From the warm and witty Edmund Pegge we have a few thoughts on being a small part of the Dr Who phenomenon:
On being interviewed at a Dr Who convention in Adelaide the following conversation occurred:
Int: How did you approach your part?
Ed: Probably learnt my lines and hit my marks. It was a long time ago.
Int: What did you think of being in Dr Who at the time?
Ed: Nothing. It was just another job.
Int: How did being in Dr Who affect your career?
Ed: It didn’t until now.
The gathering were slightly astonished at how casual and perhaps irreverent I was being in what is now seen as iconic television. At the time Dr Who was just a popular series with a widening fan base. In retrospect there is a strong case for saying that Tom Baker and Louise Jameson were the most convincing Doctor and offsider. Baker was highly intelligent and had an intellectual charisma.
The episode in which I played Meeker in ‘The Invisible Enemy’ had a notable first appearance – K9 the robot dog. This was most gratifying as we all earned heaps of overtime as K9 kept breaking down. What is more, I was pleased to hear that he was voiced by John Leeson, an actor friend of mine whom I last saw at a Dr Who convention in London.
That was my first experience of a convention. There was only myself, John and another actor, the other eight were technicians and a tea lady from those days. In other words, anyone vaguely connected was invited along. I signed dozens of DVD covers and posters and all insisted on a photo with me. I was their star buddy in a flash. It took a lot less than 15 minutes!
To read more about Ed’s adventures as a working actor, have a look at his hilarious and astonishing memoir, Forever Horatio, available here.
‘What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.’
― Neil Gaiman
In an age of Internet sales a humble bookshop could seem archaic. In a march to digitise and automate, something so small as a bookshop could be considered an afterthought. Yet, those of us who frequent shelves and bookstalls, who know of other lives and worlds and realms within pages, we know a bookshop is more. It is the soul of a place, wherever that place may be, and the heart of a community.
This Saturday 12 August marks Love your Bookshop Day, an occasion that invites anyone to celebrate his or her local bookshop, with events and programs throughout Australia. Drop into your local this Saturday to support and celebrate what makes your bookshop special.
A taste of the events happening around Adelaide:
- Booked at North Adelaide has a giant book raffle (drawn at 4 pm)
- Dillons Norwood Bookshop has book readings (2 pm), face-painting and giveaways
- Imprints Booksellers on Hindley Street has countless of activities and prizes
- Matilda Bookshop in Stirling has book-buying advice from authors, an illustrator in residence and a competition for a stack of books
- Mostly Books in Mitcham will be championing a young writers group along with raffles and more
And of course we are open with our Mile End store, 1 – 5 pm. All books are 3 for 2 (cheapest book free) with a free cat or dog book bag if you spend over $75. We have an I Love My Dog and My Dog Loves Me book giveaway as well.
Guys guys guys, the book world is out of control at the moment. Everyone’s having way too much fun and just needs to calm down a little.
For example? Well, the New Yorker has picked up on the fact that every single book seems to be called The Girl on the Something at the moment, and they’ve run this glorious spoof. Funny book-related content + an astute observation of the issues of depicting sexual assault + casual references to lacrosse teams? I’m in.
Next, romance seems to be the genre that just keeps giving. There’s this list of the greatest romance covers of all time, which also links to one of the most ridiculous readings of all time. Then there’s the news that KFC has legit released their own romance novella starring the Colonel, with their own schmaltzy promo video. Legit.
Finally – and this one’s for the editing dorks – the New York Times now has a copyediting quiz series so you can test your editing chops. Here’s a hot tip: it’s a good idea to be on top of your who/whom usage before you start. So much fun. So dorky.
And now, to get your weekend off to a good start, let Wakefield FM court. YouTube get you in the mood. A bit of Pharrell seems appropriate for a Friyay … Have a good weekend, everyone!
Sally van Gent has lived adventurously. She’s dined with the Bedouin, dived deep into the Arabian Sea, and climbed aboard a tanker for a midnight rendezvous. Her latest memoir, The Navy-blue Suitcase, is a collection of stories from her travelling life told with ‘optimism, humour, an indefatigable faith in a better future, and a powerful sense that life is what you make of it, no matter what cards you’ve been dealt’ (ANZ LitLovers LitBlog). Today we’re sharing a little snippet from the years that Sally spent living in Doha, Qatar.
