A pair of

Ragged claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

AC­CORD­ING to the ac­tu­ar­ial folk at Nielsen Books­can, the big­gest sell­ing book in Australia last year, at 221,000 copies, was Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals, by Bri­tish celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Now, I own and use and like that book and I re­spect Oliver’s cam­paign to im­prove the di­ets of Bri­tish kids. But, re­ally, is this the best a na­tion of readers can do? This is go­ing to be a tough year for the book in­dus­try, so there’s a cer­tain para­dox in it also be­ing the Na­tional Year of Read­ing, a gov­ern­ment-backed li­braries-run ini­tia­tive that aims to en­cour­age a read­ing cul­ture in ev­ery Aus­tralian home. Read more at www.love2read.org.au. JUST how tough it’s go­ing to be is high­lighted by Scribe pub­lisher Henry Rosen­bloom on his ever-in­for­ma­tive blog (scribepub­li­ca­tions.com.au). He says while there were brief rays of hope over Christ­mas, with in­de­pen­dent book­sell­ers do­ing well, it’s been back to no-busi­ness as usual since, with Fe­bru­ary sales down more than 20 per cent on a year-on-year ba­sis. IT’S been al­most two years since the great Aus­tralian poet Peter Porter died in London, aged 81. Like many de­ceased writ­ers, he con­tin­ues to pub­lish, with the TLS print­ing one of his last com­pleted po­ems in its Fe­bru­ary 10 is­sue. To my de­light it is called Her­mit Crab. Here’s a snip­pet: ‘‘ . . . I used to be­lieve / That this shell I soon must leave / Was the only shell I have ever lived in, / Per­haps I was re­mem­ber­ing the glo­ri­ous nacre / Of the home I was in­tro­duced to / When first I looked about me / And which pro­tected me in ways / I did not recog­nise.’’ THIS is the first chance I’ve had to write about the Perth Writ­ers Fes­ti­val, which I en­joyed greatly. Thank you to the or­gan­is­ers, es­pe­cially pro­gram man­ager Danielle Benda, for mak­ing it all so easy. Of my own ses­sions, Janette Turner Hospi­tal was ter­rific, shar­ing her in­sights into the writ­ing life, but I ex­pected she would be. The sur­prise was Peter Fitzsi­mons, in a panel on sportswrit­ing, be­ing so charm­ing and gen­er­ous and in­ter­ested in what a rel­a­tive light­weight such as me had to say. The high­light? Meet­ing leg­endary singer­song­writer Dave Graney (that’s us pic­tured) is hard to top. But top it I can, with Frank Moor­house, one of our great­est writ­ers, at the open­ing night party, declar­ing ‘‘I’m a hunter and gath­erer’’, charg­ing into the crowd and re­turn­ing with spring rolls for ev­ery­one. He did this sev­eral times. OK, deep-fried amuses bouches don’t re­quire much hunt­ing, but Moor­house’s gath­er­ing is sec­ond-to-none. There are more fes­ti­val pho­tos on my blog, via the link be­low.

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