A Serious History of Silliness
Silliness is basically humour that is completely pointless. It has no moral purpose, it is not satirical, it makes no sense; it thumbs is nose at conventions of form and content and does not fit the standard theories of humour. Silliness is just for fun, although it is not without social and cultural effect.
In this work, high culture happily rubs shoulders with low: when it comes to being silly, the distinction hardly matters. Great authors such as Rabelais and Swift are silly in ways that differ little from the nursery rhymes and popular ditties of their day. Peter Timms explores 18th-century tongue-twisters, the nonsense rhymes of Lewis Carroll, the savage lunacy of Dada, the surrealist antics of the Marx Brothers, the Goons and Monty Python. But above all silliness is timeless. What made people laugh four hundred, or even two thousand years ago, still makes us laugh today.
Peter Timms is the author of many books ranging from books on design, culture, art, gardening to the novel Asking For Trouble, published by HarperCollins in 2014. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania, and to his knowledge nobody has written a serious book on silliness: it is time we took silliness seriously.
Rights available: world
The Birdman’s Wife
This work is based on the life of Elizabeth Gould, the wife of the celebrated zoolologist and world famous lithographer John Gould.
Born in England in 1804, Elizabeth married Gould in 1829. After his wife gave birth to four children, Gould announced his intention to travel to Australia. So she left her three youngest children with her mother and with her eldest child, Henry then aged seven, set sail to Australia, a dangerous and perilous journey in those days. It has now been established that Elizabeth was pivotal to Gould’s success, providing over six hundred drawings for his publications. She was a great creative artist who researched and studied her subjects in minute detail. The couple spent two years in the colonies before returning to England.
This is a meticiously researched work but also a fascinating portrait of the times. Fiona Henderson, now at Affirm Press, is the publisher. The author is a young Queensland academic in her early forties.
Rights available: U.S. and translation.
WHEN IT ALL WENT WRONG: Four Weeks, One Summer
This non-fiction work explores the extraordinary events that took place in Europe in 1936. The author, Nicholas Whitlam, highlights just four weeks (18th July to 16th August) of that year to illustrate the tumultuous changes that shaped the world.
Opening on the day General Franco started the Spanish Civil War, while at the same time Pablo Casals is rehearsing Beethoven’s paean to humankind Ode To Joy; four weeks later the book concludes with an enthusiastic mass rendition of the Nazis’ the Horst Wessell Song, the last music played at the closing ceremony of the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
Written in diary format, the story explores the little-known Peoples’ Olympics in Barcelona; the critical earlys days of the Spanish Civil War; Edward VIII’s scandalous holiday cruise with Mrs Wallis Simpson; the impact of Leni Riefenstahl; Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; and countless others who make up the story of these thirty days.
Nicholas Whitlam is a company director and former banker. A graduate from Harvard University in history, he has long had an interest in Europe between the two World Wars. He has published two previous books: A Nest of Traitors, which dealt with the Petrov affair, and Still Standing, a memoir. He is the son of the former Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam.
Currently under submission. World rights available.
Samuel Bellamy is a 12-year-old transported from the Swan River Colony in Western Australia to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), but who journeys to San Francisco in 1849 in search of his mother. Upon his arrival, in a gold-rush city populated largely by men, he’s adopted by an Australian crime gang called ‘The Sydney Ducks’, and put to work. This gang of largely escaped Australian convicts was notorious for burning down the city on three occasions between 1849 and 1855 (a too-colourful period of San Franciscan history, currently being made into a cable TV series by Mel Gibson.)
In an age where there’s no such thing as childhood, Sam learns to survive and behave as his older peers do. When he discovers his mother in the city, he is forced to demonstrate his loyalty to her by way of a daring crime — one that puts his life and everything he holds dear at risk.
David Whish-Wilson lives in Fremantle, Western Australia, where he teaches creative writing at Curtin University. He is the author of short stories and and his novels include the crime books The Frank Swan Trilogy. The first volume Line of Sight (Penguin 2010) was followed by Zero At the Bone (Penguin 2013). The third volume, Old Scores, will be released by Fremantle Press in 2016. This trilogy has also been sold into Germany and will be published by Suhrkamp in 2017.
Her first novel The Legacy was published in 2010. The Guardian described it as “a seductive contemporary literary thriller… a knowing, classy debut”. It was translated into Polish and Spanish.
This was followed by A Common Loss in 2012. The Evening Standard said it was “like a Barbara Vine novel, or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. It’s compulsive, it sucks you in.”
Now we have her third novel, the beautifully evocative Hold. Ceridwen Dovey, author of Only The Animals, said it was “Sensual, spooky, and utterly beguiling: Hold is an enormously powerful work of art, and intimate portrait of grief and betrayal”.
In The Legacy Tranter reimagines Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady, while in Hold there is a similar eerie echo of his short story The Turn of the Screw. Jennifer Levasseur in reviewing it for the Sydney Morning Herald noted how “she evokes an overwhelming sense of dread, tension and trepidation.”
Rights: World Rights available ex Australia/New Zealand
Stephen Daisley wins NZ$50,000 fiction prize at Ockham NZ Book Awards… Reviewer Sue Green writes: ‘It is four years since Stephen Daisley’s heartbreakingly beautiful debut novel Traitor. Many of us enjoyed the irony of this Western Australia-based Kiwi winning the $80,000 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction with what was, at its heart, a very New Zealand story. So it was disconcerting to discover that this much-anticipated second book is wrought by his experience in the harsh environs of rural Western Australia. Shearer, truck driver, sheep and cattle station worker, Daisley, who moved to Australia more than twenty-five years ago, knows and loves this unforgiving country and its people. [more below]
And it shows. Even such unlovely characters as the violent bigot Painter Hayes are drawn with compassion for a man of his place and time…’
‘This is a brutal, unflinching work with moments of shocking violence. Yet it is rendered with the same compassion, the exquisite tenderness and eye for beauty in the harshest places which made Traitor so affecting and memorable.’