Patterns in the rock
There are no fancy restaurants or indoor cinemas in Doha. Those Westerners who work for the oil company have their own pool and sporting facilities, but for the rest of us, our social life centres around a modest sailing club and whatever home entertainment we can devise.
We know all of the expatriates in Doha who drink and want to let off steam: the Lebanese, the Armenians and French, the Germans, Brits and South Americans, Singaporeans and Aussies. Between them they throw some wonderfully wild and varied parties – so good that no one wants to fly home for Christmas.
There’s no work on Fridays, and in summer we sail or swim. Winter brings with it mild, balmy days, and we take our children into the desert to explore old forts or to slide down sand dunes on cheap tin trays.
We’re heading north one afternoon, driving along a track parallel to the beach, when there’s a flash of pink and we spot a dozen flamingos wading through the shallows. To our left a limestone outcrop rises from the sand, and we drive over and park beside it. The children in the group run off to play on its slopes while we adults lay out the rugs,
unpack the picnic baskets and pour coffee.
Before we can drink it, Angus and his friend Hamish wave to us from the top of the hill and cry out, ‘Come and see what we’ve found!’
I climb up the slope and the boys lead me to where a rectangle has been cut deep into the rock, perhaps for the purpose of catching rainwater. Strange indentations spread out around it – circles, and holes set out in rows, reminiscent of a board game the locals play. There are boat-shapes with what look like oars. I call out to my friends and for an hour we search the rocks, finding more and more carvings. Who would do this? And why?
As evening unfolds the wind stills, and the late-afternoon light casts a rosy glow onto the desert. I look out over its vast sameness and am reminded of how the Bedouin pick out subtle variations in the sand, recognising landmarks that we Westerners will never see.
It’s time to pack up the picnic things and take our children home. The sun is going down and on our way back to the city we pass cars pulled over to the side of the road so their owners can turn to Mecca. They prostrate themselves on the ground and pray.
Later we ask our Qatari friends about the carvings in the rock but few have seen them. Those who have tell us they are very old, ancient even, but as to who made them or for what reason, they have no idea.
Find out more about The Navy-blue Suitcase here.
We had so many wonderful entries for our January newsletter’s Summer Rose Giveaway, thank you all for taking the time to send us your beautiful roses.
We all agreed, however, that the $250 Wakefield Press voucher should go to Ray Tyndale who sent in this lyrical, floral poem:
scant apologies to Tennyson!
Come my poppy
Fling open your flaming petals
Give to me your black heart.
Come my pansy
Toss back your knowing head
Share with me your secret thoughts.
Come my rose
Fill the air with your pungency
I will swim in your scented sea.
Come into the garden
My poppy, my pansy, my darling rose
Entwine with me.
The sun shall succour your black heart
The moon will keep your secret thoughts
And I will drown.
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Okay guys, it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, but it’s Friday funday! That’s a thing, right? Anyway, there’ve been some pretty cool links around recently and we wanna share.
First, we have the ultimate test of Aussie English. Okay, so it’s Buzzfeed, which means it’s a laugh, but there are some little beauties on this list – or should we say bloody rippers?
Next, to take it up a notch, Merriam-Webster have a quiz to test how strong your vocabulary is. You only have ten seconds to answer each question, and it’s bloody stressful. Especially for editors. We have a lot riding on this, guys!
If you actually want a good read, rather than endless quizzes (not that there’s anything wrong with quizzes!) trundle over to the Guardian, where there’s a piece about 2016’s word of the year: post-truth. Perfectly apt, given the situation in America at the moment (and elsewhere). Still, take us back to last year, when the word of the year was an emoji. Ah, simpler times …
And last but certainly not least, the Bad Sex in Fiction awards are back! Some of the quotes will leave you breathless – in a bad way:
I spill like grain from a bucket
My whole body had gone inside her. … My body was her gearstick.
The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors.
Oh, bless. There’s nothing like a brisk game of tennis.
And now, to welcome the weekend, to pay our dues, in memoriam, and just because he is/was/will always be the best, we’ll leave you with some Leonard. A man whose lyrics were never, ever, nominated for a bad sex award …
Music writer, bookseller and history buff Robert Brokenmouth paints a picture of the man and the circumstance behind the classic war novel, 101 Nights by Ray Ollis.
