Hey punk – long time, no see!
This blog is going to have to be crafty from here on in. You’re going to need to figure out where to get your own donuts from and which house to buy – though I will be gently guiding you. Probs just without as many links.
See, my day job is at a place that can’t be endorsing commercial enterprises, and, well, let’s just say, this blog was having an effect on donut demand around Hobart. And that’s not on. And punk, I have a mortgage in beautiful Hobart, and though it’s not as exxy as you’re insane one bedder in Darlinghurst or Fitzroy, I need a day job to pay for it.
Okey dokey. Let’s talk books.
Before I was offered my job in Hobart, I’d been on a Richard Flanagan bender. To be brutally honest, his books had never appealed to me. They sounded too blokey and earnest for my liking – and I was sure I’d be disappointed in them. I tend to get super disappointed from time to time with Australian literature and have ended up judging it rather unfairly as ‘too much poetry, not enough story’ – and, in my less than humble opinion, great literature actually has both.
Back to Flanagan (or Flano, as I’ve heard him referred to in Hobart several times). When The Narrow Road to the Deep North came out, I wasn’t remotely interested in it. World War II, prison camps, I thought I knew the story. At the time I was working as a presenter on a national books and arts radio program, and a sometime reporter on a national arts television program, so when it won the Man Booker Prize, I thought it my duty to read it. Come on punks, you can’t be presenting a fancy radio program and not have read the Australian winner of the Man Booker. Obscene, dahhhhlings, obscene!
On the way home from work, I walked by my favourite bookshop and reluctantly picked up a copy. Committed to reading it.
Was completely blown away.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a breathtaking book. It’s scope and sensitivity and humour and story and pathos is extraordinary. It’s the Great Australian Novel. It’s also the Great War Novel. The Great Prison Camp Novel. The Great Love Story Novel. It’s one of the richest reading experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m yet to give it another read in a Tasmanian context.
Anyhoo… Richard Flanagan, the author, is from Tasmania.
After I finished reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North, like I mentioned above, I went on a Richard Flanagan bender, reading three of his books instantly – Wanting, Gould’s Book of Fish, and The Unknown Terrorist.
Wanting and Gould’s Book of Fish really ignited my curiosity towards Tasmania. In fact, if I hadn’t read them, I dare say I’d be still living in Sydney now.
Since then, I’ve found such richness in reading about Tasmania. My experience there has been heightened by getting to know, in small fragments, the history of the place – and mostly, how much I still have to learn about it.
Obviously, there are many Tasmanian books I’m yet to read that won’t make it to this list – but this is a starter list for you if you’re curious about Tasmania. And, again, it’s pretty Southern Tasmanian centric.
- Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan
Punks. If you haven’t read any Flanagan yet, I’m so excited for you. You might think, from seeing interviews or reading stuffy reviews of his books, that he’s a serious, earnest and difficult writer. Sure, he can be these things – but he’s also hilariously funny, brilliantly insightful and so, so imaginative! His books take you to the most extraordinary and unexpected places and Death of a River Guide, his debut, is a perfect example of this.
The book tells the story of Aljaz (pron. Ali-oosh), an out of shape former river guide who’s on the Franklin River for the last time with a bunch of tourists. When we meet him, he’s drowning, and his life is flashing before his eyes. Yet, it’s not just his life, it’s the life of his many-cultured ancestors (immigrants, indigenous Tasmanians, convicts!). There’s a spoiler in the title of the book, but the way you get to that moment… it’s exciting and devastating all at once.
What I love most about this book for someone who’s thinking of moving to Hobart or Tasmania, is (and you’ll actually find this with all of Flanagan’s books, bar The Unknown Terrorist) he really puts to rest the myth that Tasmania is a monoculture of incestuous cousins. You see Hobart as the melting pot it is – in the character of Aljaz and those close to him.
- Tailored Tasmania by Alice Hansen
Punks. This book is filled with recommendations from locals on what to do and where to eat and drink. It’s glorious. Filled with beautiful pictures of tourist and food porn.
And, you know what else is cool about this book? Alice has basically become a one-woman-entrepreneur with it. A few years ago, this former pro tennis player left a cushy public service job to do this full time, and we sure are the beneficiaries.
You can meet Alice every Saturday at Salamanca Markets selling her books, and giving terrific recommendations on how you should be spending your cash in the greatest ways across Tasmania. The book is currently in its second edition, it’s so popular and plush – you’ll see it all over Tasmania. It should be in every motel replacing Gideon’s Bible.
- In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare
Nicholas Shakespeare is an acclaimed British writer who came to Tasmania and fell in love with its East Coast. He and his wife went on to live there for a while, and he discovered an extraordinary family connection to the place.
This book is everything – and a book I often give to friends who I know love reading travel writing with a twist. It’s part travelogue, part family history, part Tasmanian history and wholly entertaining from beginning to end.
And punks, these are just to get you started. There are about a million more terrific books about Tasmania – I just don’t want this post to go for a hundred years. Will try and do some more posts for your book collection xx