Saturday, 30 August 2008

Orwell the Blogger

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written.

This wonderful initiative will be both a fascinating look at the life of one of the great writers of the 20th century as well as a window onto life in Britain during the lead-up to and early years of World War II.

Friday, 29 August 2008

A Gift to the Nation

As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Oxford University Press Australia they are making available online to all Australians The Australian National Dictionary. First published in 1988 it took ten years to compile, and was the product of the fullest and most detailed research ever undertaken into the history of the Australian English vocabulary.

It was the first comprehensive, historically based record of the 10,000 words and idioms that make up the Australian contribution to the English language. Each entry provides its own fascinating insight into Australia’s rich and diverse linguistic heritage.

This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in Australian English, as is Speaking Our Language: The Story of Australian English, a wonderful book being published by OUP in October.

Thursday, 28 August 2008


I had the pleasure today to meet Joseph Delaney, a very gently spoken bright-eyed man, who is the author of the amazing Wardstone Chronicles series of books. They are set in a County modelled on his native Lancashire (he uses actual locations) and follow Thomas Ward, seventh son of a seventh son, who is apprenticed to the local Spook. Spooks are the people who keep the population safe from supernatural aspects - the boggarts and ghosts and various witches that wish to do harm on innocent people. Being the Spook's apprentice is a hard and difficult, often thankless, job, but Tom has a natural aptitude. Not to mention his best friend Alice, who was raised by witches and is looked down upon with a great deal of suspicion by Mr Gregory the Spook.

As the series develops, an evil beyond the memories of the locals, is awakening. Tom's mother, who has a very interesting background, believes he will be of great importance in the coming struggle. So far there are five titles (Spook's Apprentice; Spook's Curse; Spook's Secret; Spook's Battle and Spook's Mistake). Joseph Delaney is in the final draft of the next one (Spook's Sacrifice) which he gave me a quick rundown on, and will also write a book telling Alice's story before she met Tom. It is quite likely there will be another two titles, possibly more.

At present the first book is in pre-production stage for filming, directed by Kevin Lima. Like many writers, Joe is not involved in the process, apart from the occasional call checking on things like - what season is it, we need to get the costumes right, and what century would you place it - on discussion, they've gone for the 17th, as that was the time that 'witches' were hung at Pendle Castle in true life. When I read the books I see a slightly different time, myself, but as they have elements of earlier ages, but then they are set in a world not quite our own - and when did that ever stop a book from working?

Personally, I can't wait! These are top quality books - the writing is excellent in style and content, the feeling of place is wonderfully evoked, the character development is fascinating and the imaginative and interestingly plotted story lines are addictive. Tom is a character of moral depth and although it may be old-fashioned to say so, has strengths inherited from his parents and his upbringing.

These are aimed at children around 12, but you know what? If you think these books are only for children, then you're missing out yourself. Plenty of adult readers have discovered children's books like the Harry Potters and Artemis Fowls, the Dark Materials and the Twilight sagas - so why not give these a go - you may be surprised (and maybe even a little spooked...) Lindy

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The Naked Husband

If you’ve ever been in love, been hurt in love, or been tempted in, or out of love, this book is for you. Every woman will be touched by Mark D’Arbanville’s candidness, sensuality and romantic side and every man should take a leaf out of his book, as it were. Written under the label of 'fiction', one cannot help but think this is an autobiographical account. D’Arbanville’s writing gives his characters feelings, a soul and a life of their own. Mark delves into the human state and touches the deep-seeded roots of our sexual psyche. The Naked Husband is also stomach-achingly humorous. It is funny because it is true. But the truth, as the old adage goes, hurts; this book is certainly painfully true. Utterly 'unputdownable' (I ripped through this one in a few short hours of one night) and highly recommended to everyone. The Naked Husband, both the man and the work, will make you laugh out loud, shed a tear or two and probably make you fall in love with Mark D’Arbanville yourself. Bree

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Hide the Jelly Beans!

Abbey's gets a lot of interesting people through the doors (attracted to our fabulous books, no doubt) and sometimes they even pass for famous (ish). Yesterday Mr William McInnes, known to non-TV me as an author and fellow one-time resident of The Peninsula (Brisbane's equivalent of The Shire) but known to many others more familiar with moving pictures as a pretty good actor, was herded in, doing a whirlwind visit-the-bookshops-be-nice-to-booksellers performance.

Perhaps it was my black glucojel jelly-beans which he promptly helped himself to (that's okay, I don't like them) or perhaps he is always that exuberant, but I was treated to a one-man show of great virtuosity and good-humour, as he morphed into the sort of customer I used to regularly deal with on dole-days, after I mentioned my unfortunate past life as a bank teller in Redcliffe way back when. He tried out the horizontal rollers for good measure (work place health and safety of no concern!) clutching Tim Winton's newest novel (segue-ing into a fine rendition of a sniffy literary critic) and gave an impromptu reading from the new collection of Commander war-time comics with the requisite British good-chap and dastardly-Hun accents. Then he actually signed his new book whilst charming members of staff and giving one excited customer something to go home and tell his wife about ('you'd never guess who I saw today at Abbey's !!!')

You never do know who will walk in the door - that can be part of the fun... but maybe, if it's Mr William McInnes, hide the jelly beans! Lindy

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Last night a group of Abbey's employees attended the 2008 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes dinner. Abbey's is proud to be a long-time supporter of the Eurekas, the "Oscars" of Australian science.

Congratulations to all the winners. You can read all about them here. One of the highlights for me was the video produced by five-year-old Aydin Neighbour from St. Finbarr's Catholic Primary School. You can watch Aydin's video here - it's an amazing effort from someone so young!

On a sad note, Roger Muller from the Australian Museum is retiring this year, so he will no longer be involved with the Eurekas. Nobody has worked harder at making the Eurekas the success they are than Roger, and we wish him a long and happy retirement. Dave

Friday, 15 August 2008

The Island of the Ancients

Well, I put on my social shoes and trotted off to a book launch/photographic exhibition opening on Wednesday night. The event was for the book The Island of the Ancients : The Secrets of Sardinia's Centenarians by Ben Hills, and the exhibition was of photographs taken by his wife, Mayu Kanamori, some of which are featured in the book. I was a guest of Murdoch Books, the publishers, and the only bookseller in attendance, which made for an interesting evening of people-watching - most of the other guests were connected to the 'artistic' community, I was told, and they are quite decidedly different from the book people I usually mingle with! Sartorially, black was the thing, and a cravat or two, and a grey pony-tuft or two, and some other small eccentricities, were on show. (Though I have a grumpy-old-woman moment when the conversations started rippling throughout the official speeches - there is bohemianism, and there is rudeness!) The food was delicious, and the Sardinian wine most quaffable (Argolias wine - Antonio Argiolas, whose raffish photograph graces the cover of the book, lays claim to being the world's oldest winemaker).
The book is an interesting mix of travel narrative, interviews, food, science and meditations on what makes a good life. The exhibition will run until 28th September, on the second floor of the Customs House at Circular Quay, and the technically proficient portraits of the centenarians (many are surprisingly youthful in looks - well they look 70 maybe, not 100!) are well worth a look. And what is the secret to the Sardinian's longevity... read the book!! Lindy