The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

or ( d) Schus­ter, which is pub­lish­ing other verse like this from a long- lost man­u­script that has mirac­u­lously just come to light, says: ‘‘ They’re lyri­cal, they’re funny, they’re sin­gu­lar, and ev­ery­body looking at them, when we first saw them, knew they could be by no one other than Bob.’’ MATT Ottley’s heinous use of a swear word in Re­quiem for a Beast, the ap­pear­ance of which in print is likely, so his crit­ics say, to turn small chil­dren into drool­ing mon­sters, is ab­so­lutely noth­ing com­pared with the crimes of Jac­que­line Wil­son, su­per­star of kid­slit in Bri­tain. In My Sis­ter Jodie , one char­ac­ter calls an­other a twat. New edi­tions will change the word to twit, af­ter a cou­ple of com­plaints. The pub­lisher, Ran­dom House, has ap­par­ently al­ready sold 150,000 copies, but is now say­ing it will with­draw copies of the book un­til a new edi­tion ap­pears. This is get­ting silly. WHAT bet­ter time to re­mind our­selves of John Milton’s de­fence of free speech, in Are­opagit­ica : ‘‘ Many a man lives a bur­den to the earth; but a good book is the pre­cious life- blood of a mas­ter spirit, em­balmed and trea­sured up on pur­pose to a life be­yond life.’’ Of course it’s not nearly as sig­nif­i­cant as Don Brad­man’s 100th, but De­cem­ber 9, 2008, is the 400th an­niver­sary of Milton’s birth. TWO things about the In­die Award are ap­peal­ing. The first is the prize amount: $ 19,000, a cu­ri­ous num­ber that flies in the face of the ob­vi­ous. The sec­ond is the short list: Toni Jor­dan’s Ad­di­tion ( de­but fic­tion), Tim Win­ton’s Breath ( fic­tion), Don Wat­son’s Amer­i­can Jour­neys ( non­fic­tion) and Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Sub­ur­bia ( chil­dren’s). You could do a lot worse than pack those four books into a fam­ily Christ­mas pack­age. The in­de­pen­dent book­sellers be­hind this award will an­nounce their win­ner on Oc­to­ber 6. I END up then/ in the early evenin’/ blindly punchin’ at the blind/ breathin’ heavy/ stut­terin’/ an’ blowin’ up/ where t’go?/ what is it that’s ex­actly wrong? Mul­ti­ple choice: who wrote this? Was it ( a) Bob Burns, ( b) Bob Adamson, ( c) Bob Dy­lan

Bob the Builder? Hint: Si­mon & THE com­pany that owns the rights to Enid Bly­ton’s char­ac­ters from the Fa­mous Five books, as well as The Far­away Tree and oth­ers, has an­nounced it will pub­lish 20 new books fea­tur­ing those char­ac­ters, while re­main­ing ‘‘ true to Bly­ton’s clas­sic sto­ry­telling style and val­ues’’. Oh Noddy. WILL there ever be an­other Harry Pot­ter? That wasn’t a book se­ries, it was a phe­nom­e­non, and it be­comes clear why pub­lish­ers are des­per­ately try­ing to find the next such phe­nom­e­non when you read that the ail­ing Bor­ders chain in the US ( its Aus­tralian stores are now owned by An­gus & Robert­son) im­proved its debt last fi­nan­cial year but is still record­ing an 8 per cent drop in profit, a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of which it puts down to the lack of a new Harry Pot­ter. The lat­est at­tempt to whip up the must- have en­thu­si­asm of younger read­ers is a book called The 39 Clues , which Scholas­tic Aus­tralia is launch­ing this month with a ‘‘ mar­ket­ing and me­dia blitz’’. The give­away is, I think, that it is in­tro­duc­ing it to us not as a book but as a ‘‘ break­through con­cept’’.

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