Thursday, 2 July 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ July 2015

Military historians will enjoy The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East 1914-1920 by Eugene Rogan.

It includes detailed descriptions of the battles in the desert during the First World War when the Ottoman Empire (or what remained of it) decided to ally with Germany. I skipped most of this. I wanted to know how England and France decided what was to become of the end of the Empire – Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine. While both England and France trod carefully during the war, for fear of Islamic uprisings in their colonies in India and North Africa, they did have territorial ambitions as well as wanting access to oil. I didn’t really find out. It is in the Middle East more than any other part of the world that legacies of the Great War continue to be felt to this day. Eugene Rogan is a Fellow of St. Antony’s College at Oxford and author of the bestselling The Arabs: A History which charts the route from Ottomanism to Arabism to Islamism.

On the back page of Sascha Arango’s thriller The Truth and Other Lies, Text Publishing offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t love it. I don’t think you will be applying for a refund as it keeps you guessing all the way through. Anti-hero Henry is a famous author as well as a man with an unsavoury past and lots of secrets. One of those secrets is it is his wife who actually writes the books. Then his editor and lover unfortunately becomes pregnant to him! Misfortune all around. I was thinking it would make a terrific film – and I now notice Sascha Arango is best known as a scriptwriter in his German homeland. Enjoy it.

I suspect many of you will already have the fascinating memoir-cum-handbook written by long-time New Yorker staffer Mary NorrisIt is called Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, (although some co-workers prefer to be called a Word Goddess). I now feel very anxious about the hyphen in the line at the start of this paragraph. So very many difficulties! Who was brave enough to proofread the proofreader’s book? Here is the start of one paragraph: ‘Are we losing the apostrophe? Is it just too much trouble? This little squiggle, so like a comma except it has been hoisted up above the letters instead of hooked below the baseline...’ This is some very serious fun. There is a good chapter on using the pencil which reminds me of another quirky book by James Ward. It is called Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case. If you enjoy poking around in a good stationery store this is for you. It is indeed just about stationery unlike an earlier book called The Pencil by Henry Petroski which was a most elegant and philosophical book about design.

Have you seen Helen Mirren’s latest movie The Woman in GoldPerhaps you would like another story about a Klimt portrait? One which took place right here in Sydney. If so I recommend the memoir by Professor Tim Bonyhady called Good Living Street: The Fortunes of my Viennese Family. At the beginning of the century his family was very involved in the artistic life of Vienna and when they left in 1938 for Australia they brought with them a fabulous private art collection, including a Klimt portrait of his great grandmother, which was housed in a tiny flat in Potts Point.

Amitav Ghosh is a Bengali writer - a historical writer writing from the Asian perspective. His Ibis Trilogy is following Anglo-Asian history in a most meticulous way. The first volume was Sea of Poppies, followed by River of Smoke and now, just arrived, the third and final volume is here – Flood of Fire. His characters are battling their way through Asian history. They are only just up to the end of the end of the first Opium War. Because it has taken so long, and so many pages, (each volume is over 600 pages) Ghosh fears he will never come to the end. You will believe this when you look at the endless bibliography of books, papers and articles which he lists at the end of Flood of Fire.

I first read Ghosh as the author of In An Antique Land, stories written while he lived in an Egyptian village for more than ten years. Then I found The Glass Palace, about Britain in Burma and India, covering the events right up to the Fall of Singapore and after. This is my favourite. It is a cross between family saga and historical novel and is in great favour with Asian readers. When I read the first volume of the Ibis saga I was rather overcome and was most interested in the attention paid to the use of Anglo-Asian words, which were explained as treasures taken from the archives of Neel Rattan Halder. The archives had been smuggled out of China by his grandsons etc. Now, I fear I have been too naive. It seems to me that Neel Rattan Halder is a fictitious character (perhaps Ghosh himself). If you google Ibis Chrestomathy you will find this glossary of fantastic words used in the Ibis trilogy. You will also have become part of an enormous community of people, searching on the Internet, with something to say about Ghosh and the many, many characters in his books.  Read the books and perhaps you will join them? I asked Abbey’s bookseller Lindy Jones to see if there was a glossary in the first volume and she suggested to me that perhaps I needed a Hobson-Jobson. Just so! Hobson-Jobson is the short name for A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive. An absolute treasure for Word Nuts. I have just discovered that there is access to Hobson-Jobson online! You might need access to a special font for some of the words. And, I have also just discovered that chrestomathy is defined as ‘a collection of literary passages used in the study of language’.



Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ May 2015

I’ve just finished #24 in Donna Leon’s famous series of mystery thrillers set in Venice.

I have read every single one and enjoy them immensely. This one is called Falling in Love and features Flavia Petrelli, an opera singer who was a character in Leon's first story, called Death at La Fenice, (the famous, very old, Venetian Opera House). Now, many years later, Flavia is being stalked! By someone with a great deal of money who sends enormous bouquets of yellow roses, and finally, a magnificent, priceless emerald necklace. There is a sense of doom throughout the story, not surprising as the role Flavia is playing is Tosca!

Commissario Brunetti is his usual tactful, perceptive self and we are treated to descriptions of Signorina Elletra's latest fashions and Paola's delicious lunches before the final exciting denouement which takes place onstage at the end of a performance. If you are not an opera buff you may find this a bit slow but it does allow Donna Leon to make use of her musical knowledge. I've also just discovered another book from her which arrived last month. It is called Gondola and is all about the history and the making of this most famous symbol of Venice and with is comes a CD of lovely barcaroles. I must have it!

I became all excited when I saw the books awarded Abbey's Double Reward Points included Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code by that wonderful economics journalist Michael LewisThis was the paperback edition of the book I read in hardback last year. It was the most thrilling book I read all year and worth every penny for the hardback edition. Even if you think you are not interested in the background of the money market you can't fail to be excited by this story or fascinated by the collection of oddballs and eccentrics who take part.

I've been watching the TV series of Wolf Hall at a friend's place as I do not have Foxtel. It has proved to be a serious commitment! It is very dark, literally, as the indoor scenes were filmed using only candlelight. I find myself peering into the darkness and saying “who's that” or “what did he say” (as a lot of whispering goes on). The series also covers the second book in Hilary Mantel's trilogy Bring Up the Bodies, so there is a lot of compression. If you haven't read the books you might be quite at a loss! This explains the sudden return of Wolf Hall to the weekly bestseller list at Abbey's. I had to go home and get out my Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy!

Last month there were several documentaries on TV about descendants of Afghan camel-men, the men who delivered goods from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs as the country opened up. I was reminded of a fascinating book by Hilarie Lindsay, who was one of the members of the Zonta Club of Sydney. Hilarie was the person who invited me to join the club and this is how Abbey's came to run, each year, Meet the Author events where we raised money for the Club's charities and also made an opportunity for people to meet authors. We did this for twenty five years but eventually it didn't seem necessary any more as Australian authors were now generally getting great publicity. Some customers will remember those events. Now we just have a fund-raising evening for the club members.

Amongst her many achievements Hilarie was the President of the Society of Women Writers so she was especially interested when she first read about Winifred Steger, a prolific writer, and they became regular correspondents. Later, in her seventies, Hilarie began a Ph.D. at Sydney University working on a Thesis about Women Writers but the extraordinary life of Winifred Steger took over and after completing her degree Hilarie expanded the thesis into The Washerwoman's Dream: The Extraordinary Life of Winifred Steger 1882-1981. The book was published in 2002 and has been reprinted four times. It is extraordinarily interesting, full of down-to-earth details as well as amazing adventures. Winifred Steger's childhood, in early Queensland, was harsh and unhappy until she ran away from a brutal husband to work as a washerwoman in a country pub. Here she met a kind and handsome Indian Moslem man, Ali, and with him she went to South Australia where they had a camel-string taking goods up to Alice Springs. They had three children and were poor but happy, leading a nomadic life, or living in ghantown - part of Oodnadatta. Sadly Ali died during a visit to India and the Moslem community insisted a husband be found for Winifred. This is where the adventures start!

Suffice to say Winifred accompanied her new husband on the Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, a most dangerous and difficult passage, which is described in detail. Winifred is made of stern stuff and proves a better pilgrim than her husband. While waiting to board the ship in Karachi she physically comes to the rescue of some women being badly treated by the quarantine officer, also a woman. She becomes quite famous and is named Zatoon after a Moslem Woman Warrior. In the desert they encounter the caravan of King Ibn Saud and she is invited to meet him. On the way home to Australia she is invited to stay at the Palace of the Khalifat in Bombay where she meets Ghandi, and is given special authority to report to the Khalifat about Moslem children in Australia. On return to Australia she soon realises this doesn't mean much, but she is invited to speak to the Theosophical Society in Adelaide several times and gains a contract from the Adelaide Register newspaper to send regular accounts of her voyage to Mecca. Winifred had always been writing and now she was in full flight.

