Bookmarks: The Bible in Australia makes history

Making history
History week got off to a cracking start with the announcement of the NSW Premier’s History Awards. The $15,000 Australian History Prize went to Meredith Lake for The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History, which the judges described as a book of ‘‘remarkable originality’’.

Meredith lake won the Australian History prize.

In his Herald review Michael McGirr called it ‘‘an endlessly fascinating book, told with a rich understanding of the strange ways of the human family. Lake brings a generosity of both mind and spirit to this vast story.’’ He concluded that the book was ‘‘a major contribution to social history. It amply demonstrates that the long search for meaning needs to be neither heavy nor dull.’’

The $15,000 general history prize went to Christina Thompson for Sea People, about the settling of the Polynesian Islands, which the judges called ‘‘an emotionally intense and reflective read’’. Barry Hill in the Herald said ‘‘the supra theme of Sea People is a vision of knowledge systems intertwined – the outcome of history, cultural tolerance, and a grasp of misunderstandings. Thompson’s tone is perfectly tuned for such enlightenment …’’. Hill also reviewed Jon Rhodes’ Cage of Ghosts, which won the $15,000 Community and Regional History prize: ‘‘Cage of Ghosts is a subtle and tenacious book, which roots itself in living, moving time, and in time immemorial. It’s for the archives, and out of the archives – a major work …’’. The young people’s prize, worth $15,000, went to The Upside-down History of Down Under by Alison Lloyd and Terry Denton, while the digital history prize went to The Killing Times, The Gurdian’s web project documenting Australia’s frontier wars.

Adler’s full circle
There is a particularly personal – and poignant – reason why Louise Adler is pleased to be back in the publishing world with Hachette, the multinational publishing company that had its origins in a Paris bookshop and was founded by Louis Hachette in 1826. In the week when the 80th anniversay of the outbreak of the Second World War was marked, she recalled that the only book her father Jaques had during the entire occupation of Paris was the Larousse Dictionary. ‘‘It’s a Hachette book,’’ she told Bookmarks. ‘‘Full circle.’’

It’s Don’s ghost
At the Melbourne Writers Festival – now officially a ‘‘literary arts’’ festival – Paul Kelly was quizzing Don Walker about his song writing. And his prose given that he has a new edition of his memoir, Shots, out and a book of his lyrics, Songs.

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There are other writers in Walker’s family – his mother Shirley and sister Brenda. He was asked in the context of those other Walker writers about a specific line in his song The Wedding, which is on his first solo album We’re All Gunna Die: ‘‘There’s a Ghost at the Wedding.’’

Was that taken from the title of his mother’s memoir about the impact of war on the family? Walker wasn’t exactly indignant at the suggestion, but pointed out firmly that he had written the song in 1993 and it was released soon after. His mother’s book came out in 2010 and when Don Walker pointed out his line and her title, ‘‘she was very pissed off’’. He was also asked about whether he had a muse for his writing. Apparently not. ‘‘The concept of a mysterious woman whispering in your ear, but she seems to be whispering to other people.’’

Cameo request
Tayari Jones’ novel An American Marriage, about a relationship battered by the husband’s wrongful conviction, won Britain’s Women’s Prize for Fiction – the former Orange Prize – earlier this year.

Credit:Andrew Dyson

In Melbourne she spoke about the prospects of the screen adaptation that is being developed by Orpah Whinfrey’s production company. She said she had no idea about casting at this stage of her three main characters, Ray, Celestial and Andre, but said she wouldn’t mind a little on-screen cameo. Her demands weren’t too much, she reckoned: ‘‘One line and a little close-up of my face.’’ Not too much to ask, really.

American sales up
US publishers might be enjoining legal battle over copyright with Amazon about Audible Captions but when it comes to their bottom lines they should be pretty happy. In the first six months of this year, revenue jumped by 6.9 per cent to about $US6.9 billion ($10.2 billion) compared with the equivalent period last year. There were increases in all areas except e-books, for which revenue dipped by nearly 4 per cent to $US493 million.

Traditional books increased revenue by 2.5 per cent to $US2.5 billion and accounted for more than 72.1 per cent of sales. The big increase was in downloaded audios, which saw a near 34 per cent jump to $US279 million and accounted for more than 8 per cent of all trade sales. Children’s and young adults books jumped more than 7 per cent to $US919 million. The other big growth came for religious presses, which saw their revenue leap more than 11 per cent to $US328 billion.

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