Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A new Robert Hughes book is coming!

It is easy to become a little blasé about new books sometimes - afterall, I see the lists for dozens of publishers every month, easily a couple of thousand titles to sift and sort through in the endlessly fascinating task of ensuring Abbey's has a wide and varied mix of books on the shelves. So it is a great pleasure when you learn a favourite author has a new book coming up sometime in the future, and yesterday I was given the details of the new (drumroll please Maestro!) Robert Hughes title!

To be called Rome: A Cultural History it will be over 400 pages long, and follows the development of the Eternal City, from pastoral settlements that coalesced into a city in the 8th century BCE, through to its becoming the capital of the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic and Roman Empire. The decline after the fall of the Empire, its increasing importance as Christianity took hold and the Roman Bishop eventually turned into the Pope and the city became the centre of the Catholic Church are dealt with. The tumultuous times of the 19th century, and the even more crazy times of the 20th will be considered. And while I have not seen any advance pages yet, I am confident the book will be everything we expect from Hughes - sumptuous writing, sweeping narrative, considered and measured and no doubt at times quite magisterial, revealing a mass of details and occasional flashes of sly humour.

Can't wait? - well we have to! The book is slated for an October release, it will be in hardback at $55 (though that price may change) - and of course, we are quite happy to take advance orders! Lindy

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Other Side of the Argument

Some years ago a customer came into our shop and wanted to buy The Fabrication of Aboriginal History and Whitewash: On Keith Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History, one of the books written in response to it.

He explained that he had gone to another shop nearby - they had Whitewash, but when he said he also wanted to buy the Windschuttle book, they said something like "we don't stock books like that!". The customer said he appreciated the fact that we were prepared to carry books representing both sides of the argument.

I hadn't really thought about it before, but I do like the fact that we had those books, and the fact that we carry plenty of books on the Holocaust as well as Mein Kampf, and the fact that we have plenty of books on religion by believers, but also books like Why I Am Not a Christian and Why I Am Not a Muslim.

I don't think booksellers are by nature any less intolerant of other people's viewpoints than anyone else, but I think it's important that we try to be as tolerant as possible during working hours - writing and reading books is a great way to conduct a debate, and it's important for our community that these debates take place. I for one am proud that I can say that some of the work I do contributes to to making this country a more thoughtful, tolerant and stimulating place to live.

Which is why I'm happy to be selling Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth. When someone of Professor Plimer's standing feels strongly enough about a subject to write a 500-page book with over 2,000 footnotes, I think we should all have a look at what he has to say. And if even as I write these words someone is feverishly working on a response to the good Professor, all I can say is - bring it on!

And I'm happy to announce that Professor Plimer will be visiting Abbey's on Tuesday 12th May between 3:30 and 4:30pm to sign copies of his book and chat with anyone who wants to discuss the pros and cons of his arguments! Dave

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Horror of Abbey's

Interesting thing here at Abbey’s: we assume our customers are well-read and classically inclined - in most senses of the term. And that they will, as a rule, be more sympathetic to Suetonius than Stephen King. But here are a couple of titles to upset our ready-made assumptions: Let the Right One In and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist wrote a disturbing novel a few years ago about a bullied boy and his infatuation with a young girl he only saw at night, while all around were dead bodies drained of blood and strange sexual undertones. A few days ago, I placed a small comment about Let the Right One In (and the current, very well realized, film version) in an email newsletter and of all the books mentioned, this 2004 novel of vampire love generated the most “click-throughs”.

Jane Austen has for years been the subject of updates and, as Hollywood names them, “re-imaginings”. From Emma as Clueless, through Bridget Jones’ famous diaries, and the recent Lost in Austen, Jane has been given ample reason not to be still in her grave. Now she has zombies to contend with. (Or as the book’s subtitle puts it: “now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem”.) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has - so far, as I’m only partway through an advance copy - a recognisable Elizabeth Bennett, concerned as always with the attempts to marry off her family to the wrong men, with her doubts about D’arcy and the behaviour of so-called civilized members of the respectable classes. There’s also a very real threat from an ongoing war with the cannibalistic infected, who surround pockets Regency England and most of the balls that the Bennett sisters long to attend. The witty dialogue and veiled insults remain – in many cases word for word Austen - but “co-“author Seth Graham has added the Bennetts’ martial arts training and the nice thematic opposition between the rules of an insecure society and the violence of the uncivilized mass. Great fun, for those with a certain taste in literature.

These two books are examples of a recent trend in publishing – think Twilight pushing out beyond the teenage girl. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will be at Abbey’s, and if the buzz from the US (it’s #10 on a certain famous US online book retailer) and the customer requests here are anything to go by, expect to see multiple decaying Jane Austen’s among our shelves quietly, silently, making their way into people’s shopping baskets. We still stock Suetonius, of course, even if he doesn’t do undead (yet). Adrian

Monday, 6 April 2009

Abbey's has won an award!

It's always nice to be recognised by your peers. At the recent Leading Edge Books Conference Abbey's was voted the Leading Edge Metropolitan Bookshop of the Year.

Leading Edge Books comprises 180 independent Australian bookshops, so it's quite an honour to win this award, especially when you know how outstanding many of those other shops are! Dave