Clarke, Dawe and the Secret of Satire

John Clarke and Bryan Dawe are without doubt the finest satirists working in Australia today, or for that matter the world.  Tight, intensely witty and infallibly moral, they stun me over and over again.

If, due to the vicissitudes of fate or some crippling injury sustained as a result of living in a dank cave all your life has prevented you from ever seeing them in action, have a squint at these: Continue reading


A Purely Platonic Tribute To Angela Meyer

Lately, my thoughts have turned more and more frequently to Angela MeyerAlthough not in that way.  Really.  Purely platonic thoughts is what we’re thinking here.  Right, right, there was that one – but that was an aberration.  Seriously.  Ok, two aberrations.  My point stands.  And I don’t care if I haven’t made a point yet.  It stands nevertheless.  Anyway.  I’m jealous of Angela Meyer.  Let this be clearly understood.  She has more readers than me, she presents Q and As at literary festivals and she’s slightly more attractive than I am.  So I thought I’d see if I could generate a larger following by stealing her style.  I’m not sure how to tackle the whole slightly more attractive thing.  That might take a bit more work. 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

To Homer

I’m not really sure what the following piece is.  It’s certainly not a book review, and I hope it’s not a complete self-indulgence.  The only thing I can say for sure about it is that it felt right when I was writing it, and it still feels right now that I’ve read over it.  It contains a few references that might not be immediately clear if you don’t know my family well.  I can’t really help that.  But it might help, as a starting point, to know that Homer is what we all called my grandfather.  No completely satisfactory explanation of this nick-name was ever given.  Homer died late last year, and his last days were marked by a stoicism and good humour that still takes my breath away.

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Tom Rachman’s ‘The Imperfectionists’

The decline in health of printed newspapers has been going on for a long time.  Online news marked one of the first serious spikes in the fever chart, but by now devices such as the Kindle and iPad look like bringing on cascading organ failure.  It seems pretty obvious that we are now beyond the palliative care stage, and investigating the nicest possible way to pull the plug.

In this atmosphere, Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists is a eulogy for printed news getting in before its deadline.  It’s difficult to place The Imperfectionists: structurally it looks like a series of connected short-stories with the few final chapters acting as a sort of afterword to bring the central message into sharp focus, yet it undoubtedly functions as a novel. Continue reading

To Snark, Or Not To Snark…

Last night the deeply satisfying experience of having friends discuss my blog in my presence was vouchsafed me.  That they failed to gush with fulsome praise and naked envy at the felicity of my prose is neither here nor there.  Let it pass.  Such fleeting worldly rewards are immaterial to me.

What interested me was a comment which amounted to this: ‘I’ve never read anyone who can be so malicious about books as you are.’  It is possible that the intervening hours (and the tumbler of Jameson whisky I was nursing at the time) may have fogged my memory, but the substance of the statement, I’m sure, is rendered accurately. Continue reading