HOW reprehensibly mealy- mouthed was Peter Garrett’s response to the news that the National Library of Australia would take a big cut to its budget in the ‘‘ efficiency dividend’’ imposed by the federal Government. ‘‘ There is no distinction under this Government between where the efficiency dividend falls as to where it fell under the previous government, so it works in the same way,’’ he apparently said. The Arts Minister clearly has no idea of the importance of our cultural institutions if he thinks a cut of $ 1.186 million to the operating budget of our national library in the name of efficiency is something that can be ‘‘ managed within their own program delivery as well as they can’’ without putting a dent in services. NICK Earls, who has published a swag of books including Bachelor Kisses with Penguin ( although earlier books were published by University of Queensland Press) will move to Random House next year, with a book called The True Story of Butterfish . Earls cites the lure of the Vintage imprint, whose publisher in Australia is Meredith Curnow, as his reason for the swap. Curnow has been with Random since she left the Sydney Writers Festival in 2002 after a successful five years as director. WILL Gail Jones take out the $ 15,000 fiction prize when the Festival Awards for Literature are announced at the Adelaide Writers Festival tomorrow? With a book titled Sorry , you would have to say such a win would be zeitgeist- ish. She’s up against J. M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year , El Dorado by Dorothy Porter, Carpentaria by Alexis Wright ( this is a biennial award, and Wright has won just about everything else in the past couple of years, so she must be short odds, too), The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger McDonald and Janette Turner Hospital’s Orpheus Lost. LOOKING at the books of Nancy Phelan, who died in January, aged 94, I was surprised to find her most recent work was published five years ago, her ‘‘ selective memoir’’, Writing Round the Edges , and that in 2004 she received the Patrick White Award. What a writing life Phelan had, from her first travel book in 1958, through the biographies of her relatives Charles Mackerras and Louise Mack, and a swag of novels. Speaking of long writing lives, goodbye to Alain RobbeGrillet, who died last month aged 85. His work was annoying but it reinvigorated novel- writing in the last century. YOU have to be joking, you Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year Committee people. ‘‘ Pod slurping’’! is ‘‘ inventive and sensuous’’? Oh, maybe there’s a certain unctuous efficacy to this term for downloading large quantities of data from a computer to an MP3 player or memory stick. Sensuous, no. But evocative, yes. MICHAEL Portillo, chairman of the Man Booker Prize panel, on his inaugural and endearingly stiff blogspot: ‘‘ The trouble with a novel is that if you do not finish it you may miss the twist or the ending that makes it remarkable and memorable. On the other hand, if you cannot bear the first hundred pages you are unlikely to feel that it is the outstanding novel of the year.’’ Clearly, Portillo, a former British Conservative Party politician, is keen on stating the obvious. As part of the prize’s 40th anniversary, readers can vote for the Best of the Booker award. Details at www. themanbookerprize. com.