Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Breaking: Australian musician takes drugs - TALKING SMACK

Talking Smack by Andrew McMillen at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

This young man came into our shop this morning and asked about a book about Australian musicians and drugs.

I told him "I'm sorry, we're not that sort of bookshop, sir. Can I interest you in this book on ancient Rome?"

But he was insistent. "It's called Talking Smack and I'm the author."

On hearing this, one of our young booksellers said yes indeed, we did have a book by that title and it came in this morning. The book was brought to the counter. The man, who then introduced himself as Andrew McMillen, said he was a journalist and his book contained in-depth interviews with Australian musicians who were very frank and forthcoming about their use of narcotic substances.

At this, my cheeks reddened as I voiced my objection. "Are you suggesting, good sir, that our fine Australian musicians make their music in a state other than one of complete sobriety?"

He looked at me with some misgiving, before venturing "Well yes. I've spoke with many of them. It's all in the book. See here? Paul Kelly, Tina Arena, Gotye, Phil Jamieson…"

"Phil Jamieson!" I spluttered "From the Christian rock band Grinspoon?!"

"Well, they weren't exac-"

"I can imagine a ne'er-do-well such as that young Farnham boy going wayward, but surely not Phil Jamieson?"

But Mr McMillen assured me this was so and then he whipped out a pen and signed all the copies of the book we had in-store. He then shook my hand with the confident zeal of one bearing 'the Truth' and strode out the door for parts of the city unknown. Well, I think he was going to another bookstore.

Dazed, I stood pondering this revelation. Grinspoon. An odd word, certainly. Powderfinger. I wonder. Midnight Oil. Two words, not conjoined - but still, something… subversive. Savage Garden. Oh my! It must be true! With that I sat heavily, pulling a handkerchief from my cardigan to mop my brow. A cup of tea. Yes, that would do nicely.

Talking Smack by Andrew McMillen at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 4 July 2014

Notes from Eve Abbey - July 2014

I was a bit reluctant to begin reading the newly published “latest” book by great Australian writer Elizabeth Harrower’s In Certain Circles.

Finished in 1971, the manuscript sat in the National Library of Australia until Michael Heyward, of Text Publishing persuaded Elizabeth to let them publish it this year.

I was still recovering from the tension after re- reading her most famous book, The Watch Tower. Would In Certain Circles prove a disappointment? Would this be yet another psychological thriller? The answers are No to the first and Yes to the second question. In Certain Circles is an almost perfect novel and suffers in no way from being written more than forty years ago. The picture of affluent life in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs seems scarcely different, except there remains that certain cultural uneasiness that things were better in Europe, which we don’t feel so much today. The story chronicles the interlocking lives of two sets of brother and sister, one set poor orphans and the other set blessed with charm, security and confidence. There is intense scrutiny of their actions, a great deal of unspoken understanding and psychological awareness. Put aside a few days to read this novel carefully. It will repay your attention. Her other novels are Down in the City, The Long Prospect and The Catherine Wheel. All have been re-published under the Text Classics series at only $12.95.

I mention this price because despite people thinking eBooks are the answer to cheap reading materials you can now buy really good books at very reasonable prices. Penguin Classics, Popular Penguins and various other imprints including the War Series are only $9.95 while Vintage Classics are only $12.95. There is a huge range. They may not be the latest but they are good and worth keeping in print. Shops like Abbey’s make a point of having the full range so browsing is well worthwhile.

I was sad to read of the death of Eric Hill, the creator of all those wonderful books for very young children. Who doesn’t have a memory of reading Where’s Spot to a child? If they don’t they have missed a great pleasure. Remember lifting the flap and searching for Spot? There are 134 titles on Abbey’s database including some in Italian, Spanish or Chinese (even in dual language Chinese/English) although not all are in stock. Lindy Jones keeps her discerning eye on the fabulous children’s section in the back corner of Abbey’s so she will always help you find just the right book while you have to go upstairs to Language Book Centre for those in foreign text. Remember you can now go up in the lift from the lobby if you don’t fancy climbing the stairs.

