Reid gets right advice to move into Burnie final

Australian Matt Reid powers a backhand return to Japan’s Yuichi Ito on his way to a spot in the final of the Burnie International.A FEW tips from his close friends was all Matt Reid needed to dismantle Japan’s Yuichi Ito yesterday and progress into tonight’s men’s singles final of the McDonald’s Burnie International.
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The last Australian in either singles draw made light work of the world No.480, breaking his serve at will to triumph in just over an hour 6-2, 6-1 and will now face Hiroki Moriya in the championship decider, after he downed American college ace Jarmere Jenkins.

Prior to the match, Reid spoke briefly to mates who had experience playing Ito, who quickly advised the 23-year-old to pepper his forehand.

Reid did as he was told, continually hitting to Ito’s weaker wing and the unforced errors flowed.

The fifth seed, who will also feature in today’s doubles final with partner John-Patrick Smith, admitted to the tactic after the match.

“I’ve seen him play a few times and I spoke to some of the boys about it,” he said.

“I was a little bit weaker, but I felt like I was really dominating the ground stroke rallies and on the big points that’s where I really tried to pressure him.”

The suddenly in-form New South Welshman, who arrived in Burnie on a six- match losing streak, was relieved to have made it into his second Challenger final in a year.

“I’m really happy, especially after how I’ve been playing,” he said.

“I feel like I’m getting better and better with every match, and I’ve grown a lot of confidence this week.”

Reid didn’t know his opponent for today’s final at the time of speaking, but knew he was in for a long encounter either way.

Moriya proved to be too consistent for Jenkins in last night’s match, winning 6-4, 6-4.

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Joyce Carol Oates interview: Septuagenarian blue-collar writer remains a prolific novelist, essayist and tweeter

Talking to Joyce Carol Oates feels like talking to a ghost. Oates, the writer of dozens of novels and thousands of stories, is very pale and slender, with huge, heavy-lidded eyes that give her an otherworldly presence. She speaks gently and serenely, as if from a great distance away, even when she’s discussing the feverish early days after the death of her first husband, the literary-magazine and book editor Ray Smith.
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Oates wrote about that period of her life in her 2011 memoir, A Widow’s Story. Right after Smith died, in February 2008, she “did a lot of strange things”, she says. “I threw out a whole lot of my own clothes. I threw out these wonderful things my mother had made for me,” Oates recalls, matter-of-factly. “And when I think of it now I just feel a pang of … I guess I just didn’t think I wanted to live any longer.”

It’s not exactly surprising that underneath Oates’ unruffled, kind exterior there are roiling, dark thoughts. Her work contains what The New York Review of Books once described as “a kind of Grand Guignol of every imaginable form of physical, psychological and sexual violence: rape, incest, murder, molestation, cannibalism, torture and bestiality”.

She objects to the notion that it is unusual to cover such subjects in a literary matter. “In actual life, millions of people die cruel and heedless deaths, and there is no one to record their myriad, unique stories, but art singles out individuals for scrupulous attention,” she once said. However, she is probably the only person to have won a National Book Award and written a novella about a gang rape and its aftermath (Rape: A Love Story).

Although she is known for her violent subject matter and accessible yet rich style, it’s impossible to pigeonhole Oates: she has written historical fiction, children’s books, plays and literary criticism. She talks at length about the boxer Mike Tyson, because she has just written an essay about a new memoir of his (she has written a great deal about boxing, including a 1987 essay collection called On Boxing).

When she talks about Tyson, Oates’ even-keeled voice becomes more animated than at any other time during our conversation at her home in Princeton, New Jersey, which is decorated in high-academic style, in other words eclectic. It is filled with African masks and framed photographs taken by her second husband, the Princeton neuroscientist Charles Gross (they married in March 2009), of his travels.

It’s incongruous to watch this tiny, wan woman get so worked up about Tyson. But she is clearly still outraged about his impoverished youth and his treatment by his promoter Don King. (Tyson had sued King, claiming that he had stolen $100 million from him, but settled out of court.) “Somehow Tyson and people like that are oddly trusting, like they don’t get it, they don’t understand they’re surrounded by vultures,” she says.

Perhaps Oates is able to so thoughtfully explore characters such as Tyson – real and fictional – because she didn’t grow up privileged in a town such as Princeton. She grew up in upstate New York, one of three children of a tool designer and a housewife. She was the first of her family to graduate from high school. Her parents were “very nice people, lovely people” but “they didn’t have any great ambition for me”.

She believes the lack of parental pressure was liberating. She sees the children of Princeton academics wilting under their parents’ expectations. “The children of professors feel, I think, in most cases that they have to emulate [their parents]. You can’t go work on a farm or whatever. Whereas I come from a different era, a different world, where no one expected anybody even to get a high-school diploma.”

Many of her novels use her somewhat bleak birthplace as their backdrop, including her latest, Carthage (named after the tiny town in which it is set), that is about a difficult young woman, Cressida, who goes missing.

Oates describes the question driving its plot as “ontological”. “Is this girl actually missing or did she just run away? Has she been kidnapped or murdered? Where is she?” Cressida’s older sister, the beautiful, compassionate, God-fearing Juliet, was inspired, in part, by some of the earnest young women Oates knew when she was a teenager.

