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’’.