The night [was] whirling about them, tossing them easily on its powerful way… Their throttles were open now, straining against the storm. Hyde checked his petrol, checked his watch, and cast a troubled glance over his shoulder looking for the dawn. If this weather strengthened, the day might find them still over Europe. (101 Nights)
101 Nights is, as far as I can tell, the first book, fiction or otherwise, to accurately address most of the issues connected with the bombing of Germany during WWII, issues which became more distorted for decades after the end of the war. 101 Nights tells the story of Ray Ollis’s squadron, 101, and its operations over the skies of Occupied Europe, by night and by day.
In our September newsletter, we ran a giveaway for Ivor Hele and asked entrants to tell us about their favourite holiday destination. We just had to share this amazing response sprinkled with historic family photos from our prize winner, Meg.
A place where I have spent many wonderful holidays is Myponga Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula. It’s a beautiful blend of rural ‘Southern Mount Lofty’ landscapes along with a crescent bay which can be so calm and benign at times, yet thrilling in its energy when the winds and tides change. As a child I walked to the nearby farm to buy milk, cream and eggs. We were “in another world” yet able to look across the sea to the twinkling lights of Aldinga – now much more extended – and the peaks of Mount Lofty. How privileged we were!
There is a long family history from my great grandparents’ time down there; many photographs; and it is the place where I first gained a childhood awareness of the aboriginal culture – artefacts having been found in the sandhills which were once a burial ground.
In 2016 the Friends of the Barr Smith Library have teamed up with Wakefield Press to present a series of talks by Wakefield Press authors. On 21 April, renowned novelist Stephen Orr entertained the masses (despite attesting that he prefers to ‘terrify’) with an overview of his writing career, beginning with this fitting reflection on the Barr Smith itself.
You can listen to Stephen’s speech in its entirety here thanks to Radio Adelaide.
I first came to the Barr Smith twenty years ago. Sat in a corner, somewhere. Admired the spray-on concrete ceiling, the flickering lights, the books about mycology. Eventually, I sharpened my pencil and began. What might’ve been a career; although it’s mostly felt like a hobby; what might’ve been the Great Australian novel; although the remaindered fragments of the 2000 Vogel-runner-up, Attempts to Draw Jesus, are scattered far and wide. The pages yellow; the glue fails; the spine cracks. You find a copy (inscribed) at the Port Dock market. $3.00, or negotiable.
Point being. I was off and running. On a career that’s had more downs than ups, lows than highs, disappointments than vindications. Henry Lawson went through something similar. His advice to Australian writers was to ‘study elementary anatomy, especially as it applies to the cranium, and then shoot yourself carefully with the aid of a looking glass.’ Ninety years later, George Johnston felt the same way. Living on the Greek island of Hydra in 1958, he explained his and Charmaine Clift’s combined income of 125 pounds ‘comes from five books in circulation or accepted, two foreign translations, one sale of foreign serial rights, an earlier novel and certain magazine extracts. For this, and all the work it represents, the return…I’m sure you’ll agree is hardly worth while.’
Hardly worth while. But, he explained, ‘I have all sorts of writing plans and shall probably go on producing a novel a year for many years to come.’ This, as all writers know, is the curse of perpetual frustration. He explained it away by saying, ‘I have, you see, enough confidence in myself at least…’
Back to the Barr Smith; two levels below here. The terrazzo dunnies with their outstanding graffiti. Phil Grummet, a character in my second published book, Hill of Grace, studies pharmacology at Adelaide University, but he has a bent for other things (if you know what I mean). This includes perfecting his poetic gifts on the dunny walls (a sort of budget Mastersingers of Nuremburg). Someone drills holes in the walls. Just enough to cop an eyeful. But Phil writes messages like, Not Recommended for Children, or, Insert Here. He adds the predictable: Arts Degrees, please take a single sheet, above the bog paper, and tries some Eliot on the back of the door. We shall never cease from exploring. And he doesn’t. Ending up at Mt Crawford vomiting mushrooms he mistakes for the magic variety.
