Monday musings on Australian literature: 1965

1965 as a topic? What the?! Those familiar with the lit-blogosphere will probably guess what inspired this post, but for everyone else, I’ll explain. Over the last week of April, bloggers Kaggsy (Kaggsy’s Book Ramblings) and Simon (Stuck in a Book) ran a 1965 Reading Week, the latest in their series of reading weeks focusing on books published in a particular year. Needless to say, I didn’t manage to take part – if I had, you would have known about it before now! (For a list of the books read and who read them, check Simon’s 1965 Club Page.)

However, I thought I could play along, in my own way, by writing a – yes, I admit – belated post on 1965 in Australian literature. If it works, I might try it again for their next “year”, whatever and whenever that may be.

My main sources for this post were:

Australian literature and 1965

Kaggsy and Simon’s focus is books published in the year, but I’m going to do a sort of literary snapshot.

Writers born in 1965

An interesting group containing, not surprisingly, many writers in their prime now:

  • Michael Farrell: poet, who has had several books published, mainly by independent publisher Giramondo
  • Gideon Haigh: journalist and author, best known for sports and business writing
  • Fiona McGregor: novelist, whose third novel, Indelible ink, won The Age Book of the Year award
  • Melina Marchetta: novelist, primarily of Young Adult literature, whose award-winning YA novel, Looking for Alibrandi (1992), is an Australian classic
  • Mateship with Birds (Courtesy: Pan MacMillan)Carrie Tiffany: novelist, whose first two novels, Everyman’s rules for scientific living and Mateship with birds (my review), both won awards, and whose third book, Exploded view, was published this year. Mateship with birds won the inaugural Stella Prize.
  • Christos Tsiolkas: novelist who has written eight novels, including The slap (my review) and Barracuda (my review), as well as plays and screenplays.
  • Charlotte Wood: novelist who has written both novels and non-fiction, and whose dystopian The natural way of things (my review) also won a Stella Prize

Writers died in 1965

Hooton and Heseltine list a small number of deaths for the year (and I’ve added them to Wikipedia), but none are particularly significant in terms of my blog’s interests. However, one of those who died was a significant Australian personage, HV (aka Doc) Evatt. Among other roles, he was President of the UN General Assembly, and helped draft the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Novels published in 1965

By 1965, a goodly number of books were being published in Australia, so I can’t list them all. Hence, I’m focusing on those that interest me! You can check my sources for more.

  • Thea Astley, The slow natives: if I’d taken part in the 1965 Club, this is the book I would have chosen. I love Astley and have written about, or reviewed, her here a few times.
  • Clive Barry, Crumb borne: included because Barry was the inaugural winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, and was described by the Oxford Companion to Australian Literature as a “vivid stylist with a capacity for dry humour”; his experiences as a POW in Italy in WW2 inform this novel.
  • Nancy Cato, North west by south: well-known for her historical fiction (of which I reviewed All the rivers run) but also wrote biographies and poetry, and was an environmentalist and conservationist; this book is about Lady Jane Franklin.
  • Don Charlwood, All the green year: this would have been my second choice for the club, because I have the Text Classics copy that I gave my late aunt.
  • Catherine Gaskin, The file on Devlinbest-selling romance novelist, whose book Sara Dane, based on the convict Mary Reibey, sold more than 2 million copies.
  • Donald Horne, The permit: one of Australia’s best known public intellectuals in his time, famous for coining the phrase “the lucky country”. Novels were not his main form of writing.
  • George Johnston, The far face of the moon: best-known for his My brother Jack, which won the Miles Franklin in 1964.
  • Thomas Keneally, The fear: prolific novelist who has won both the Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award (twice).
  • Christopher Koch, Across the sea wall: best-known for The year of living dangerously, and twice-winner of the Miles Franklin Award.
  • Eric Lambert, The long white night: one of the many left-wing/communist writers who were published in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • D’Arcy Niland, The apprentices: husband of Ruth Park (haha, just had to describe him in relationship to his wife!), and best known for his novel The shiralee.
  • Lesley Rowlands, A bird in the hand: also published two humorous travel books, and short stories.
  • Randolph Stow, The merry-go-round in the seaRandolph Stow, The merry-go-round in the sea (my review): woo hoo, one I’ve read!
  • George Turner, A waste of shame: best-known for the SF novels he wrote later in his career, but in 1962, he won a Miles Franklin Award with his novel The cupboard under the stairs (reviewed by Lisa)
  • Morris West, The ambassador: a best-selling author in my youth, West is on my list of topics for Monday Musings one day