“In my high school, there were girls who were really nice girls, very consciously Christian girls, and some of them were my friends, and to write about someone like that in fiction is really difficult,” she says. “Because you think, ‘There’s got to be a dark side, or this person’s really nasty’. But in real life there are people – some of us have them in our families – who are just plain nice people.”

Oates left behind those nice Christian girls when she went to Syracuse University and then the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she did an MA and met Ray Smith. They married in 1961 after dating for three months. They spent a year in Texas, where Smith taught, before moving to Detroit, where they lived until 1978. Oates taught at the University of Windsor, just over the Canadian border in Ontario, and wrote several novels and books of short stories during their time there.

Much has been made of Oates’ productivity, but she doesn’t think there is anything extraordinary about her output – she has bristled at the word “workaholic” in the past. The late novelist John Updike, who was similarly prolific and corresponded with Oates for many years, defended her, saying that, “If you approach the writing business seriously and try to set it up like an orderly activity, as opposed to devoting your energy to the pursuit of the good life and happiness and drugs and drink and celebrity, you write an alarming amount over the course of a lifetime. We’re blue-collar writers.”

Unsurprisingly, Oates’ schedule is fairly regimented. She doesn’t really get writer’s block, but she does rewrite the opening of each novel over and over – as many as 40 or 50 times – to get the tone right. Once she feels she has a handle on the tone, the plot just flows. A typical day sees Oates writing in the morning “as soon as I can”, and then, if she’s teaching, heading to the university to take a class or go over students’ work.

In the afternoon she and her husband, whom she calls Charlie, like to walk in the woods. After dinner it’s more writing.

Oates peppers our conversation with mentions of Charlie in an endearing way. They’re clearly devoted. Some reviewers, notably Janet Maslin of The New York Times and Julian Barnes, criticised her for not mentioning in A Widow’s Story the fact that she remarried 13 months after Ray Smith’s death. Maslin described the memoir as dissembling “while masquerading as a work of raw courage and honesty”. In context, the criticism seems churlish. Oates says the book was meant to be a handbook for widows, to express how shocking and surprising bereavement was. She wrote it pretty much in real time and focused on the days and weeks following Smith’s death, when she felt completely at sea and experienced bizarre impulses. “You have some strong compulsion to do some weird thing, like set the house on fire. Or give away your cat,” she says.

Still, Oates says she understands why people might think her evasive for not mentioning that she’d met her second husband the summer after her first one’s death. She wrote a letter to The New York Review of Books in response to Barnes’ piece: “In retrospect I can see that I should have added something like an appendix, to bring my personal history up to date; yet – I hope this doesn’t sound disingenuous! – I would not have thought that my personal history in the aftermath of early widowhood was so very relevant to the subject.”

Listening to Oates talk about both her marriages, it strikes me that she is one of those people who is better as part of a couple. She is an intensely loyal person and not just romantically, but professionally too. Despite her massive success, she still teaches at Princeton, where she has worked for more than 30 years.

Although she is 75, Oates keeps discovering new media for expression. In 2012 she joined Twitter and, in addition to generally having two manuscripts on the go, she tweets several times a day. Oates considers it “an outlet for my sense of disturbance and outrage”, particularly “on feminist issues, issues having to do with animal rights … police misconduct, which is really epidemic”.

Although some feminist issues still enrage her – in May she tweeted angrily about the sexual assault of a high-school girl in Ohio – Oates marvels at how far things have come since she started out in the early 1960s. “When I first began being aware of literature, before I began writing, there wasn’t anything like women’s literature – it didn’t exist. And the idea of mainstream literature was white, male writing, and that was unquestioned,” she says. “But today we have great writers who are women without even thinking about it.” She mentions Louise Erdrich, Alice Munro and Toni Morrison as writers whom one would never consider “women writers”; they’re simply “great writers”.

Oates would not be out of place in that list, though she’s far too modest to say. She describes herself as “empathetic with people and cordial or gracious with people”. Maybe she needs that calm surface to explore the darkness underneath.

Sunday Telegraph, London

Carthage is published by Fourth Estate, $27.99.

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Canberra Cavalry loses first ABL final

Calvary’s Jon Berti is tagged between second and third base by Blue Sox player Joshua Dean, far right. Photo: Graham TidyNormally 11 runs and 17 hits would be enough for the Canberra Cavalry to win comfortably, but this was no ordinary Australian Baseball League preliminary final game.
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The Cavs were smashed by the Sydney Blue Sox 18-11 in what turned into a pitcher’s nightmare at Narrabundah Ballpark on Friday night.

They now must win both games on the road in Sydney to progress to the ABL championship series against the Perth Heat in Western Australia.

Unfortunately for the reigning ABL champions they bore the brunt of some brutal Blue Sox batting, with Sydney designated hitter Trent Oeltjen amassing six runs batted in and a massive home run.

It fell short of what’s believed to be the highest scoring games in ABL history – Canberra’s 18-13 win over Melbourne earlier this season and Perth Heat’s 19-12 demolition of the Cavalry last season.

In a bizarre twist, the home team was the away team, while the visitors were at home.

Because Sydney finished second they were deemed to have home advantage and batted second on the night despite playing at Canberra’s Fort.

The ABL also allowed Sydney to field first base Boss Moanaroa, who had only played two series – not the three required to be eligible for finals.

Not that it made much difference.

While the Cavs bolted out of the gates with their first two batters getting on base, it was Sydney who dominated for most of the night.

By the bottom of the second, they were six runs down and gun starting pitcher Brian Grening had been replaced on the mound.

Grening went just 1.1 innings and gave up five hits and five runs before Aaron Thompson replaced him for a similar return: one inning, seven hits and four runs.

Thompson was welcomed to the plate with a Trent Oeltjen three-run homer that brought back memories of former Cavs-now-Cincinnati-Reds slugger Donald Lutz – it was big.

Canberra produced a rally in the top of the third, with Casey Frawley hitting a two-run double then Jack Murphy driving him in as well.

But no sooner were they back in the game and they were out of it, with the Blue Sox driving three in the very next frame.

The haemorrhaging continued with four more in the fourth and Cavs pitching coach Hayden Beard would’ve been pulling his hair out if he wasn’t recovering from shoulder surgery.

But Michael Collins’ Cavalry doesn’t quit.

They should’ve handed out umbrellas for the top of the fifth when it started to rain runs.

Michael Wells hit a two-run single. Berti, Warner, Frawley and Barnes all brought runners home to complete a six-run inning.

Sydney gave themselves some breathing space with four runs in the fifth, including a Keon Broxton three-run home run.

All of a sudden it became a comparative pitching duel and there was only two runs in the final three-and-a-half innings.

Eric Massingham and Matt Wilson managed to keep things quiet for the Cavs, while Aaron Sookee and Wayne Lundgren did a similar job for the Blue Sox.

The two teams travel up the Hume Highway for game two at Blacktown on Saturday at 6pm.

RESULTCanberra 0 0 3 1 6 1 0 0 0 – 11r 17h 1eSydney     1 5 3 4 4 0 1 0 x – 18r 23h 3e

Cavalry’s best: SS Frawley (2-6, 3RBI), RF Warner (3-6, 2RBI), DH Wells (1-5, 2RBI), P Massingham (1.2I, 2H, 1R, 3K).

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More cyclones on the way for north Queensland

Decks and sheds have toppled into the ocean at Great Keppel Island Hideaway Resort. Photo: Supplied The damage at Great Keppel Island Hideaway resort. Photo: Supplied
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The damage at Great Keppel Island Hideaway resort. Photo: Supplied

Two more cyclones could form around north Queensland in coming days, but are unlikely to pose huge risks to locals.

Weatherzone forecaster Guy Dixon said a monsoon trough over the country’s north has set the right conditions for cyclone formation, including one approaching Queensland from the west.

“If you can imagine it forming on the western side of the Northern Territory, moving across as a low, and as soon as it hits the Gulf of Carpentaria it’ll strengthen and just sit over the water there,” he said.

“It will likely impact the Cape York peninsula between Sunday and Monday.”

Mr Dixon said it could be followed by another cyclone system in the Coral Sea later on Monday.

“That’s looking to just dip away east, just staying offshore and not at this point likely to impact the coast,” he said.

Meanwhile widespread showers were pushing inland as a result of ex-tropical cyclone Dylan.

“Areas such as Longreach will see showers in the order of 15 to 25 millimetres,” Mr Dixon said.

“I wouldn’t call it drought-breaking, but it’s a good drink and they need it.”

The heaviest falls remained around the coastal areas, with 421 millimetres recorded at Mt William, just inland from Mackay, in the 24 hours to 9am Friday.

“It averaged between 150 and 180 millimetres in a multitude of locations inland of Mackay,” he said.

The remnants of ex-cyclone Dylan will move into South Australia and the Northern Territory next week.

Dubbed a “lame” system by some battle-hardened central Queenslanders, Dylan appears to have spared the bulk of the region.

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services department spokesman said the SES received 209 calls across the state between 8am Thursday and 5pm Friday.

The bulk of those were in the central region around Mackay and Rockhampton, but for simple jobs such as fixing leaking roofs, sandbagging and removed fallen trees and branches.

The QFES spokesman said the SES had scaled back operations, but would remain on stand-by should further cyclones form.

Ex-cyclone Dylan wasn’t completely benign, with one resort copping the brunt of heavy seas on Friday.

Swells whipped up by Dylan washed away parts of Great Keppel Island Hideaway.

Co-owner Sean Appleton said Friday’s 9.30am king tide ripped the decks from three beachfront houses, as well as the deck from the resort’s main bar.

‘‘The footings are now hanging over the sand dunes,’’ he said.

While residents on the mainland were breathing a collective sigh of relief in the wake of former tropical cyclone Dylan on Friday, Mr Appleton realised the worst was yet to come.

‘‘We’re expecting the houses to fall into the ocean with tomorrow’s high tide,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve lost eight metres of beach this morning and I dare say we’ll lose the same tomorrow.’’

– with Marissa Calligeros

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