A pair of
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.