Claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

I’m keen to hear what read­ers think about poet David Camp­bell’s punchy es­say on page 22 about the dis­re­spect shown to tra­di­tional rhyming verse, par­tic­u­larly “bush po­etry” as some call it. I’ve re­ceived notes from read­ers (and po­ets) in the past, some­times grum­bling about po­ems I’ve pub­lished. I’m pub­lish­ing three to­day in tan­dem with Camp­bell’s piece. Each of them rhymes here and there, but per­haps not in the sense Camp­bell is talk­ing about. Please let me know your thoughts. I dis­cussed po­etry this week with my 12-yearold co-reader. We were talk­ing about him go­ing to high school next year. Yet the gen­e­sis for a chat about po­etry was our main con­ver­sa­tion topic, foot­ball. “Je­sus is a win­ner,” Syd said. I knew he was talk­ing about the Brazil­ian Manch­ester City star Gabriel Je­sus, but I joked: “Hardly!” I wouldn’t call the scourg­ing, the cru­ci­fix­ion, the spear in the side much of a win. This led us to cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. We talked about Ned Kelly, Sad­dam Hus­sein, Stephen King’s novel (and the film ver­sion) The Green Mile and, fi­nally, Ron­ald Ryan. The last man hanged in Aus­tralia took us to the poet that first made me ap­pre­ci­ate, early in high school, the beauty and sig­nif­i­cance of po­etry: Bruce Dawe. We read his Ryan poem, A Vic­to­rian Hang­man Tells His Love. It doesn’t rhyme, but it still moves me, and it moved Syd. I know I talk a bit about the to-read list that teeters on the bed­side ta­ble (and has off­shoots in other parts of the house). Usu­ally I add a book to the pile af­ter read­ing a re­view of it here. It’s rare, though, that a re­view makes me read a book im­me­di­ately. It hap­pened this week af­ter I read Agnes Nieuwen­huizen’s re­view, pub­lished on this page, of David Gross­man’s novel A Horse Walks into a Bar. Now, I can’t pre­tend the sub200 page count wasn’t a fac­tor, but more than that it was Nieuwen­huizen’s view that this novel is some­thing spe­cial. She’s right.

I con­fess the ti­tle ap­pealed to me too. I was tempted to il­lus­trate the re­view with a photo of the 1992 Mel­bourne Cup win­ner Subzero vis­it­ing a bar, as the gal­lant grey has done now and then in his post-rac­ing ca­reer. He cer­tainly doesn’t need to pro­duce ID, hav­ing turned 29 at the start of this month. I also spot­ted a car­toon on­line, one that has some rel­e­vance to Gross­man’s novel about a stand-up co­me­dian. Three pigs are breast­ing a bar. A horse near them nurses a bot­tle of beer. “Hey!” one of the pork­ers asks him. “Why the long …” His ques­tion is cut short by hoofi­cuffs. “Any­one else here a co­me­dian?” the horse asks. The re­main­ing pigs look at their black and blue drink­ing buddy and de­cide the an­swer is no.

Any­way, that’s an off-cen­tre lead-up to the news that to­day, Au­gust 12, is Love Your Book­shop Day, or­gan­ised as part of the Aus­tralian Book­sell­ers As­so­ci­a­tion an­nual con­fer­ence. Book­stores will mark the day in their own way. One year, Avid Reader in Bris­bane in­vited read­ers to bring in their dogs (I think Aaron Blabey’s chil­dren’s book Pig the Pug was out at the time). This year the store is start­ing with a cham­pagne break­fast, which sounds more sen­si­ble to me (and I love pugs!). Lots of au­thors will be out and about to cel­e­brate the day, in­clud­ing nov­el­ists Char­lotte Wood, Graeme Sim­sion and Han­nah Kent, Tree­house duo Andy Grif­fiths and Terry Den­ton, youngish guns Al­ice Pung, John Safran and Ben­jamin Law, and, tow­er­ing above them all, Pe­ter FitzSimons. I’m go­ing to take the quote of the week from one of them. They all talk about the life-af­firm­ing value of book­stores but only Ben Law men­tions one par­tic­u­lar fringe ben­e­fit: “Book­shops are like sa­cred spa­ces to me. All those sto­ries in one place. Plus, they’re re­ally great places to pick-up and/or flirt with ob­scenely at­trac­tive staff mem­bers.”

You can find out what’s hap­pen­ing near you via lovey­our­book­shop­day.com.au/events.

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