Booker winner

Last month we wrote in this blog about the Women’s Prize for fiction shortlist and the International Booker Prize shortlist being announced, along with the Stella Prize announcement, a literary prize in Australia for female authors, which was won by Evelyn Araluen for her book of poetry, Dropbear.

The winner for the Women’s Prize will be announced on the 15 June. More immediately, the winner for the International Booker Prize will be announced on 26 May.

I haven’t read any of the International Booker shortlist this year and I acknowledge I simply don’t have time. I saw a few of the nominated books on the shelves of our Sydney bookshops yesterday, but I could form no opinion as to which I would prefer. So, given my time constraints and my commitment to try to read and review all Booker Prize winners for this website, eventually, I decided the only preference I might express is that the winner is one of the shorter entries. Last year, David Diop won for his brilliant book about war, At Night All Blood is Black. It was short enough that it could be read in one sitting.

- bikerbuddy

5 May 2022

Three New Books

I had had two editions of the unabridged The Tale of Genji on order from an internet company for a month, and I had had no word about the order despite the estimated delivery date passing. Then, when I went into Sydney on the weekend I saw one of the editions – the translation by Dennis Washburn – in Abbeys Bookstore for less than I was paying online. So I rang the online company the next day and cancelled the order for that edition. They apologised and updated their estimated delivery for the Royall Tyler edition I still had on order: a further two weeks! I’m not convinced it will be here that soon.

After I partially cancelled the order I went back to Sydney and did some book shopping. I bought the Washburn translation of The Tale of Genji, along with Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman and Steve Toltz’s new book, Here Goes Nothing. Here are the covers:

Here Goes Nothing by Steve Toltz Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman The Tale of Genji by Mursaki Shikibu Translated by Dennis Washburn

I bought Life and Fate because I am currently reading Grossman’s other major novel about the defence of Russia against Germany in World War II, Stalingrad. I bought Toltz’s new novel (it was only released that very day) because I’ve read Toltz’s two other novels (before we started this website) and I enjoyed them both. Toltz is an Australian novelist. His first novel, A Fraction of the Whole, was an example of a gifted writer who could tell an outrageously tall tale which was highly entertaining, but also had something to say about Australian culture at the same time. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2008.

As for The Tale of Genji, I recently reviewed the original English translation by Kenchō Suematsu. That edition only included the first 17 of the work’s 54 chapters, so it is heavily abridged. I hope to do something with the two complete translations by Washburn and Tyler, perhaps something along the lines of what I did with The Count of Monte Cristo. I took the following picture to give a sense of the vast difference between the abridged version by Suematsu and the complete Washburn edition:

A comparison between two editions of The Tale of Genji

- bikerbuddy

10 May 2022

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

I had just started writing a blog post about something else this morning when Lucy, our dog, started barking, and I realised that her arch nemesis, the postman, was heading to our front door. Apart from waiting for my second translation of A Tale of Genji, I didn’t know of anything else due, and Genji wasn’t due until Friday this week, at the earliest. When I held the package in my hand I knew it was either not Genji, based on the thickness of what I presumed to be a book, or my order was terribly wrong.

Instead, it was something better than that. Pan Macmillan had sent us an advance copy of Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor. It’s due out 31 May in Australia.

This is Hayley Scrivenor’s first book. She has a PhD in Creative Writing. An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and it won the Killing Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award.

At the moment, I am halfway through reading Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad. But I will try to juggle my time and reading priorities to get Dirt Town read and reviewed as soon as I can.

For further information from the publisher, you can visit the Pan Macmillan website by clicking here.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan and Hayley Scrivenor for the advanced copy!

- bikerbuddy

16 May 2022

Our return to the Book Barn

Back in February I returned to the Book Barn in Berrima, otherwise known as Berkelouw, for the first time in over thirty years. I placed pictures of the Book Barn in my blog post back in February if you wish to view the archived post.

This weekend Toriaz was heading back to the area for another parkrun, this time for a new course. She suggested I come and we head to the Book Barn again after her run.

We didn’t stay as long this time, but I found some treasures I was quite excited about. I’ve written in this blog recently that I had editions of The Tale of Genji on order. I had hoped to get at least one hardback edition, but hardback editions of Washburn’s translation were going for over $800 last time I looked, and I’d found the hardback edition of Royall Tyler’s translation north of $500. I had ordered the paperback editions of these two translations.

I found a hardback edition of Genji on the shelves for recently acquired books almost immediately after we entered the Book Barn . This was the Seidensticker translation, and it was quite lovely, although it was slightly damaged. As I looked in the main part of the store I found the Tyler edition I still have on order, in hardback. It was in beautiful condition and only $100. I decided to get it.

I also found a few copies of Samuel Pepys’s diary. The Book Barn has an edition of the complete diary for $400, which is in beautiful condition, but that set is unfortunately missing three of the eleven volumes. I had long considered reading the diary and Toriaz had bought a cheap short version in Everyman’s edition a few weeks ago. This is the three volume set Toriaz bought:

The Book Barn had that edition, but I also found a single volume edition of The Shorter Pepys, edited by Robert Latham, which was in mint condition. It includes a good introduction and background as well as pictures, and it was only $3 more than the Everyman edition. So I bought that too. Here are my two new books:

The Genji is actually in a slipcase and is in two volumes. These are the covers of the two volumes:

The book is illustrated throughout, including illustrated notes at the back of the second volume. This is an example of what the pages look like:

I’m still waiting for my paperback edition of Tyler’s Genji to arrive. I’ve had no update on that at the moment. I’m not worried about having two copies, since I’ll be happy to travel with the paperback version and even write notes in it. Also, I did a search for the edition of Genji I bought. Both the book website I buy from in Australia and Amazon now list the book as no longer available. I think I got lucky!

- bikerbuddy

27 May 2022

International Booker Prize Winner Announced

The International Booker Prize winner for 2022 was announced this morning. Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated by Daisy Rockwell, is “the first book originally written in any Indian language to win the International Booker Prize, and the first novel translated from Hindi to be recognised by the award.” [from the Booker website]

I checked on five different Australian websites this morning, including the websites of the three major bookstores in Sydney. It appears that Tomb of Sand isn’t available here, yet, even though it has been released overseas (that’s the joy of living at the end of the world). However, one of the purely online sites suggests it can be ordered.

As part of our project to review all the Booker Prize winners, I will eventually get around to buying and reading a copy. I am also aware that I haven’t been making much headway on that project this year. If you want a link for the International Booker site, click here.

- bikerbuddy

June 2022