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Solstice [Kindle Edition]

Matt Rubinstein

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Book Description

Solstice is a novel in verse set over the twenty-four hours of the longest day of the year, in Adelaide, South Australia. It is a story of love and exploration told in sonnet form, one verse for each few minutes of the day. It shows how much can change in a day -- the whole world, and at the same time nothing at all.

Solstice was shortlisted for the 1993 Australian/Vogel Award and was published by Allen & Unwin in 1994. This electronic edition is a new author's cut that takes full advantage of recent technical developments in the field of poetry.

Editorial Reviews


"Vivid, truthful, ardent, cool" -- Paul Kelly

"An exuberant inside look at Australian youth culture... Amazingly, a first novel in Vikram Seth's demotic mode" -- Judith Rodriguez

"An Oz Midsummer Night's Dream, witty, tender and erudite" -- Rhyll McMaster

From the Author

I started writing Solstice when I was eighteen and had just read Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate in my English literature class at university. It blew me away and, like a teenager, I decided that the best way to express my admiration was to write something similar. 

I set it in Adelaide, where I lived, following five characters over the 24 hours of the summer solstice -- the longest day of the year. I guess I took the timeframe from Ulysses, Under Milk Wood and Aristotle's unity of time -- I was quite pretentious -- and the day itself from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Because I didn't want to copy Vikram Seth too exactly I decided to write it in Shakespearean (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG) instead of Pushkin (ABAB CCDD EFFE GG) sonnets, but I was persuaded by Seth's arguments favouring tetrameter over pentameter. I had the early images of the day breaking, the city waking, the characters who found themselves in Adelaide on that day, and a kind of darting perspective that bound their stories together.

After almost a year of writing I had 600 of these sonnets, one for every two or three minutes of the day. I printed them all out on a dot-matrix printer, photocopied my manuscript at the SA Writers' Centre and sent it in an Express Post satchel to the Australian/Vogel Literary Award for unpublished manuscripts by authors under 35. The winner that year was Helen Demidenko/Darville's controversial The Hand that Signed the Paper, but Solstice was shortlisted and was published the following year by Allen & Unwin.

My editors were quite indulgent with the manuscript, which I liked at the time, but they corrected the worst solecisms, suggested I might reassess my affection for semi-colons, and asked that I reduce the number of sonnets by about a hundred, so the book wouldn't wear out its welcome. I secretly railed against the last request, and plotted to restore the lost sonnets in a full author's cut one day.

Of course, now that the digital age has given me the means to release another edition, only a couple of the lost sonnets have been reinstated -- and many of the published sonnets have been combined or deleted to improve the pacing and curtail some of the more pointless diversions. I've also slotted in a few of the new sonnets I wrote for the stage adaptation. This all nets out to 480 sonnets, exactly one for every three minutes of the day, which is kind of mathematically satisfying -- and certainly would be for my protagonist.

When I wrote the first version I didn't know as much about verse as I do now, and I wasn't always vigilant enough in avoiding strained and repeated rhymes, as well as pairs that look like rhymes but aren't really, because they're too similar. Most of these infelicities have been corrected. I haven't done anything to the story, or to any of the perhaps unsophisticated sentiments expressed in the book, because those are so intrinsically part of the original. I've also bloody-mindedly left intact the sonnet that prompted one Nobel-prize winner to murmur "dodgy rhymes, indeed" when he read it out at random. But in general this is the same story expressed better: I think it's a more fitting companion to the later and more fully-realised Equinox -- and might even be a better tribute to The Golden Gate.

Product Details

  • File Size: 369 KB
  • Print Length: 298 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Ligature; 2 edition (November 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AKUP53M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,772,743 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

I started writing when I was six years old. "Writing" for me meant typing out Enid Blyton books on an old typewriter, word-for-word: if I could get through a chapter without making a mistake, I considered myself just as good a writer as Enid Blyton was. Later I learned that writing was more than typing, it was invention; but I also heard that great writers like Hunter S Thompson had also copied out books like The Great Gatsby, in order to feel their construction from the inside.

When I was eleven my mother became a writer, and later she became another writer: first the children's author Gillian Rubinstein, and then the historical fantasy writer Lian Hearn. She taught me the true occupation of writing: I read early drafts of her books and saw the way she revisited and refined them, turning them from ideas into great stories; I was outraged if she ever got rejections or unreasonable demands from publishers; and I even learned about the minefield of copyright law (she had to pay someone $50 to include a line from a movie in her first book).

She was my favourite writer, but she was also just my mum: I assumed that anyone's mum could become a writer if they worked hard enough, and I expected that I could too. So when at university I had the idea of writing a novel in sonnet form inspired by Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate, I couldn't see any reason not to; and I even thought it might stand a chance of being published.

That book was Solstice, which was shortlisted for the Australian/Vogel literary award for unpublished manuscripts and later published by Allen & Unwin. It got some nice reviews and I was asked to turn it into a play for the Adelaide Festival; I was lucky enough to work with some of Australia's best actors and musicians. After that I wrote Nomad, a novel based loosely on my travels in Europe, and it was published by Hyland House.

I then wrote Death of the Author, a post-modern serial killer thriller about a sinister character called The Reader who hunts down writers gathered for a festival of "multiple homicide fiction" in Adelaide. It was accepted by a publisher who then restructured and stopped publishing fiction; and it got me an agent who retired shortly afterwards. The book had kind of fallen between the cracks.

I wrote a sequel to Solstice called Equinox, which was serialised on the website of the Sydney Morning Herald and which I am now tweeting over the course of a year at @mattrubinstein. At the same time I wrote a literary mystery novel featuring an untranslatable manuscript that has a dangerous effect on anyone who tries to translate it, a little like the real-life Voynich manuscript. That book was runner-up for the Vogel award and was published as A Little Rain on Thursday in Australia by Text, as Vellum in the UK by Quercus, and by various European publishers.

While working on my most recent novel I became interested in the opportunities technology presents for writers and readers: I built my website, started to use Twitter, and wrote and spoke a lot about the future of the book. In 2012 I won the Calibre Award for my extended essay "Body and Soul: Copyright Law and Enforcement in the Age of the Electronic Book", which argues that traditional publishers are in real danger from alternative publishing models.

I'm now putting my money where my mouth is and experimenting with electronic publishing. I'll be selling more of my books at low prices without digital rights management and see how they go. First up is Death of the Author, which hasn't been published before. There'll be more to follow.

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