Prompted by yet another obituary I have been reading some of the Collected Stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Published in the 1960’s they remain vivid, exciting pleasures where you can see his progress from experimentation towards Magical Realism. Marquez is said to be the most popular author since Cervantes! Find him under G for Garcia on the shelves! If you haven’t already read his most famous books One Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera perhaps now is the moment? They are both available in Popular Penguin as well as other editions. There are editions in Spanish upstairs in Language Book Centre as well as a biography by Gerald Martin while in Literary Criticism you can choose the Cambridge Companion to Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Philip Swanson or the Cambridge Introduction to Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Gerald Martin.

There was some good news from The New York Times recently about a new, big prize called The Breakthrough Prize. It is for Mathematics which has not been included in the Nobel Lists. When you hear it will be worth three times as much as the Nobel you won’t be surprised it is funded by two Silicon Valley moneymen, Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg. They have already awarded 3 million dollars each to five mathematicians. Three of the men (no women yet) have previously won the Fields Medal but this is only awarded every four years and is worth $15,000 Canadian Dollars. The Fields Medal began in 1936 and is awarded by the International Mathematical Union at their four yearly Congress. So this is a huge step forward.

Mathematics is a beautiful language which unfortunately I do not speak but Abbey’s has a huge range of titles. Some customers from Melbourne always come in to check the Mathematics sections.

I checked our database and found almost 20,000 titles but 465 ready to ship including Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic: The Princeton Thesis by Andrew W. Appel or The Proof is in the Pudding: The Changing Nature of Mathematical Proof by Steven G. Krantz or The Works of Archimedes: Volume 1, The Two Books on the Sphere and the Cylinder. Commentary by Archimedes and Reviel Nietz. If you would like to continue your search you will find Mathematics as a sub-category of Science and Medicine in Abbey’s database.

Bangarra Dance Theatre has recently staged Patyegarang, the story of the friendship between a young Aboriginal girl and William Dawes, astronomer with the First Fleet, after whom Dawes Point is named. Perhaps this is the time to read Kate Grenville’s follow-up to The Secret River, which is called The Lieutenant and covers this same story.

Keep well.


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Lindy Jones has been reading...

Lindy Jones ~ Australian Bookseller's Association Inaugural Bookseller of the Year 2011

Flying Dinosaurs: How Fearsome Reptiles Became Birds by John Pickrell
Nicky (Hachette), Brooke and Lindy

Brooke Davis

Millie Bird, aged 7, records dead things in her special book, but she wasn’t to know her Dad would be the 28th entry. Nor was she to know when her mother leaves her in the ladies’ underwear section of the department store, how long she would have to wait.

Karl, aged 87, has been left in an old people’s home and he doesn’t know how much more of his life he has to wait. And Agatha Pantha, aged 82, has been left alone after her husband dies and she doesn’t know how much longer she has to record measurements in her book of ageing.

How these three different characters form a unit makes for a charmingly off-centre story, as they escape their enforced waiting and attempt to reunite themselves with family, love and life. Throw in an incomplete mannequin, public transport, the Indian-Pacific and an assortment of helpful or interfering minor characters and you have a fine road trip of a read.

In turns, funny and poignant, wise and wide-ranging, this book crosses boundaries and deserves all the success it will inevitably have!

Brooke came in to Abbey's recently. It was 'the' book at the recent London Book Fair and has already been sold into 16 countries, with major deals in the US and UK - not bad for a debut novel! Brooke has worked as a bookseller in Victoria and Perth (where she now lives) and charmed everyone she met at the recent booksellers' conferences in Melbourne, with her modesty, intelligence and good nature. Her book is a universal favourite amongst those of us who have read it in advance of release, and we look forward to sharing this wonderful book with the wider reading public!

Find this at abbeys.com.au

Fredrik Backman

ABBEY'S CHOICE JULY 2014 ----- Perhaps the Scandinavians are tired of being associated with literary works of the darkest and most depressing hue, because there are some deliciously farcical and entertaining books filtering through that show the Scandis have a sense of humour! This latest offering has been an international bestseller, and it thoroughly deserves that status.

