I walked down the street, zigzagging in between people who clearly had more time to spare than I did. I realised too late that I shouldn’t have chosen a path which involved walking past my favourite bookstore. Today of all days they’d decided to hold a footpath sale. Naturally, I had to stop and take a look.
As I browsed through the piles of books, one title caught my attention: Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works, by Jane Gleeson-White. I immediately flicked to the contents page to see how many of these great Australian writers I’d heard of.
I was embarrassed to learn I’d heard of only seventeen of the writers and I’d only read something written by five of them. This, from someone who graduated from a Creative Writing/ English Literature degree at an Australian university. Granted, I’ve read dozens of books by Australian authors not mentioned in the book, but if the authors in the book are hailed as “Australian Classics”, then clearly I’ve zigzagged past something along the way.
I bought the book and, as I drove to where I was supposed to be almost fifteen minutes ago, with the book sitting patiently on the passenger seat beside me, I made a decision. I would spend a year reading work only by Australian authors. New, old, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, young adult, children’s, anything. Australia’s literary history may not be as long as some other countries, and there are people who deny that Australia has one at all. There is much controversy surrounding what makes an inherently “Australian” novel; must it only be written by an Australian author, or must it also be set in Australia, about Australians?
That’s what I’m planning on finding out.
I welcome suggestions for any Australian books people think I should read this year; simply leave a comment if you wish to suggest a title.