Selected other publications from 1965

So many well-known writers well-known published poetry, plays, short stories and other works in 1965, but I can only share a few (links on their names are to posts on my blog which feature them, though most have been mentioned in some way, in fact):

  • Rosemary Dobson, Cock crow (Poetry)
  • Frank Hardy, The yarns of Billy Borker (Short stories)
  • AD Hope, The cave and the spring (Criticism)
  • Geoffrey Lehmann & Les Murray, The Ilex Tree (Poetry)
  • Hal Porter, The cats of Venice (Short stories)
  • Kenneth Slessor, Life at the cross (Poetry)
  • Ivan Southall, Ash Road (Children’s novel)
  • Kylie Tennant, Trailblazers of the air (Children’s novel)
  • Colin Thiele, February dragon (Children’s novel)
  • Russel Ward, Australia (History)
  • Patrick White, Four plays (Drama)
  • Judith Wright, Preoccupations in Australian poetry (Criticism)

Literary Awards in 1965

Most literary awards we now know, started in the 1970s or later:

  • ALS Gold Medal: Patrick White’s The burnt ones (this book of short stories was my second Patrick White, the first being Voss)
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica Awards for Literature: Shared between two poets, AD Hope and Robert D Fitzgerald. The chair of the awards committee said: “As a critic [Hope] he is lively and controversial and he has earned the respect of his fellow teachers and intelligent readers, for his determined efforts to reevaluate accepted literary convention.”
  • Miles Franklin Award: Thea Astley’s The slow natives 

In conclusion

The interesting thing, not necessarily obvious from these lists, is the number of left, if not Communist, writers who were active at this time, beautifully reflecting the political activism and idealism of the 1960s.

Oh, and I found some fascinating articles in Trove about Australian literature in 1965. They deserve their own post – watch this space.

29 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: 1965

  1. The 1965 theme is a great idea. I hand been enjoying Kaggy’s posts. I also like what you have done with the concept here. One neat thing about what you have done is to highlight certain books and authors that may not be remembered as much as they should have.

  2. I wonder what I was reading in 1965. At school (third form) I can only remember Tom Sawyer, which we were reading out loud. Dad was headmaster of a small country school. The town had no library, but the teachers had a circulating library and every few weeks a box of books would arrive in the staff room and I would make my way through them. Definitely not age appropriate and one has forever stuck in my mind about a teacher imitating a girl into the “adult world”.

    I’m interested that I have never heard of the Keneally and I thought I had read all his earlier work. The Randolph Stowe I was given by my brother in law in 1978 when he was an English teacher at Geraldton High (with John Kinsella in his class).

    • Wow, in a town with no library Bill ? Must have been small. In 1965 I was living in Mt Isa, which had 17,000 people. I could walk to the library from home, and I haunted it.

      BTW I didn’t know that Keneally either. I was in 3rd form a couple of years after you. I remember we did Henry V, but what novels? I seem to remember 2nd form novels more than 3rd for some reason.

  3. Hi Sue, I think I was reading the school library, so many books I was introduced to. Where I lived there was no local library, and not many books at home. I don’t think I have read any books written by Barry or, Lambert. The others I didn’t read in1965, but later in my life. Though some of the poetry I did read at school. 1965 was a good year for authors!

    • It was a great year wasn’t it, Meg. I was thrilled when I decided to do the topic, and discovered that.

      Like you I haunted the library too, but the town library-Mt Isa. I guess we had a school library, but it wasn’t until we moved to Sydney in 1966 that I remember school libraries.