Ove is 59, in the second day of his forced retirement, and considering the best place to put a hook in his ceiling. He has conducted his morning ritual of ensuring the residential area is free of vehicles, nothing has been broken into, the rubbish has been properly sorted into the recycling bins, and shooed away an annoying cat. Ove is a practical man of inflexible habits and perceived as the neighbourhood’s grump – but that is far from the truth because Ove knows there is right, and everything else is wrong. He judges others by the car they drive (he is a lifelong devotee of Saab) and when his morning is disturbed by the sound of a Japanese car backing into his letterbox, he cannot contain his fury. But it turns out to be just the thing he needed to start living again – because as the reader finds out, Ove is a man who has lost the love of his life and his reasons to live.

This wonderful book had me in fits of laughter at times, and at others in quiet tears. It is a life-affirming novel with many shades of light and dark, a great cast of characters (I did enjoy the Cat Annoyance!) and a charming narrative style. The sort of book I don’t just highly recommend, but want everyone to read!

Find this at abbeys.com.au

Nick Earls

Nick Earls is well-known for his comedic novels often about young men, decent but somewhat clueless, coping with being adults. In this engagingly funny new novel, he turns his sharply observant talent to a middle-aged man’s struggles in navigating the world around him. I can’t tell you how much I laughed (but I do apologise to the man I startled on the train when I brayed out loud!)

Andrew has finally had enough of being an infrequent visitor to his family’s lives, and has taken on another role in order to return to Brisbane. From being a private-equity troubleshooter for companies overseas, he has been shifted sideways into managing a radio station – AM, at that. His wife is a brisk, efficient doctor who seems chagrined and amused in equal measure by his return; his twin children are busy with technology and being teenagers; his father (once the reigning king of local radio) has moved in to recover from cancer surgery. There just doesn’t seem to be room for Andrew. To top it off, his biggest problem at work is the station’s biggest asset – a politically incorrect bigmouth who delights in offending all and sundry. Andrew starts to feel increasingly irrelevant – an analogue man in a digital age. Warm and wry, witty and wise – a great book to drive away the winter blues!

Find this at abbeys.com.au

Leigh Hobbs

He's back! That lovable giant chicken decides he has to visit London, so after breakfast he grabs his camera and flies there for the day. After a whirlwind day full of sightseeing and the sort of chaos that follows him wherever he goes, Mr Chicken heads home tired but satisfied… As much fun as Mr Chicken Goes to Paris with the slightly crazed and anarchic style that makes Leigh Hobbs such a favourite with readers of all ages! 

Christie Nieman

Robin has been forced to leave her beloved home in the Victorian countryside when her father decides to take off with another woman, and her teacher mother accepts a post in Melbourne. She hates the city, the school, and being the new girl. Seth is alienated and angry and spends his days in a drug-induced haze, having dropped out of school when his mother (a scientist studying bush stone-curlews) died in a bushfire. His sister Delia, highly intelligent and principled, is struggling with her nightmares and grief, but as their father is a selfish drunk stuck in his own loss, has to be the grown-up of the family. Each of these lost teenagers are drawn together, united by a misplaced stone-curlew, and eventually learn how to cope with what life has thrown at them. A strong novel for readers 14+

Ellie Royce and Andrew McLean

Every week Lucas accompanies his Mum when she visits her grandfather in a nursing home. It's boring there so Lucas doesn't go inside to see his Great Grandpop - but one day he meets Jack. Jack is another resident, but he's full of stories and even a bit of mischief. Suddenly Lucas can't wait to visit each week, as Jack tells stories and teaches Lucas that old people were once young and full of stories - and often, despite their age, still full of life. Quite a touching story, well-served by Andrew McLean's gentle illustrations. 4-6yo

Robin Stevens

Hazel Wong has been sent to an English boarding school, because her Anglophile father in Hong Kong wishes to score points against his competitors. Hazel has been determined to enjoy it, but the reality is somewhat colder and hungrier - not to mention lonelier. That is, until the most popular girl in the school, Daisy Wells decides Hazel will be her best friend (or willing slave, though in Daisy's books they are much of a muchness!) Together they start a detective agency but it's not until Hazel discovers the science mistress dead that they have something to investigate. Particularly when the body disappears before anyone else has seen it… A rather charming cross between an Enid Blyton and an Alan Bradley and a lot of fun! 12+ 

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers