THE OVER­FLOW

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - ROSE­MARY SORENSEN

WHAT’S to be­come of us? You go into one classy book­shop, the kind where the peo­ple who run it are a fount of knowl­edge and the books on the shelf, in the past, have been care­fully cho­sen to in­trigue and de­light, and you dis­cover it is now into de­signer books, cater­ing for a clien­tele who co- or­di­nate their car­pets with their couch and their books, and are will­ing to pay big bucks for a ti­tle that looks gloss­ily ex­pen­sive, never mind what it’s about. Such a book­shop is more decor than deco­rum. Across town, an equally classy book­shop, run by an equally bril­liant book­seller, is knick- knack heaven. Along­side the real books, there’s the equiv­a­lent of junk food. The poor book­seller, look­ing re­signed if a lit­tle sad, says that’s what folk want th­ese days from a book­shop, so, so be it. The times, they are al­ways a- changin’. IT was in­ter­est­ing to watch the re­ac­tion to the news that Michael Bond, au­thor of the Padding­ton Bear books, will put out what is pre­sum­ably one last book ( Bond is 83, his bear 50) in which his Peru­vian stow­away to Lon­don will be in­ter­ro­gated as an il­le­gal im­mi­grant. All the merry japes about how to pros­e­cute Alice for her drug prob­lem and Toad for road rage skirt around the in­trigu­ing ques­tion: is Bond go­ing to de­liver a mes­sage about po­lice in­ter­ro­ga­tion or il­le­gal im­mi­grants? IT’S a con­stant and rarely vic­to­ri­ous bat­tle to try to con­vince those in lead­er­ship roles that nur­tur­ing cre­ativ­ity and intelligence is com­plex, re­quir­ing, for starters, an ab­so­lute com­mit­ment to the idea that mea­sur­ing suc­cess only by mar­ket- driven val­ues is stupid. You know the kind of think­ing: a lit­er­ary prize is enough to cre­ate good writ­ers and a healthy read­ing com­mu­nity. So let us pause for a mo­ment and ponder this state­ment from the French ( ah Baude­laire, oooh Diderot, yes, please, Flaubert) Pres­i­dent, Ni­co­las Sarkozy, la­belling the arty book pro­grams on French television a ‘‘ cul­tural ghetto’’. More ad­ver­tis­ing is Sarkozy’s ad­vice: ‘‘ What’s good for the best­seller is good for books,’’ he says. WHAT on earth are we to ex­pect from the film ver­sion of J. M. Coet­zee’s Dis­grace , which is due next year? Such a har­row­ing book and so de­pen­dent on the dis­qui­et­ing strange­ness of the cen­tral char­ac­ter. John Malkovich is odd enough and coura­geous enough, but is he good enough to por­tray all that on screen? More to the point, can a script get any­where near the thump­ing, ac­cu­mu­lated hor­ror of Coet­zee’s text? LOVELY quote from Marc Tes­tart, who won the in­au­gu­ral Aus­tralian Po­etry Slam at the State Li­brary of NSW this month. ‘‘ I thought I was born 300 years too late and this con­tem­po­rary po­etry com­pe­ti­tion gives me hope I was born right on time,’’ Tes­tart says. We think he means at the right time and we don’t think he means he’s as good as Shake­speare but more along the lines of sug­gest­ing we are liv­ing through a great pe­riod for po­etry. Now, how many words can we rhyme with slam?

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