Category Archives: Bibliophilia

Servicing Is Golden

A few doors from my humble abode there is a business known as ‘Golden’.  I don’t want to know what they do, because I’m sure the reality will disappoint the expectations inspired by their tag-line: ‘Proudly Servicing Melbourne For Forty Years’.

Whatever it is they get up to, my interest in them reaches near-feverish levels when they have garage sales.  Mostly because (can you guess?) they sell books.  For the sum of ten dollars, you are presented with a plastic bag which you may stuff to splitting with the tomes spread out on the dusty concrete floor. Continue reading


Retail (And Reading) Therapy

When an unpleasant task must be performed, or an unpleasant journey must be undertaken my thoughts turn to retail therapy.  This seems to be a trait common to many members of my benighted generation.

Unlike, I suspect, many members of my benighted generation, my idea of really good, truly satisfying and utterly enriching retail therapy occurs only when I’m on my knees (careful…) sifting through piles of books in op-shops. Continue reading

Distracted By Quotations

This was going to be a post on Shakespeare and the lost-and-not-quite-but-sort-of-if-you-think-about-it-found play Cardenio, thought to have been co-quilled by the Swan of Avon and John Fletcher.

It was going to start with the marvellous observation that ‘The only evidence we have of Shakespeare’s existence, other than the poems and plays, is the portrait of a man who was clearly an idiot.’  As you can already see (because you’re not only mind-bendingly attractive but also unusually clever) the programme has changed somewhat. Continue reading

Popular Penguins

I’m a huge fan of Popular Penguins.

They’re wonderful, robust, no-nonsense little paperbacks; I like the 50s orange covers, the neat typeface (take a bow, Eric Gill), and the lack of frills and trimmings.  And at ten clams a pop, they’re a bargain.  It’s a rare visit to a bookshop that sees me resisting the urge to invest in one.

It being Penguin’s seventy-fifth anniversary this year, they’ve released a list of seventy-five new titles to join the existing one hundred and nine.  It would have been a nice round one hundred and ten, but some duffer included Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival in the first fifty without realising that Penguin didn’t own the rights to it. Continue reading

Beare Goggles

The quickest way to turn anyone off reading books is presenting them with a long and unsolicited ‘must read’ list.  And the quickest way to make yourself look like a prize prat is putting a ‘must read’ list in the hands of an avid reader.  Because the avid reader will judge you on the basis of your list.

I’m an avid reader.  In fact, I’m an addict.  I’m essentially a peace-loving soul, but try to take away from me a book that I’m engrossed in… well, angels and ministers of grace defend you, is all I can say.  Because I won’t be defending you.  I’ll be doing my best to tear out your spine. Continue reading

A Bookish Nation

Determining the literary vitality of a country like Australia is a difficult task.  This difficulty, it seems to me, is closely linked to the impossibility of defining ‘Australian Culture’, or ‘Australian Values’.  Inevitably such discussions get bogged down in witless abstractions like mateship, and from there it’s not a long time before meat pies, Steve Irwin, Crocodile Dundee and beer work their way into the conversation.  We’re a nation on the make, and we still don’t know quite what we’re making.

In 2002, Clive James delivered the inaugural David Scott Mitchell Memorial Lecture.  The lecture is well worth reading, and well worth listening to, as are nearly all the things that James has written and said in his long and bewilderingly varied career.  Clive James is important to my point.  James is the Kid from Kogarah – he’s one of ours: an Australian product. Continue reading

On Reading Aloud

As children my sister and I were singularly blessed with parents who read to us, and read to us a lot.  I very much doubt that my parents were familiar with Mem Fox’s reading Decalogue: they simply knew that reading to children was, is and ever shall be crucial. Continue reading