What do you do with a pair of bookends, A and Z, lower case? We reclaimed a small bookshelf and found a space in the hall for it. This let me clean up some of the over piled books off various shelves and floors. The horizontal shelf run is less than 80 cm and the top shelf is open which allows for variable book heights. So here we go with a random A to Z, largely based on author name, unless it isn’t. Obviously Q, X and Z were going to be tricky but the biggest surprise was the time I spent amongst the thousand or so books trying to spot an N. In the end it was a choice of two, and Bill Neidjie Kakadu Man would have been equally worthy of a spot on the top shelf.
Louis Aragon Paris Peasant
I certainly started this at one time, but I think it just petered out. From memory I decided I needed a book one Sunday, I was in Cosmos and this was in Picador. This will be useful when next I choose to exercise my inner situationist / surrealist flaneur by walking my pet lobster upon the fabled streets of gay Paree.
Bill Bryson Shakespeare
Bryson always provides a good read and his work on Shakespeare gives us the known facts and helpfully debunks the Oxfordian loons. Bryson is at his best with an amusing digression or anecdote and Made in America is perhaps his best and most heartfelt book. Someone had to come from Iowa and it’s good that Bill moved on to other climes.
GK Chesterton The scandal of Father Brown
I want to read more Chesterton, particularly The man who was Thursday, which would make a nice companion piece with Conrad’s The secret agent. Edwardian steampunk terrorism seems so benign from this distance. Father Brown the clerical detective is a gentle intro to Chesterton who was well regarded way back and is still mostly in print, and very much in Tablet because out of copyright.
Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe
Sits ironically among the crowd of other books in a colourfully covered kiddies hardback. Who knew back then that it was a parable of the coming of money and the division of labour, both of which were hot topics in the early 18th century?
Janet Evanovich Hard eight
I can’t remember anything about it – holiday reading par excellence with Steph, Joe, Lula, Ranger, Granny and an exploding car or two.
George MacDonald Fraser Flashman and the angel of the lord
The greatest military memoirist of the 19th century describes his adventures in the US in the lead up to the Civil War. Harry, guns, women and a volatile political situation – what could possibly go wrong?
Granta One Hundred
Granta was almost a must read every time back in the 80’s. I must have bought more twenty of them over the journey, enticed in by the theme, the cover or the featured authors. There are still a few others on the shelf and I bought special issue number 100 at an op shop just for old times sake. Looking at the contents page I may actually have to open it up and read a few pieces.
Lots of the old gang get a guernsey for this one: Martin, Julian, Hanif, Doris, Salman and others who may even need both names to identify them – the two Isabel’s.
Harlem: the 30s
Great little picture postcard book with photos of Harlem in the 30s.
Icons James Park
This British book detailed who you just had to be aware of to be cool with over 1000 post war “style makers and breakers”. Cover pix of Marilyn, John Paul 2, Bob Marley and Star of the Sea’s own Germaine shows that this is not some buttoned down academic effort but was hip to celebrity culture as well. That was what I loved about Modern Review, as was said ‘twixt then and now, “back in the day”.
Kate Jennings Moral Hazard
An Australian lefty works in the belly of the beast – Wall Street – and comes to see some of the protagonists as flawed human beings even as they go about their business of financial mass destruction back in the good old innocent days before LTCM and Enron. The 1990’s weapons of financial mass destruction were not as well crafted or effective as are our 21st century versions of same. I liked this and need to read more of her books. Sadly I don’t think she has revisited this territory.
Franz Kafka The trial
Did I like this book? Did I understand it? What was it about? Have I really turned into a cockroach?
Lennie Lower Here’s luck
Some forms of humour do not age well. Lennie Lower was regarded as being Australia’s funniest man on the radio in the 1940’s before his early death by alcohol. This is his comedic tale of a Sydney father and son baching together in the depression years, getting rat faced drunk far too often and generally being a neighbourhood disgrace. A modern version would probably be regarded as a British sit com masterpiece, but it is all far too misogynist and stupid. The greatest sin of all is that it is not that funny.
Melbourne by David Cecil
A biography of the British PM our city was sycophantically named for. It sits hopefully on the shelf waiting for me to open the front cover.
Jaroslav Novak-Niemela Australia: the great south land
A book of photos targeted at the throng of Olympic tourists coming to Melbourne in 1956. We had such quaint rules about building height, but there were some impressive buildings dating back to the era of Marvellous Melbourne.
Redmond O’Hanlon Trawler
This is a meditation on the modern economy and ecology of fishing in the North Atlantic, as well as a treatise on the effects of sleep deprivation and hard physical labour on men operating in extreme conditions. None of the answers provided are particularly comforting.
Shirley Purvis Dairy for the domestically insane
For anyone who has ever shared their days at home with the wee folk. Wine helps with preparing dinner – sometimes I even cook with it.
John Quiggin Great expectations
This book describes the neo liberal experiment in Australia under Hawke and Keating. His recent book, Zombie economics, continues the story by describing the economic fallacies believed in by many in politics and the economics profession which have helped us get to where we are today.
Joel Rose New York sawed in half
A shaggy dog story from the early 19th century where a couple of plausible liars reputedly persuaded many of the unemployed to turn up with shovels to dig a canal across Manhattan, or maybe not. At the time it followed on nicely from the story of the building of the Erie Canal which I was inspired to read by the Springsteen version of the Pete Seeger song. Now that was a major infrastructure project that changed the USA and the wider North Atlantic world. This boom has plenty of wonderful period detail about NYC when it was more of a small applet.
Stawell past and present by Maynard Ord
This is a reproduction of the original 1896 history of Stawell, still hopefully awaiting my inspection. The geography of the top shelf reads like one of those dodgy tourist T shirts – Paris, New York, Melbourne, Stawell. Three down, one to go!
Mark Twain Tom Sawyer
Like the Defoe, a colourful hardback kid’s edition. Thank you to Google for celebrating Sam Clemens’ recent birthday with a picture of Tom and the boys painting the fence.
Francis Spufford & Jenny Uglow Cultural Babbage
Steampunk – the academic exploration, with footnotes. This is the non-fiction version of Gibson & Sterling’s Difference engine and the much of the detail is just fascinating.
Oxford book of Villains by John Mortimer
Lots of stories to dip in and out of; and John Mortimer knows what makes a good crime story.
Wu Cheng-en Monkey
I really must go back for another look at the classic Chinese Buddhist quest, or even try to find a few of the old TV shows.
Cao Xueqin Dream of the red chamber
Thin little pocket excerpt of a Chinese classic bought for 50 cents. It will be money well spent if I open it one day.
New Yorker The Money Issue
It’s the New Yorker so of course there are some interesting articles, including one by Malcolm Gladwell.
Theodore Zeldin An intimate history of humanity
This is a history of the development of manners and the way in which personal relations have changed with the growth of affluence and education over the past three centuries. If I remember rightly he posited that better communication between equals represented a vastly positive step for humanity. Obviously we still need more of it.