In This Issue (August 2005)
Table of contents
Letters to the editor
Since I first discovered your magazine a few years ago, my interest in reading has been reignited. But I have realised that even more than being swept up in a good story, I love being in bookshops and actually buying books, anticipating the places I'll be taken to, the characters I'll meet and the insights they'll give me about the human condition, to the point that I buy books faster than I can read them.
In an effort to correct this situation, I have gone back to books that I have bought over the years and didn't get ever get around to reading in the hope that when I look at my bookshelf, the titles that greet me in return are books that I have read and not books that I had once been compelled to buy and remain unread on my shelf. Which brings me to the point of this letter.
A long time ago, when I was a student at the University of Wollongong, I knew a girl called Maria. She was studying for a BA in English literature and when I knew her she was taking a class in Canadian literature and she recommended I read Robertson Davies' The Rebel Angels. At the time, she said it was the best thing she had ever read. We lost touch shortly afterwards but I picked up a copy of The Cornish Trilogy , of which The Rebel Angels is the first book, a few years later. I didn't get around to reading it when I bought and it had sat on my bookshelf for about ten years until I picked it up recently and discovered a story that was just incredible. The Cornish Trilogy begins with three men who have been asked to assemble the affairs of the recently deceased Francis Cornish, although these three are only some of the main characters in this book. The second book, What's Bred in the Bone, takes the reader back in time to the life of Cornish whose story is one of the most spellbinding narratives I have ever read in a work of fiction. The concluding book, The Lyre of Orpheus resumes the story begun in the first book, and by the end of it I thought, I have just finished reading one of the greatest stories ever written. Honestly, I cannot recommend this trilogy highly enough.
I don't know where you are, Maria. Word has it that you work in publishing in Melbourne. I don't remember if you ever told me whether you read the whole trilogy. You should. And if you see this letter, call me!
We all have this perception of writers typing fervently in dust-infested attics, seeking literary worth. Writers lock themselves away so they can reach millions. It's an irony most creative people seem to endure. Weeks, months, years are spent in solitary confinement, perfecting an umpteenth draft.
Two years ago I sought to make contact with several authors. Much to my excitement these letters were welcomed. Writers enjoy embracing their readership and generously dole out 'WOWs' (words of wisdom).
As a teacher, I have encouraged children to communicate with their favourite authors. Today one student came running through the classroom, envelope in hand. A treasured letter lay inside clenched fingers. When a writer shares his or her words especially for you, a unique connection is achieved.
Writers like to have their long-suffering work acknowledged and readers like to get that personalised response. It's a win-win situation.
Of course, writers are under no obligation to reply, but I was willing to put pen to paper and those efforts have been rewarded. Here's a hint: send an artistic card.
Lane Cove, NSW
Since my life is divided between England and Tasmania, I only discovered your magazine a few months ago. More's the pity. As someone who has been a professional novelist for 24 years, my life is spent nearly exclusively with or around books, There are several magazines for wannabe writers in England, but none - at least none that I've come across, which doesn't signify much, since I spend most of my time in fictional worlds! - for readers, who are just the people a writer needs to know about.
I wish my life were less peripatetic, otherwise I would take out a subscription, but I would like to say how very much I enjoy reading gr . Congratulations on a terrific publication.
Letter from the editor
No, that's not me on the front cover, nor is it Eric Hansen, though the photograph is from the cover of his latest book, The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer. (It's the Bird Man by the way, well I'm pretty sure it is, I don't think that's the sort of outfit lap dancers are wearing these days.) It's certainly an eye-catching photo, one that also sums up Eric Hansen's approach to travel - he likes to blend in and immerse himself in other cultures. It's an approach that brought him into contact with some fascinating and unusual people who had incredible stories. Eric has a few incredible stories to tell as well as you'll read in Alan Gold's interview beginning on page 12.
I can't imagine ever paying $450,000 for a book - and even if I had that kind of money I'm not sure I'd be spending it on a 'fine first edition of James Joyce's Ulysses signed and inscribed by Joyce'. As someone who consistently gives books away, I obviously don't appreciate the true monetary value of some of the books that pass through my hands. But Rick Gekoski, rare book dealer extraordinaire, certainly knows a valuable book when he sees it and he also has a pretty good idea of who would have the money and the inclination to buy such a book - Barry Humphries perhaps or Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones, or Bernie Taupin, Elton John's lyricist, all clients of Rick's.
Rick details some of his adventures in the rare book trade in his book, Tolkien's Gown, and Felicity Carter was the lucky one who got to hear all the stories that didn't make it into the book. Her interview with Rick can be found on page 40.
After all that excess who better to bring us back to earth than our own Les Murray. To say Les has had a difficult life is something of an understatement. As he himself says 'I was chronically depressed from the age of eight until about 58', but in the midst of all of that Les produced some of the most sublime poetry you'll ever read, poetry that has a distinctly Australian flavour yet is of universal appeal. He's won numerous national and international awards, been awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry and is regarded as one of the world's greatest living poets. That he could have achieved so much whilst struggling with severe depression is amazing, but what he has achieved since a life-threatening illness chased the dreaded 'black dog' away is equally so. If you've never read any of his poetry before now, I guarantee you'll be seeking it out after you've read Jane Gleeson-White's interview with Les on page 22, and just to whet your appetite, he's written two poems especially for us!
If your letter is published, you will receive a MightyBright XtraFlex 2 LED Booklight vakued at $26.95! The wonderfully useful and stylish booklight has 2 LED lights on one head on a flexible arm.
The manufaturer Arnott's of Australia (who's tagline is 'Not the biscuit co'), says the globes will never need replacing.
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