Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 18, 2012

Meet an Aussie Author: Elliot Perlman

Three DollarsElliot Perlman is one of Australia’s finest  writers.  He lives in Melbourne.  His most recent novel, The Street Sweeper, has been longlisted for the 2012 Miles Franklin Award and the ABIA awards.

He burst onto the Australian and international literary scene in 1998 with his brilliant debut novel Three Dollars.   It won the Age Book of the Year Award, the Betty Trask Award (UK), the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn-Rhys/Mail On Sunday Book of the Year Award (UK) as well as for the Miles Franklin Literary Award.   He went on to co-write the screenplay for the film of Three Dollars , which received the Australian Film Critics’ Circle Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as the A.F.I. Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.  A novel that commented on the effects of contemporary politics, Three Dollars was a sign of great things to come.  ( Update 15/9/13: For an excellent review, visit Vishy the Knight who read it on my recommendation.)

Three Dollars was followed in 1998 by the publication of a collection of short stories to critical acclaim.  The Reasons I Won’t Be Coming was a national bestseller in the US where it was named a New York Times Book Review ‘Editors’ Choice’ and received the Steele Rudd Award for the best Australian short story collection in its year of publication.

The short story collection was then followed by his second novel, the magnificent Seven Types of Ambiguity.  It was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction (now defunct) and the  Commonwealth Writers Prize for South East Asia and South Pacific Region.  (I thought it was even better than Three Dollars).  You can read a review of Seven Types of Ambiguity at Tony’s Reading List.

And now, The Street Sweeper.  Like Perlman’s other novels, it combines an exploration of humanity with social critique, within a great story that is hard to put down.   (See my review).

So yes, I am a fan of Elliot’s work and I wait impatiently between books for the next one to be published.  I am delighted that one of my favourite authors has agreed to participate in Meet an Aussie Author.  Here are his responses:

1.  I was born in Melbourne.

2.  When I was a child I wrote short stories, poems, plays and songs.

3.  It was the powerful effect that certain books had on me, particularly in difficult times, the comfort, the enlightenment, the feeling that I wasn’t alone that probably led me to want to see if I could write things even one other person might want to read.

4.  I write on a computer although the first drafts of my first 3 books were all written in longhand.  Somewhere I probably still have the embarrassing first drafts in my appalling handwriting.

5.  I have terrible trouble with insomnia but if I possibly can, I try to start writing in the mornings and, with various breaks, I write till evening.  Well, that’s the plan. Usually I try not to write at night because if I write at night I guarantee my thoughts will be racing when it’s time to sleep even more than they usually are. And then I definitely won’t be able to sleep.

6.  Research can be enjoyable but it can also be arduous, expensive and too beguiling.  The danger is that you use your research as an excuse to delay writing.  Sooner or later you have to tell yourself you know enough to write on your topic.

7.  I keep my published works in bookshelves.

8.  On the day my first book was published I was at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival not really knowing what to do and wondering if it was all about to stop.

9.  At the moment, I’m writing a talk I have to give next week.

10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I reach for a dictionary or thesaurus.  Sometimes I’ll read something I’ve read and admired before in an attempt to liberate my mind from its unproductive state before I stumble into the gutter of self-loathing.

Thanks, Elliot, for participating in Meet an Aussie Author!

My thanks also go to the publicist for the Miles Franklin Award, Rachel Caton from Honner Media, for her assistance in the preparation of this Meet an Aussie Author blog post.

Availability of Elliot’s books:



Three Dollars Three Dollars/The Bank/The Boys The Reasons I Won't Be Coming Seven Types of Ambiguity The Street Sweeper


  1. I love all of his books :) I’d like him to win the Miles Franklin, but there’s no way ‘The Street Sweeper’ is Australian enough to do so…


  2. I love the answer to the Research question! And I love Perlman too.


  3. Wow, that was quite a coup, Lisa!


    • Hi Troy! I knew you were here because I could see Barcelona in my cluster map.


      • I thought I cancelled that misfired blog…but can’t get rid of the tag…


  4. Loved the post, Lisa! I haven’t read any book of Elliot Perlman. I hope to read ‘Three Dollars’ sometime.

    I love your blog because of its focus on Australian literature and authors. I also love this series ‘Meet an Aussie author’. Looking forward to reading more about Australian literature and authors in future posts.


    • Hello Vishy, thanks for dropping by! This is what I love about the internet, we can share our pride in our own distinctive literatures and encourage others to read beyond the cultures that dominate the book shops. I have loved the Indian books I’ve read this year through the Man Asian longlist and am certainly going to be reading more of them, guided by your recommendations. Cheers, Lisa


      • Just read your interview with Elliot Perlman again. I want to read ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’ now. I liked very much what Perlman said about how one can use research as an excuse to delay writing. Thanks for sharing this interesting interview.


  5. Wow! Elliot Perlman! How fantastic, Lisa! *mops brow, tries not to swoon*


    • I know exactly what you mean Kimbofo, EP signed my copy of The Street Sweeper at the Perth Writers’ festival and he is SUCH a dish. And so lovely.


      • *chuckle* You mean maybe all those ladies who were there at the Wheeler Centre weren’t just there because he writes great books?


        • the fact that he writes great books is a bonus!


  6. I would so love to see The Street Sweeper win the Miles Franklin.


  7. I’ve just finished reading The Street Sweeper – multi-layered, complex, heart-breaking. I’m 72, born in UK when WW2 was well under way, I know the history but we need books such as this to let the world know, remind us of our brutality and through that perhaps better ourselves. I couldn’t put the book down and will have to read it again. Thanks.


    • Hello Jacqueline, and welcome! I am delighted to meet another who loved this book, and yes, I agree, we do indeed need books like this.


  8. […] Their special guest, Elliot *swoon* Perlman, award winning author of The Street Sweeper, (see my review) Three Dollars, Seven Types of Ambiguity and The Reasons I Won’t Be Coming, will be at the bookshop between 11.30am – 12.30pm. Elliot will be delighted to chat with customers and sign copies of his books.  (You can find out more about him beforehand at Meet an Aussie Author). […]


  9. Will he be in the USA next year? Would love to have him come to New Jersey to our retired educators plus others bookclub to talk about The Street Sweeper!


    • Hello Gail, yes, that would be great to have him talk about it at a bookgroup, I’m sure. But I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to this. You’d need to get in touch with his agent or his publisher.


  10. […] Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman, see my […]


  11. […] you know if you’ve read his Meet an Aussie Author profile, Elliot Perlman is one of my all-time favourite authors.  No other author that I know of has so […]


  12. […] see my review Past the Shallows  by Favel Parrett, see my review The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman, see my review Animal People by Charlotte Wood, see my […]


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