Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Visit to ABC Studios - Part 2

My Visit to ABC Studios - Part 2
and Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

In Part 1 of the ABC series of posts I talked about the filming of Jennifer Byrne Presents: Book to Film. This post will focus on the filming of First Tuesday Bookclub, focusing on the discussion concerning the great Australian novel, Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.

The Show...

Firstly I will just introduce the show to those of you who are not familiar with it and I will introduce the special guests.

First Tuesday Bookclub which, as the name depicts, is a bookclub programme that is aired on the first Tuesday of each month.

As the ABC Website states;

"First Tuesday Book Club is ABC TV's first nationally televised book club. Hosted by Jennifer Byrne it draws on the basic models of national and international book clubs, the series brings to the screen the pleasures that draw millions of clubbers worldwide to these groups with their shared love of reading. It is a nationally televised forum for literary debate and conversation not easily found elsewhere.

First Tuesday Book Club gathers Australian booklovers together on a monthly basis, a reading shot in the arm on the first Tuesday of each month. Each episode aims to rekindle nostalgic literary favourites and encourage viewers to read books they might not have otherwise read . a spine tingling experience."

The host, Jennifer Bryne, is well known for her work as a reporter on both television and in print. She has reported for such programmes as Foreign Correspondent, Lateline and the 7:30 Report and has worked for such publications as The Bulletin, The Age, The Sunday Times and The Weekend Magazine. While continuing to write, she hosted the ABC's successful My Favourite Book programme, and now has what she describes as her "dream job" as host of the First Tuesday Book Club.

The show also showcases the reviewing genius of Jennifer Byrne's two co-hosts, Marieke Hardy and Jason Steger.

Marieke Hardy has made a name for herself by appearing in such Australian television shows as Blue Heelers and Always Greener which lead her into scriptwriting. She also has a successful blog and a radio show and is currently writing a feature film and attempting her first novel.

Jason Steger has an extensive career in the newsprint industry and is currently the book editor for The Age and The Sunday Age.

The two special guests for this programme were Peter Garrett and Mem Fox.

Peter Garrett is the current Australian Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts but he is also known for having been the lead man for rock band, Midnight Oil from 1973 to 2002.

Mem Fox, having started as a University lecturer, is one of Australia's most beloved children's writers, with her most famous (and most beautiful) work being Possum Magic.

The Book...

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Genre; Australian Drama
Publisher; Scribner Paperback Fiction/USA/2002
Pages; 426

Plot; The Lambs and the Pickles are two, post-war, working-class, Australian families living together in a big old house in Perth which as been left to the Pickles by a wealthy family member.

Both families have suffered catastrophes and this is the story of how these two families survive these catastrophes and come together in their big old house.

The Pickles are a self-described "unlucky" family, with an alcoholic mother and a gabling obsessed Father. The Lamb family believes in making their own luck and use their side of the house to open a successful grocery store. But this is no ordinary house, it is a house with a past, a past which is trying to make itself a present.

Cloudstreet is the story of these two families from 1944 to 1964, running the gamut from drunkenness, adultery, death to resurrection, marriage and birth.

The Panellists Thoughts; All of those on the panel agreed that this is a must read for all Australians, with Mem Fox going as far as saying that "if you have not read Cloudstreet your life is diminished".

"Rhythm of a hymn" - Jennifer Byrne
"Tim Winton at his best" - Jason Steger
"One of the best sex scene writers in Australia" - Marieke Hardy
"Great Australian novel... a true classic" - Peter Garrett
"Few books have given as much pleasure" - Jennifer Byrne

My Thoughts; I agree with everything that the panellists had to say about Cloudstreet. It is a powerful story which hits on every Australian note, making it great.

Firstly I want to talk about how beautifully written this book is. Tim Winton has cultivated this tale in such an emotive way paying the most detail to the most mundane things which paints such a brilliant portrait of these two families, while limiting the detail given to the catastrophes of the story to instill suspense and shock.

Winton isn't afraid to describe in detail those things, which are part of life, that other authors quite happily steer clear of. The less attractive sides and aspects of life. That is what makes this book so real and so appealing, it doesn't shy away from reality.

