Friday, 28 August 2015

From deep in the web, something this way comes...

Greetings fellow book-fiends.

I have the pleasure of running Abbey’s Bookshop’s Web Services and this is my first foray onto our Blog to offer you an alternate perspective of the ranges of books available, many of which have been brought to my attention by our online customers. It offers a glimpse into the diverse interests that our customers have. Oh, so diverse…

Abbey’s has been a browsing mecca for Sydney’s bibliophiles for almost 50 years, with thousands of titles crammed into our Aladdin’s cave of a location with three specialised shops, all located at 131 York Street. The two floors of titles are just a drop in the ocean compared to the hundreds of thousands of titles available through our websites. Many of our customers know that we stock and can source a huge range of Australiana, all sorts of fiction, history or science texts and that we specialise in language books, biographies, international movies on DVD or Blu-Ray or, of course, children’s books, crime, fantasy and science-fiction. They might even know we have sections devoted to travel literature, cooking or gardening, theatre studies or philosophy.

But how many know about books that are available about, say, seminal fringe music scenes or lesser known sub-cultures? Today we'll have a look at just one...

The term has been used as far back as the 16th century for the labelling of a variety of less valuable, fringe ‘types’ of person; notably prostitutes. The use of ‘punk’ evolved through the 20th century, early on as a derogatory term for a homosexual male then reappropriated by successive generations to label the less worthy. Clint Eastwood queried one such soul’s luck in one of 70’s action cinema’s most famous lines but by the end of the decade the term came to its sub-cultural fore via Punk Rock with its wildly brash, in-your-face music and fashions spawning simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic, grabbing the attention and imaginations of the era’s disenfranchised youths and much, much more.

 Lester Bangs
Lester Bangs

Punk Rock was a term used in 1971 by US music fanzine critic David Marsh and then in the UK by Lester Bangs to describe the raucous sounds evolving from 60’s garage bands like the Mysterions, The Troggs and, of course, The Stooges to the raw, middle-finger-to-the-establishment stylings of MC5, The Patti Smith Band or The Rolling Stones seminal Exile on Main Street. Into the 70’s, the stripped-down rock of the garage met with the staged stylings and freshly-fused sounds of the likes of The Velvet Underground, Richard Hell and TelevisionDavid Bowie, Talking Heads or Devo and flitted even further to the fringe with the works of The New York Dolls, or Black Flag while ‘punk rock’ was used to describe bands as diverse as Aerosmith or Bruce Springsteen, the most influential of bands playing at their own, now iconic, venues. Then in 1977, The Ramones, stripped-back like nothing before, established the blueprint of American pop-punk for generations to come.

The Stooges
The Stooges

Punk rock is rooted in simplicity with vocal stylings around the trinity of guitar, bass & drums and there are many resources available to learn to play from the basics to working with 'now classics' tunes.

Punk hit the mainstream too around 1977 as an arty sub-culture with an anti-conservative, political bent. The UK’s The Clash released their first rebellious, self-titled album that year but their righteous anger was trumped by the Sex Pistols who were suddenly everywhere, flirting with mainstream infamy through the chart-stealing success of their raucously accessible debut, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols which the UK’s New Music Express (NME) voted in 1985 as the 13th greatest Album of all time. By 1993 NME voted it the 3rd.

DEVO / Talking Heads / Sex Pistols

Late 70’s punk was fundamental to the 80’s evolutions of the New Wave offering a diverse range of artists (if not pop-stars) and through the 90’s Seattle/slacker rock resurgence, peaking with the brief but musical-epoch-defining brilliance of Nirvana. Punk didn’t die or just fade away. Punk aesthetics evolved again into the 21st century, uniquely so with clean-living punks embracing the concept of straight-edgeanti-drug, socially aware, hardcore punks with proponents beyond the music

Above all, Punk is an attitude. A DIY rebellion against prevailing power. And with 40-odd years of music now passed and rediscovered by generation after generation, punk will likely inspire works far into the future.


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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2015

Did you enjoy the TV version of Kate Grenville's enormously popular The Secret River about life in the early days of settlement?

If you haven't already read this, I hope you can find the time to do so soon. There is quite a lot more in the book that doesn't show in the TV series, while the play concentrates more on the issue of Aboriginal possession. In the book you can read about the life of William and Sal Thornhill in London before they were transported and their on-going relationship with their children. Two following books complete the life of the family. They are The Lieutenant and Sarah Thornhill (granddaughter).

Another really good book is Searching for the Secret River, in which Kate recounts all the work she did researching for The Secret River, in London as well as here. Family historians will definitely enjoy this as well as anyone trying to write a novel. It ends up being a fascinating story.

I was especially pleased to read Forever Young, the fifth book in the Glenroy trilogy written by Steven Carroll. Well, it is no longer a trilogy and is soon to be a sextet! The Glenroy series is The Art of the Engine Driver, The Gift of Speed, The Time we have Taken, Spirit of Progress and now Forever Young. These elegantly written books will be a pleasure for you to discover. I am a great fan. It was a good idea to distribute Forever Young together with a free copy of The Art of the Engine Driver, the first of the series, so you will know the three central characters, Vic, Rita and son Michael. Steven Carroll admits this is very autobiographical. The sixth and final volume will involve Vic in his youth so Forever Young is the end of the family story. Carroll aims to reveal the passionate hearts beneath the surface of suburban calm. His writing style for these stories is unusual and addictive, with constant repetition and soothing rhythm.

Carroll recently won the Prime Minister's Literary Award, in addition to his earlier awards as a Miles Franklin Winner and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. He does not use the same style for his other books. There are several stories inspired by poems written by T.S. Eliot, including The Lost Life and A World of Other People.

The Miles Franklin Award was won this year by Sofie Laguna for her second adult novel, The Eye of the SheepNot a good title I think, and I was also not anxious to read yet another story about an autistic boy. However, I was quite overcome when I did read it. It became quite thrilling and heart-breaking. The story is told in the voice of the boy, whose imagination is never at rest, and nor is he. Sofie Laguna has done a marvellous job by exactly capturing this. And the story itself is one encountered by many families – with a little too much alcohol and domestic violence. I thoroughly recommend this excellent novel.

A good novel also on the Miles Franklin Shortlist is Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett, who is better known for her Young Adult and Children's books. Sonya is a totally reliable author. All her books, and there are many, are interesting and good value. Although this book is for adults, it nonetheless features a group of children just beginning to form moral judgements. I really enjoyed this.

Appointment Northwest by successful poet Peter Skrzynecki is a tender memoir about his very first posting as a country school teacher. Straight out of training college he is sent to Joegla, about 50 kilometres out of Armidale, to be sole Teacher-in-Charge of a tiny school with only 14 students. Quite a shock but an opportunity for him to try out his management style. He boards with a local family with whom he makes tight bonds and learns how to negotiate friendships in a small community. More importantly he begins to understand the very close attachment to the landscape which bolsters the locals, and he begins to find his poetic voice. This is a very nice book. Many of you will have read his poetry collection Immigrant Chronicle as it is an HSC required text but I also recommend his autobiography The Sparrow Garden.

Here's a quirky recommendation. Young German doctor, Giulia Enders, has written a very easy to read book called Gut: The Inside story of our body's most under-rated organ. This is all fascinating and is enlivened by line illustrations.

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