  4. This is great, Sue, but it must have involved a *lot* of research?
    I’ve had a quick look at My Books at GR and have found The Road to Gundagai by Graham McGinnis; They Hosed The Out by John Bede Cusack (an Australian air-gunner in WW2, reviewed on mine); Ash Road by Ivan Southall (children’s book) and White Coolies by Betty Jeffrey (about her time interned in Sumatra in WW2).

    • Thanks Lisa, I think I’ll do it again with their next year, as long as I catch it. It did take a bit of research – and involved me updating Wikipedia along the way as they had a template for the ”year” but the heading for writers who died was empty. It’s not now!

      I love that you looked up your GR books. I should have looked at my Library Thing where I have more of my past reading, but have stopped maintaining now! I haven’t heard of McGinnis at all, but Jeffrey rings a bell. Ash Road I remember of course!

  5. I was in a religious institution in 1965, in what was known as canonical isolation, one year after finishing high school, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t read any new Australian books that year. However, it is the year I first heard of Patrick White, and (irrelevant, but I’ll write it anyhow) the year I read Joyce’s Ulysses.

    • You can write anything you like, Jonathan! Funny now we remember certain reads. I remember the year I read Voss – discovering Patrick White in my last year of high school was wonderful. A revelation. I loved Hardy, and Austen, and Lawrence, we did that year BUT Voss was something so new compared with what we’d been reading.

  6. Ash Road is a great book. It’s some years since I read it to a class so I don’t know how well it’s aged…but my students loved it. Even my reluctant readers begged me to keep reading and would respond to any bribe I tried. (I used to give them one minute’s bonus reading time every time the whole class was back on time after play… so at 3 minutes per day they could bank enough for 15 minutes extra story on Friday if everyone cooperated!)

      • I think (hope) kids are still reading his books, but they are books that need an adult to ‘sell’ them now because they might seem a bit old-fashioned. Kids today (like all kids ever) like to read about themselves, so that means kids with helicopter parents, fast food and lots of technology. So you read e.g. Ash Road and talk about how it is that the kids are in this situation all by themselves, and what resources they have to solve problems and you can have a really rich discussion, especially about leadership qualities and how sometimes the least expected kids turn out to be unexpectedly terrific in some situations.

      • One of my Blogger mentees a couple of years ago went to a talk at the NLA by, if I remember correctly, a Southall biographer. I wish I’d gone to it as I think there were some interesting questions.

    • Haha, you sound like a teacher Lisa! I love talking to my son about what books he reads to his classes and what they love. I don’t think he’s ever read Southall to his classes – but he loves reading to them.

      I’ve never read Ash Road. My brother did I remember. But somehow I never read it to the kids.

  7. I’m Thea Astley’s number one fan in the Netherlands
    …well, I may be her only fan!
    The Slow Natives was excellent….I did not know it won Miles Franklin!
    Only Astley writes like this:
    “lollipop umbrella’s had their color sucked from them by the sun.
    ” …along the drooping eyelids the blood pulsed lavender.”
    This is a gem!
    PS I see some new poetry suggestions.
    I want to mix contemporary collections with some classics, thanks.
    Love this concept…hope to see more ‘helicopter views ‘
    of a certain year and all the it to discover in Australian Literature.

  8. What an interesting idea and one that is always going to uncover forgotten books and writers. I never read him but I do know that Ivan Southhall was popular in the UK with his books paperbacked as Puffins. I remember that our school library had a Penguin copy of Voss. I think I started it but found it tough! Also remember a school library Oxford World Classic anthology of 19th century Australian travel writing that was very evocative…

    • How fascinating, Ian, that Southall made it to the UK. His stories are very Australian – so I guess were as exotic to readers there as your books were to us with your big oak trees, and green hedged fields, and boating on pretty little streams.

      I think a lot of school students found Voss tough, but for some reason I just got into it. I sometimes say that it’s the perfect book for an angsty teen girl!!

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