Jennifer Byrne posed an interesting question during the show; does this story depict how Australians really are, or how we would like to be? I would like to think this is how Australians really are. The type to laugh in times of absolute turmoil. The type to wish for luck when all we have had is bad luck.

When I sit back and think of all those pathetically bad novels they made us read in High School, even making us watch the movie Witness (which is a great movie, but totally irrelevant to the Australian teen), it makes me sick to think that those children are missing out on a book like Cloudstreet. Why is this book not on the curriculum? Not only is it a great story, but it is our heritage and about our way of life.

I recommend this book to every Australian as an important addition to any library.
I would go as far to say that it would be a good read for the international audience as well, but Tim Winton has made no concessions for the international reader so it may be a challenge. But, it really is worth the challenge.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the ABC Studios series of posts.
Part 3 will focus on Zeitoun by Dave Eggers; a true story of Hurricane Katrina.

Happy Reading!


  1. hi, i've given your blog an award, you can check it out at my blog here :-)

  2. OMG Cloudstreet is one of my all time favorites. It's just lovely. I wish I could see this on my television. I'd love to see this made into another movie. I had Sam Pickles pegged to be played by Russell Crowe and Orrin Lamb by Colin Firth.
    One thing interesting to me but often unmentioned was the relationship of Sam Pickles to his daughter. Somehow that was unexpectedly tender as she tried to motivate him to change.
    So much in this was poignant. Touching. It gets under your skin.

  3. Isn't it funny how different peoples opinions vary, I too would love to see Cloudstreet on the screen. I think it may be a little long for a movie, maybe a miniseries, but I never would have put Firth and Crowe in those roles! haha!

    I see Sam Pickles as a wheeler-dealer type with ciggie stained fingers and leathery sun damaged skin. Not at all the stocky shape of Crowe, more like a Chris Haywood type or Bryan Brown, or maybe even an Australian version of Robert Carlyle.

    Lester Lamb I don't imagine being as gentle as Colin Firth. I imagine him more as the strong but silent type, like an Australian Harrison Ford or an older Aaron Jeffery. The type who is quiet and pliant until the need calls for him to be strong.

    However, I honestly cannot say what actors I think would be good as Oriel Lamb and Dolly Pickles.
    Maybe for Oriel I could imagine Sonia Todd or CAroline Gilmer
    And, for Dolly, maybe Deborra-lee Furness.

  4. Wow ... everyone seemed to love this one! And I can't wait to see what they say about "Zeitoun." I have this on my TBR list for this year.

  5. On behalf of Amy, in reply to my post;

    "Seriously, you can't see Crowe as Pickles? I had no preconceived idea but ten pages in I was sure. LOL I always thought Lamb was a big softie, sort of wimpy in a way the first 3/4 of the book. Like you I had no idea of anyone for the women.
    Have you read Dirt Music? It's supposed to be made into a film soon with Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe. It's not as good as Cloudstreet but still good. The Riders is my alltime favorite Tim Winton (who I just adore!!!)."

  6. Jenners- I am just a few pages shy of finishing "Zeitoun" and it really is a good one, but I will leave my comments until I review it.

    Tea- Thanks for the kind words!

    Amy- No I really cannot see Crowe as Pickles. Sam Pickles comes across, to me, as a shifty character who is wieslish (is that how you spell it?)and I just can't see Crowe that way. The part needs to be played by a dodgy type.
    Yes, I have heard about "Dirt Music", in Part One of this ABC series of Posts I talk about James Collee, well he is the one doing it (and he also did Master and Commander, with Crowe), but he wouldn't talk about it on the show. I love Colin Farrell! I look forward to seeing it. I will have to read the book first.

  7. RE: Dirt Music...I'm assuming Colin Farrell will play Luther Fox? That would leave Crowe playing Jim (her husband)? I saw an interview that confused me, Crowe said he was playing a musician in Dirt Music so that would make him Luther but that wouldn't work if Farrell was in the flick, there's no way Colin could play Jim.
    Details please!!!