The Barr Smith has changed. I spent hours watching flies trying to escape from cobwebs, the spider emerging, the worst of natural selection as my fiction went unwritten. I wrote my first five books here. Longhand. Clearing my throat when people talked, and the librarians didn’t spring to life, jumping on the miscreants like an elite SS troop. Eventually I’d give up and move, throwing a angry glance, not that anyone cared. Silence, I think, is the most valuable thing of all. Up there with love, wisdom, an unexpected sunburst.
I loved the Barr Smith’s retro fifties feel, although it wasn’t actually retro. The desks, the chairs, the Khrushchev-era windows. The idea that a million people had written a million books about a million topics and, if I had the time, I could explore them all. That’s always what’s excited me. The potential to know. I could never understand sport. That only ever had the potential to kick a bit further, run a bit faster. So what? So I’d sit there for an hour after I’d finished writing. Looking through maths texts, wondering why I was looking through maths texts. Reading a history of sans serif types, or the Hitler Youth. The same thing I did as a kid, at school. The grass was always green, the sandwiches stale and sweaty. But if you were early enough, and got a copy of Asterix, your lunch would be bearable.
That’s why libraries matters. Why the Barr Smith matters. All of this knowledge is held in trust. For our great great grandkids. God knows they’ll have Weatherill’s plutonium to deal with, so we should leave them something they actually want. I hope the books remain. The heavy, smelly paper types. I hope someone doesn’t come in, digitise them, and then arrange a book burning on the Barr Smith lawns. Or maybe others have that in mind? The Advertiser. Winston Smith snipping away at the truth, producing a world view pleasing to the North Terrace mob. Bill and Ben, flower pot men. Praising ham strings and high octane stupidity in equal measure.
So, now you’re saying. My, he’s a bit angry, isn’t he? To which I reply: Moi? Problem being, speaking writers, it seems, are meant to entertain audiences these days. I prefer to terrify. And at this, Patrick White was the best. If I can share a selected quote: ‘The Bicentennial circus tends to hide from us the fact that we are no longer a democracy. We are a country run by and for millionaires and by a prime minister who toadies to them.’ Or: ‘In a society where there has been such a serious lapse in integrity, our politicians’ attitude to uranium isn’t surprising.’ Wonder what he’d make of Kimba, glowing with golden wheat, sheep, and other things?
Listen to the rest of Stephen’s speech here thanks to Radio Adelaide.
The man sitting next to me introduces himself as Michael Robotham. Someone stops to talk to David Malouf by the side of the harbour. Kerry O’Brien walks by. This could only be Sydney Writers Festival.
But the writers aren’t the only stars. We are here for the Visiting International Publishers (VIPs, indeed). The main game is two days of speed dating between these visitors and Australian publishers and agents hoping to reach beyond our shores.
The event opens on Wednesday with a series of panels about the state of publishing across the globe. Each VIP seems to open by saying their market is ‘much the same’ as the last, before presenting us with something completely different. The Australian sense of humour translates well in Slovenia, where libraries are king. Koreans do not read for pleasure, but will buy Liane Moriarty when it’s framed as self-help. A newborn mobile publisher is hoping to capture the ‘one device’ market of India, delivering serialised books by politicians and adult film stars to smartphones in carefully timed instalments (just in time for the news cycle? Or at 10pm each night?).
In the afternoon, the focus turns inwards but the content is no less stimulating. Sandra Phillips of the First Nations Australia Writers Network challenges all publishers to include at least one First Nations writer on their list every year – not because we should, but because there’s so much wonderful work (Dark Emu, of course, winning Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards on the Monday night). A roundtable on Australian writers festivals, including the directors of the Sydney event, sparks fiery discussion about platforms for Australian writers. Our independent bookshops – looking at you, Readings – come up again and again.
And all to the backdrop of proposed changes to the Australian publishing industry and angst about where the arts sit in this election campaign.
There is certainly a lot to be said.
And there is time for the Writers Festival as well, to discuss Kate Tempest’s electrifying opening address (and the ensuing media storm). To see our authors, Sydney local Jane Jose and New Caledonian visitor Jean-François Vernay, take to the stage to share their insightful books with new audiences. And for a sticky cinnamon scroll from the festival coffee stall (or maybe two).
The Sydney sun is warming, but so is the conversation. Or there is certainly enough to be said.