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Book review: The Childhood of Jesus by JM Coetzee

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The Childhood of Jesus is a beautifully written book as you would expect from an author who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature and two Booker Prizes.

But did even JM Coetzee reach his limit in his daring attempt to write a book with such a searching title? Maybe, but then we have the age-old philosophical question, can the created express without limit the qualities of the Limitless? But to the book...

Is this a retelling of the hidden years of Jesus' childhood? Is the title more metaphor, allegory or descriptive? Are we learning about childhood, family, refugee, society, community or the psychosocial complexity of the individual? Are we seeing the plainness of a world without the divine spark or the goodness of a simple life?

To be honest, it is all and none of these and I'm not entirely sure if there is a single motivation or intention from the author. And perhaps that's the beauty of a great writer, they do not need to tell, but keep that secret to themselves.

If …

Harper Voyager open the stargates to unsolicited novels, briefly

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If the stars are your companions and new forms of space travel are coursing through your imagination then go to warp speed 7 because you've got about a month to write at least 70,000 words and submit your spectacular novel directly to a major publisher.

Don't despair if ogres eating elves who are on long contemplative journeys through uncharted lands are more your bowl of ale, the offer is open to all new, unpublished speculative fiction.

Forbes magazine The Guardian are reporting today that science fiction imprint of Harper Collins, Harper Voyager, will accept manuscript submissions directly from authors from October 1 to 14 with the goal of finding 12 undiscovered authors that they will digitally publish monthly for the next year.

The Harper Voyager submission portal is advertising the opportunity as a joint effort between Voyager Australia, US and the UK:
"We’re seeking all kinds of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly epi…

And in case you missed it... the Man Booker Prize shortlist

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The Man Booker Prize is one of the world's most important literary awards, with a very straight forward goal– to honour the very best book of the year by a British, Irish or Commonwealth author.

Beginning in 1969, the Man Booker Prize is now in its 44th year and today the shortlist of six books was announced, cutting in half the longlist announced in July.

The panel of judges is chaired by Peter Stothard, Editor of the Times Literary Supplement, the six authors/titles to be shortlisted are:

Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)

Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber & Faber)
Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)

Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt)
Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)

Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber)

Check out an examination of the shortlisted books

Peter Stothard commented: “After re-reading an extraordinary longlist of twelve, it was the pure power of prose that settled most debates. We loved the shoc…

Final novel, masterclass for Bryce Courtenay

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A new Bryce Courtenay novel and writing masterclass have taken special significance after the celebrated author's revelation last week that he may only have months to live.

The South African born Australian made public the news that he is suffering from terminal gastric cancer  in an interview with Channel 9's A Current Affair.

Courtenay told Tracy Grimshaw that his novel Jack of Diamonds – to be released in November this year – will be his last. He also discussed the impact of his prognosis on his own state of mind and that of his family.

The sometimes controversial Courtenay has written 21 books in his impressive career, but when asked what he was most proud of his answer was “having a family.” He also gave some insight into his writing and critics' claims he had not always been straight-forward with the facts of his own life.

“...you bet I exaggerate!... I do a Fred Astaire with a fact, but I never ruin a fact... I just give it life.”
The last hands-on masterclass In thi…

Greer wipes the grin of Queensland's face but shines the spotlight on BWF

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The Brisbane Writers Festival got off to a controversial start with guest speaker Germaine Greer saying that, “The ABS reports that 47 per cent of Queenslanders cannot read a newspaper, follow a recipe, make sense of time tables or understand instructions on a medicine bottle.”

She argued that a "good time" could not be had at a writers festival with such statistics being an underlying truth.

Apparently Greer misrepresented the ABS' findings - according to State Library of Queensland representative Jane Cowell. But she certainly got the job done of getting BWF on the national agenda, if briefly, by being the "provocative discussion-starter" that the festival's director Jane O'Hara had wanted.

Greer's comments have, not surprisingly, upset a lot of people (mainly Queenslanders), but there is a serious side. Concerns have been raised that her comments only deepen the shame for people who do have literacy problems.

Author Nick Earls, however, while adm…

Big fiction edition out now for The Big Issue

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By Josiah Hallett

The Big Issue is a five dollar magazine sold by vendors who retain $2.50 of that sale price for themselves. These vendors are people like Lea, a former drug addict, who became homeless and lost her kids after separating with her husband. Lea's story is told in the current edition of The Big Issue, where she expresses her thanks to the publication for giving her the opportunity to make some money, when what she had become accustomed to was “no.”

The “fiction edition” of The Big Issue is in circulation until September 10. It features 12 short works of fiction, and each of these stories has been matched with artworks by modern artists. When flicking through the magazine, the positioning of these artworks seemed random, but once I'd read the accompanying stories my mind made the most of the fiction's framing, leaping one way or another to make sense of why each artwork belonged where it was. I think that's the way it's supposed to be with art, right?

The Voice - not the reality TV show - the reality check Bible

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"Before time itself was measured, The Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God."

So reads John 1:1 from Thomas Nelson's The Voice Bible translation which is written as a screenplay to be accessible to people who have never read the Bible.

Bible translators have sought for hundreds of years to present the ancient Bible texts in the language of the day. King James 1 version from 1611 came alive in Shakespearean English so it is perhaps fitting that one of the world's newest translations reads like a play (of course some people believe Shakespeare himself was a translator for the KJV).

The familiarity of today's reader with graphic novels, comics and more to the point, movies and television, means they could be right at home with a dialogue-led text:

Disciple: "It's a ghost!"
Another Disciple: "A ghost? What will we do?"
Jesus: "Be still. It is I; you have nothing to fear."
(From Matthew 15's account of Jesus walking on the …