Books

Hopscotch

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‘Messer’s healthy sense of the ridiculous, which can also signal a renewal and a way to live in modest hopefulness from day to day, grounds the calamitous events of 2008, and her ease in handling a polyphonic structure makes Hopscotch a delight to read.’ Dorothy Johnston, Spectrum

As Messer’s characters unravel, so her plot winds up and tightens up. That is no mean feat.’ Mark Thomas, SMH Entertainment

‘We see inside each character’s mind in sentence, after beautifully crafted sentence.’ bookbirdy

Forced into an early retirement due to illness, Sam Rosen has lost any semblance of control over his life. His wife, Rhonda, confined to the carer role, is feeling her identity ebb slowly away as her former life retreats further and further into the past.

Their eldest son, Mark, is over-invested and as he lurches toward financial disaster, he can’t bring himself to tell his wife Ingrid that they’re losing money fast.

Middle child Liza has always been independent and content to scrape through on her child-care worker’s wage in one of the most expensive property markets in the world. But when her biological clock goes off, she’s out of time in a city where men are thin on the ground and grown up ones even scarcer.

Baby of the family, Jemma thinks that being mild-mannered will let her pass through life unharmed. And then, one night, everything changes.

Fast and funny, Hopscotch charts a year in the lives of the endearingly flawed Rosen family, and holds up a mirror to contemporary urban life in Australia, interrogating our endless capacity for self-destruction, longing and love, and asks why we think we could ever find happiness in a city that’s roaring with dysfunction.

Reading group notes pdf

Provenance

Vintage, 2007

Growing up in an Italian family in 1950s Queensland, Rafaela longs to escape to Melbourne. When she finally seizes her chance, flood-waters halt her train’s progress south. On his way back to Melbourne from cutting cane during the summer, the worldly and altogether different young Sikh scientist named Chanchal captures her heart.

Set against the stifling heat of the Queensland cane-fields, the lush farmland of northern New South Wales and the bustle of Melbourne in the early 1960s, Chanchal’s and Rafi’s stories unfold and intersect over the following years, as their chance encounter becomes the tale of two countries on the cusp of modernity.

Available from iTunes, Booktopia, http://www.randomhouse.com.au (pb & e-book), gleebooks (pb), abebooks.com (pb used and new) and other good bookstores.

‘A good example of the Australian novel recognising its near neighbours in the Asia Pacific…a lovely book’
Nury Vitachi, then Director of the Hong Kong Literary Festival, on The Book Show, ABC Radio National

‘Jane Messer has created a rich hinterland for both characters that adds depth and heft to the narrative’
Fiona Gruber, The Age

‘The greater the barriers, the more romantic the love. It’s a rule of literature (think Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet)…Provenance proves it yet again.’
Barry Oakley, The Sydney Morning Herald

Bedlam

‘[this] wonderful sleepless nights anthology made me wish for more “white nights’ Alberto Manguel

Allen & Unwin 1996 ISBN 1864480726 

Available from abebooks.com (pb used and new), amazon, and other good secondhand booksellers.

Many of literature’s well-known characters have spent nights sleepless: Heathcliff roamed the moors, Hemingway’s waiter didn’t want to close up for the night, Plath’s teenage self stayed up a month. And there are many others who can’t sleep for lust, for joy, for the burden of memory or madness, for despair or their unremitting consciousness. Each of these insomniacs has something special to tell us about the night, those secret hours when all good citizens should be asleep.

Bedlam presents passages on insomnia from world literature past and present. The more than fifty writers include Isak Dinessen, Marcel Proust, Raymond Carver, Marguerite Duras, Colette, Ovid, Christina Stead, Anton Chekhov, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Charles Simic, Vikram Seth, Virgilio Piñera, and Elizabeth Jolley.

‘Splendid idea — this rich anthology is the very antidote to sleep’
John Barth

‘its success is that one forgets the linking theme and just takes pleasure in the discovery of so much good writing from so many diverse sources. This is a rich, intelligent and dense book.’ Margaret Simons, The Australian’s Review of Books

Night by Night

McPhee Gribble/Penguin 1994. ISBN 0869143476

Available from abebooks.com (pb used and new), and other good secondhand booksellers. ebook forthcoming

‘Awake in the night, the heart pounds faster, deeper. It plummets, it lifts again. I could be in love or I could be dying.’  Night by Night explores the world of an insomniac bookseller as she negotiates the territories of her longings and curiosities — and the pragmatics of selling books. Lover of Seth for ten years, with her father borrowing money every second week, Lena suddenly finds herself on the edge of being in love with her young friend Fe. From the beginning, Fe’s charm is mysterious and unreadable. And when Lena finds herself being threatened anonymously by someone who doesn’t like her or the books she sells, she begins to wonder whether there are links between the harasser’s threats and her friendship with Fe.

‘A sensual and accomplished novel about insomnia, domesticity and menace.’
Glenda Adams

‘…a marvellous portrait of the book-loving insomniac who knows that reading in the evening isn’t at all like reading at 3am…’
McKenzie Wark

Certifiable Truths

Certifiable Truths – stories of love and madness. This collection of writing by Australian writers is diverse in its understandings, moving between the skilful and ingenuous ragged horror of the loss of one’s ‘right’ mind, to more writerly examinations where all the ingenuity of the writer has been utilised.

Allen & Unwin 1998. ISBN 1864483377 Available (pb used & new) from abebooks, amazon, and other good secondhand booksellers. Selected and Edited by Jane Messer.

Contributors include Carmel Bird, Luke Davies, Sara Dowse, Susan Johnson, Mireille Juchau, Joyce Kornblatt, Jane Messer, Sally Morrison, Tim Richards and Amy Witting. 

“…madness is not a subject like cricket or coffee. Either you go down deep or you don’t do it at all. And that’s where Messer has gone. The movement here is vertical, not horizontal. We’re not travelling but tunnelling.”
Barry Oakley, The Australian

‘….eros, like art, involves risk, the risk of pregnancy, the risk of disease—or commitment, the greatest risk of all. And like art, it will bring you to the point of madness. Art is simply a more conscious dredging, a dive towards the treasure of the deep…Most of us return with our handful of peals, but some dive down too far…’ Sara Dowse, ‘Pearl Divers’.

‘And then there’s the couch—have you ever seen the couch? Chase-longue type thing draped with a huge Persian rug about which Harriet has never stopped talking. I confess it is very handsome and truly inviting.’ Carmel Bird, ‘The girl in the Freud Museum’

“The stories and essays are almost without exception tight and beautifully crafted. They are strikingly different in style and voice. Jane Messer has not rounded up the usual suspects…”
Delia Falconer, Australian Book Review

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