Later on she is invited again to India to be the Governess for the children of the King and Queen of Afghanistan – just when they are about to be deposed! This is an amazing episode – she is fitted out with a white linen suit and a pith helmet, plus a gilt-tipped walking stick, so she can walk in the party heading for the villages on the way to Khyber Pass as a representative of the British! So that villagers will welcome them. This is a truly amazing story of an indomitable woman, finding her balance in a Moslem community despite her fierce independent views, and always finding a way to make ends meet.

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Abbey's Bookseller Pick ~ Autobiography by Morrissey

With Morrissey hitting our shores in May 2015 for a run of concerts at the Sydney Opera House during the VIVID Festival. Sadboys and Sadgirls who haven't yet read his Autobiography ~ what are you waiting for?!

Autobiography by Morrissey

For any Morrissey fan, this is a joy to read for the language alone. Steven Patrick Morrissey does most definitely enjoy and employ a poetic turn of phrase and indulge his passion for alliterative word play. The effect is such that you could just about take any passage from the book and, in your best Moz impersonation, sing it aloud (yes, of course I did this). More importantly it was a page turner which, for a big book with small print and no chapters(!), is a good thing.

My fandom is always focused on the art alone which in Morrissey's case is his unique vocal delivery so perfectly matched to his extraordinary lyrics. That meant I really knew nothing of Morrissey apart from the fact he came from Manchester. The first part, telling of early family life, school and the streets of Manchester, read very much like a Dickens novel - full of grim menace and florid characters. Striking observations paint the mood, such as the appearance of any man at the door being taken as a sign of danger.

We move through early music influences and the emergence of his own desire to create, and throughout the book there are instances of Moz's own fanboy impulses, nearly always and not surprisingly deflating experiences.

The Smiths. Here the battle begins. Morrissey's early artistic life seems almost entirely full of incompetence - that of label executives, managers, and also his own and Johnny Marr's. Everyone bumbles along. The young artist is easy prey. The invective is ripe.

When the book arrives at the legal battle that was to destroy The Smiths, the scar is a chasm. The bile that Morrissey spews onto the judge is infectious and I feel the rage, although I'm aware that I'm only getting one side of the story. Mike Joyce's name is mud and the possibility of a Smiths reunion seems laughable in the extreme.

The book then moves on to life post-Smiths and a gradual emergence and point-scoring against a perceived perennial snubbing by England's music press, and a succession of world tour love-ins where he finally receives the accolades and adoration he craves. I had noticed, with minor annoyance, the US spelling throughout the book. Odd for an autobiography from a person from the UK published by a UK imprint, but not so odd when we appreciate the world-wide nature of his fan-base and in particular that of the US.

Is Morrissey difficult? I guess so, but that is probably the prerogative of an artist trying to pull something out of the morass of mediocrity.

Is Morrissey happy? I guess so. Laughter is not something that features in the book and it would seem, in life his generally. If it was, could he have written the lyrics he does? Morrissey writes his life in his songs. He notes a memorable exchange with a producer who asked "Do you ever get tired of singing 'I,I,I,I,I,I,I'?" to which Morrissey replies with dripping derision, "I?"

Craig Kirchner

p.s. Sitting alongside Morrissey's glorious special edition hardback (full of interesting colour pics not included in the Penguin Black Classic edition) I spy a book titled Cowboys and Indies by Gareth Murphy. On the cover, at the bottom, is a quote by Geoff Travis, who was head of The Smiths' label, Rough Trade. Of Cowboys and Indies Travis says "If this book was a group, I would definitely sign them. It is that good." It makes me smile to think of Morrissey's response.

Available from Abbey's ~ or 131 York Street Sydney (next to the QVB and Town Hall).

Autobiography by Morrissey

Friday, 17 April 2015

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ April 2015

Not everyone will immediately recognise the term Anchoress, which is the title for Robyn Cadwallader’s intriguing first novel.

In the Middle Ages an Anchorite or Anchoress was someone who has withdrawn from the world in order to devote their life to God. Cadwallader is a medieval historian and for her Ph.D she wrote a dissertation on the attitude to virginity in the Middle Ages, when a religious life was often a better choice for a woman.

I was surprised to learn that the anchoress, sealed into a small cell attached to the side of the church, also had a parlour and two maids who attended to her wants, while her expenses were guaranteed, in this case by the Lord of the Manor.

Sarah, our Anchoress, has chosen to escape her worldly problems after the death of both her mother and her sister in childbirth. She has already seen the desire in the eyes of Sir Thomas, heir to the manor. This is no romantic serial, but a thoughtful and interesting look at life in the Middle Ages and of the importance of the written word.

The Ancrene Wisse, or Guide to Anchorites, is called by Sarah her Book of Rules and she tries hard to obey. She has a small window and a thin narrow “squint” so that she can see into the church and take part in services and it is her duty to advise and pray for the people who come to visit her.

It seems a small story but is in fact quite thrilling and in places the religious descriptions are both sensuous and physical. An unusual but satisfying book.

Do you remember the amusing novels written in the late Sixties and Seventies by David Lodge? Still fun to read. Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work are now all in one volume called The Campus Trilogy. Lodge was an industrious writer and successful academic with many books to his credit including a big fat novel about H.G. Wells called A Man of Parts. He has now produced a memoir called Quite A Good Time to be Born: A Memoir: 1935-1975. Quite so. I agree as I am in that bracket. It is clear-eyed and honest with equal attention given to his writing life, his academic career and his Catholic conscience.

Not everyone will find this riveting but if you have any interest in literary criticism, or academic rivalry you will lap this up. He makes touching reference to Malcolm Bradbury, a colleague and friend at Birmingham University. People often confused them – who wrote what? Bradbury's most famous novel was The History Man, another very funny novel about the Swinging Seventies.

I greatly enjoyed reading Kate Grenville's latest book, One Life: My Mother's Story. It has a coveted sticker on the front bearing the words Women's Weekly Great Read, and indeed it will be for many, many women and some men as well. It is both domestic and literary as well as inspiring. Her mother's country childhood was difficult but this clever, sensitive, practical girl somehow got to university and became one of the few qualified female pharmacists. She even ran her own business several times, usually defeated by the lack of childcare opportunities. And like many other mature women, after the Whitlam Government brought in free university education, she obtained a B.A. with Honours and at long last became what she had always wanted to be – a teacher. It is a story that well illustrates the huge changes in social life since the Second World War, for both men and women.

I enjoyed reading Twiggy: The High-Stakes Life of Andrew Forrest by Andrew Burrell, which won the Business Book of the Year Prize. It is called An Unauthorised Biography and is absolutely fascinating. What a complex, brave and fascinating character! Not just the 'good guy' in the blue shirt and moleskin trousers. Whatever your verdict, people like him are an asset. I'm sending a copy to my son in Western Australia who now works for Woodside.

I have begun the Neapolitan Quartet novels written by Elena Ferrante, who is getting great publicity by remaining totally unknown! Who can she be? Who writes such a fascinating story? Who is really writing what is being called a 'modern masterpiece'? The first novel is called My Brilliant Friend.

Filled with characters, you really need the list of characters at the beginning. And, like a good Saturday afternoon serial, it finishes at a moment where you are left on tenterhooks! Where is the next instalment! For me there are rather too many details (a bit like my attitude to Donna Tartt) but altogether it is an absorbing picture of Italian life in the 1950's. How far will it go?

Like all the reviewers quoted I can't wait for the next instalment. The next two books are The Story of a New Name followed by Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. The fourth book The Forgotten Child is due out from Text Publishing in October. Translation from the Italian is by Ann Goldstein, who is also an editor at The New Yorker.

Abbey's Language Book Centre also has some of the Italian editions.

Entries for the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, run by Australian Book Review, close on 1st May. Is yours finished? Get it in. See for information.

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Monday, 2 March 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ March 2015

I recently read the very touching note that Oliver Sacks wrote in The New York Times, announcing that he has liver cancer.

Remember his famous books? The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and The Mind's Eye - about how we experience the visual world - or Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain and Awakenings which was adapted into the film starring the late Robin Williams. Sacks has possibly been the most prominent of doctor-authors in recent decades.

Following in the footsteps of Sacks is another doctor-author who writes like a dream - Atul Gawande. Gawande is a Harvard-educated surgeon, Rhodes Scholar, New Yorker staff writer and as a young man was part of Bill Clinton's Health Care Task Force. He is the son of Indian migrants to America, both of whom are doctors. I want to recommend his wonderful new book called Being Mortal. Bearing in mind the increasing percentage of the population which is over sixty (and I'm in that group) this book is all about end-of-life care and end-of-life living and mostly refers to practice in America.

We've put this in Biography as he contrasts the life of his grandfather in an Indian village and the life of his grandmother-in-law in America who moved into assisted living. There are revealing anecdotes and case histories which will raise lots of thoughts. I think the book will be especially useful to anyone working in any of the health-care professions.

I really enjoyed reading The Torch by Peter TwohigThis is the sequel to The Cartographer and is again set in 1960's Melbourne where the surviving twelve-year old twin, Super Hero Detective, is on the edge of momentous goings-on. He is such a wonderful character it took me a while to realise he doesn't have a name. He is known as "the Blayney Kid" or, if Grandpa wants to give him some advice (such as "keep it to yourself"), Grandpa calls him Nipper.

Grandpa seems to be a sort of Godfather for petty criminals in Richmond, while Mr and Mrs Sanderson are involved with ASIO, and everyone is after a briefcase with documents and also a kid who likes starting fires. It is a sort of softer grade Underbelly and I smiled all the way through. The laconic Blayney Kid has an inexhaustible supply of expressions such as "I was already in as much hot water as you'd need to boil a bucket of yabbies" or "where we stuck out like a banjo at a funeral". Lots of fun. You don't need to read The Cartographer first but I recommend it also.

Thinking about expressions reminds me of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, one of my favourite books. It is neither a dictionary nor an encyclopaedia but is packed full of information about popular expressions which may have come from myth, legend, language or culture. We have several editions of this including the 19th edition (it was first published in 1870) and a special one which is Brewer's Dictionary of Irish Phrase and Fable.

Kel Richards, a local author and radio host, who has written both crime stories and children's stories has previously written a Dictionary of Australian Phrase and Fable and has now enlarged on this with The Story of Australian English which is a chatty, easily read sketch of the history and development of Aussie Lingo. He suggests a base of regional British dialects, Aboriginal words and convict words and develops this into an outline sketch of history and language. He quotes and recommends other Australian authors of books about language such as E. E. Morris' Austral English or Sydney Baker's Australian Language. Austral English was published even before the one and only Oxford English Dictionary was completed.

This is a very entertaining and useful book with numerous lists of interesting words, including the list of Flash Language compiled by James Hardy Vaux, an early convict (he arrived in 1801) who maintained his determination to lead a life of crime. I've always puzzled why the beautiful yellow-blossomed tree that I call a wattle is also called acacia. Kel proposes that this comes from the building technique known as wattle and daub (wattling is the verb to describe the action of threading the branches through the uprights which are then packed with mud).

While you are browsing in Abbey's excellent Linguistics section you could also look at Pam Peters' Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage or Susan Butler's recent The Aitch Factor: Adventures in Australian English. Some of Kel's contributions to Australian children's literature are Father Koala's Nursery Rhymes, Three Kangaroos Gruff and Big Book of Aussie Dinosaurs. Lindy will show you these in our children's book section.

Really nice is the news that Lily Brett has been awarded the Prix Medicis Etranger for her novel Lola Bensky. She is the first Australian and only the third woman to receive this famous prize. No money but lots of honour. Her latest book is a collection of anecdotes about the city she loves and now calls home. It is called Only In New York and is a delightful record of some of her walks and shopping around town. I am a big fan of all of Lily's books. She does show how very effective the light touch can be.

Lola Bensky is closest to her own life, as a rock journalist in the sixties. Her father is a large character in all her stories, including when she returned to Auschwitz with him. This story is called Too Many Men and appears to be out of print at the moment. Nonetheless my niece in New Zealand, who rescued a copy from the basement of Auckland Library, is reading this and says it is delightful despite the subject. She has been through all of Lily's books now. Another title used to be called You Gotta Have Balls but now it is called Uncomfortably Close. Lily is also a well-regarded poet and short story writer. Look for her books.

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 6 February 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey - February 2015

People Passing... January marked the passing of two famous book people, loyal customers of Abbeys.

I am sure many of our readers will have memories of Jim Thorburn who began Pocket Bookshop in 1958, first in Angel Place, Penfold Place, Hosking Place but most importantly at 137a King Street. And Thorburn's Technical Bookshop in Castlereagh Street was the first technical shop in Sydney. Jim's shop was a meeting place for many thinkers, he was Ron Abbey's first friend in Sydney, and when he retired in 1979 he became a customer here whenever he came to town. Jim's contribution to W.E.A., University of the Third Age and the State Library was only part of the role he played in the intellectual life of our city. Glasgow-born Jim was almost 91.

Painter Tom Carment and author of our Christmas bestseller, Seven Walks, tells me he remembers buying a book by Krishnamurti from Jim who allowed himself to indulge in a Marxist rave on how books like that were not going to change the world! Famous Australian poet Robert Gray says Jim told him Bertrand Russell was a gadfly! Others will remember Jim with his head on one side so as to read the titles on all the spine-out books on the shelves. Or speaking in the Domain for the Socialist Party of Australia. Have you read Robert's autobiography? It is called The Land I Came Through Last.

Jim's Pocket Bookshop played an important role in the increasing acceptance of paperbacks. At first they were regarded as cheap and nasty, (like pulp fiction, which has, ironically, now become a fashionable word). Gradually the big publishers began issuing fiction and non-fiction in the good paperbacks which we now take as usual. When we first opened Abbey's in Pitt Street in 1968 we sold only paperbacks except for hardback remainders, i.e. those books left over after sales of the first printings taper off. This was regarded as rather bad form, as authors do not receive royalties on remainder sales but remainder sales brought people into the shop and we all love a bargain don't we?

And also in January marvellous Colleen McCullough died peacefully at her home in Norfolk Island. We all remember the excitement when her second novel, The Thorn Birds, became such an international best-seller. It was the first Australian work to achieve such sales, seemingly now over thirty million, and which still continues to sell. She wrote many novels including her seven-novel Masters of Rome series. Before her literary fame she was a neurophysiological researcher and worked at Yale University, where the success that a colleague achieved with his book tempted her to begin writing. Who was it? Erich Segal, author of Love Story!

Even when Colleen was in her wheelchair she always came into Abbey's on her trips to Sydney to check out the books. Many of the books in her famous private library on Ancient Rome came from here. We send Ric Robinson our consolations. And Norfolk Island Library is a good customer too.

And more exciting news! Sydney writer Elizabeth Harrower has really been taken up by The New YorkerIt is very hard to get a short story into that famous magazine but the February 2nd edition contains one of Elizabeth's short stories (rescued from the National Library by Text Publishing) It is called Alice. A sad and memorable story. If you get the New Yorker on-line you can hear Elizabeth reading it herself! I hear Text plan to publish a collection of her short stories. That will be a treat! I remember when Amy Witting had a short story in the New Yorker... how long ago was that? Maybe 1990? Soon after Penguin published I for Isobel but now Text publish this Australian classic and soon it will be followed by Isobel on the Way to the Corner Shop. Amy Witting died in 2001.

Even more exciting news just to hand via Sian McNabney, one of Abbey's appreciated booksellers. There is to be a sequel to Harper Lee's amazingly famous To Kill a Mockingbird. It will be issued in July 2015 and is called Go Set a Watchman. In it Scout is a grown woman, returning to her home town to visit her father, Atticus Finch. It all seems genuine. It is claimed this was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and not accepted for publication so Lee began again with Scout as a child.

Talking of remainders... in our Bargains section we have an excellent paperback called 1215: The Year of Magna Carta for only $10. This is by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham and is a treasure house of detail about medieval domestic life which also puts the Charter beside other events happening at that time, such as Genghis Khan entering Beijing. It was published in 2003 so they were a bit ahead of the due date! It is this year, 2015, which is the 800 year anniversary of Magna Carta. It is interesting that the Americans revere the Charter so much. There is a special rotunda at Runnymede erected by the American Bar Association as a "tribute to Magna Carta, a symbol of Freedom Under Law".

I've been re-reading Andrew McGahan's The White Earth, which won the Miles Franklin in 2005, the first year I was on the judging panel. It is the story of a boy living on a far-from successful farm on the Darling Downs who goes to live with his great-uncle on a large station nearby. It is the 1990s when Native Title Act was coming in and rumblings of One Nation began. I was inspired to re-read this because those grand Bunya Bunya trees and their role in Aboriginal corroborees are important characters in the story and I have found four Bunya Bunya trees in a small back street in Manly! These ancient trees are way south of their usual habitat - they must have been there before the street was there! Fortunately they are protected now and the council today was busy gathering the big nuts before they fall on the parked cars!

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers