Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ September 2016

Hogarth Press, the publishing company founded by Virginia and Leonard Woolf, has a new project: to have some of the plays by Shakespeare retold by current bestselling authors.

Shakespeare himself was not averse to borrowing stories and hopefully this idea will prompt readers to look again at the well-known plays. I’ve just finished my first one which is Anne Tyler’s retelling of The Taming of the Shrew called Vinegar Girl.

My oh my! This is a perfect little book - well produced (just look at the front and back covers) and very amusing. I laughed out loud.

It is about a strong-willed nursery school teacher who is pushed into the arms of the Russian assisting her demanding father in his long-term research. Father wants him to stay even though his residency permit is about to expire and Father can’t see why daughter Kate shouldn’t marry him in order to keep him in America. There is of course a precocious younger sister eyeing off her possible boyfriends. Anne Tyler’s books are always good and this one is very funny. Laugh out loud funny. We need more of this!

I am now going to read Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, which is retelling The Winter’s Tale. A friend tells me this is very good. Margaret Atwood’s version of The Tempest called Hag Seed and Howard Jacobson’s retelling of The Merchant of Venice which is Shylock is My Name are next. There are four more titles in the pipeline: Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear. I’ll alert you when they arrive.

Ian McEwan’s new novel has just arrived into the shop. It is called Nutshell and features a world-weary foetus commenting on the actions of his mother and her lover, who is also his uncle. They are named Trudy and Claude and they are plotting to kill his father. I immediately thought it must be the next title in the Hogarth series which will be Hamlet. But no! Gillian Flynn is down to produce the Hamlet re-write. Meanwhile Ian McEwan is enjoying himself having a long rant on the problems in modern society. Very enjoyable. He got into a bit of trouble about this.

I always enjoy memoirs and can recommend The May Beetles: My First Twenty Years by Baba Schwartz.
Baba spent a happy childhood in a small town in Hungary, part of a substantial Jewish community. By the late thirties this happy life was shattered as the whole family, father and mother and three daughters, is shipped off in crowded trains to Auschwitz.The remainder of the book describes their sufferings and lucky escapes.

These day-to-day accounts show how people just got by in the mass of Displaced Persons at the end of Second World War. Father is lost forever but Mother and girls do survive and return to their town where all their possessions have been taken by supposedly friendly neighbours. Soon they sail off to Israel before finally migrating to Australia.

Although I have read many holocaust memoirs I found this one especially interesting and well written.

Father Edmund Campion has been writing small biographies of Catholic personages for many years and you can read some in Australian Catholic Lives, which is a sort of history of the church in Australia. A history of the people, not the Bishops. He has now written Swifty: A Life of Yvonne Swift whose work as Principal of Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart and later as head of Sancta Sophia College in the University of Sydney is well-known to generations of students. She was much concerned about social justice and in mid-life decided to train as a lawyer. She set up her own office with another lawyer, finally in Chippendale, where she defended many notorious Sydney criminals. The small book contains many admiring messages from students and friends. I think there will be many who will enjoy this.

I set off eagerly to read a new biography of Evelyn Waugh by Philip Eade called Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisited. I did feel the need later to read a more full biography such as the one by Selina Hastings but it seems this is now out of print. A Life Revisited is packed full of gossip, ranging from schoolboy adventures, undergraduate indiscretions and too much detail on flirtations and drinking. Nonetheless it is very amusing, chiefly in the direct quotes from Evelyn’s own diaries and letters.

It was good to get clear the fate of Shevelyn, his first unsuccessful wife (also called Evelyn) and the future success of wife number two, Laura, mother of his six children. Coincidentally Nancy Mitford was the flatmate of Shevelyn, and it is through this connection that Waugh began his legendary friendship with Mitford and also Lady Diana Cooper.

His first book, Vile Bodies, was such a tremendous success Waugh was taken up by “society” and able to indulge his fondness for witty insults, while collecting great material for his next black comedy.

His father, Arthur Waugh, was a director of Chapman and Hall, who published all Evelyn’s books except the first one. They were more than happy to do so seeing the copyright for their most important author, Charles Dickens, was about to expire. Evelyn turned out to be not only a terrific novelist but also a very savvy author who was able to turn his talents to journalism, essays and travel pieces. His many overseas adventures were funded by his publishers and the success of his satiric novels, while the success of Brideshead Revisited made him quite a rich man. At one time in his middle age it all became too much for him and while on a cruise to the Mediterranean, as he himself noted, he became “absolutely mad. Clean off my onion”.

This story is told in The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, his last comic novel. His wartime adventures, with like-minded soldiers such as Randolph Churchill, formed the basis for the three novels which are now published together as the Sword of Honour Trilogy. One special favourite of mine is The Loved One, which he wrote after a visit to California to investigate the possibility of a film to be made of Brideshead Revisited. That never happened, only the marvellous TV version starring Claire Bloom and Jeremy Irons.

The Loved One was Evelyn’s satire on the American Way of Death as practiced at the Whispering Glades Memorial Park (not to be confused with Jessica Mitford’s American Way of Death. This best seller was reissued in 2000 as American Way of Death Revisited). I think it is time for another dose of Evelyn Waugh. You will find most of his novels in stock at Abbey’s. 

Check the website. Enjoy re-reading the backlist.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 5 August 2016

Australian National Dictionary Second Edition ~ Book Launch

EVENT: BOOK LAUNCH at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street Sydney on Thursday 8 September

Join us for a lively chat around the richness, history and humour of Australian English.
To mark the occasion of the publication of the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary, Lindy Jones will host a scintillating panel discussion at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street Sydney.

Lindy Jones is an Abbey's bookseller, a current member of the judging panel of the Miles Franklin Literary Award and Abbey's most prolific book reviewer!

Bruce Moore is the editor of this second edition and the former Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

Dr Amanda Laugesen is the current Director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

Kel Richards is a radio broadcaster and author of The Story of Australian English - a man with a broad and deep interest in the Australian vernacular.

Thursday 8 September
6 PM
Abbey's Bookshop
131 York street, Sydney

A unique lexical map of Australian history & culture.

The Australian National Dictionary is a dictionary of Australianisms. The first edition of the dictionary was published in 1988 and contained around 10,000 headwords, compounds, idioms and derivatives. In this second edition the dictionary now contains over 16,000.

It includes words and meanings that have originated in Australia, that have a greater currency within Australia than elsewhere, or that have a special significance in Australian history. They include historical terms from the convict era, the gold rushes, farming, and the experience of war, colloquial terms, including rhyming slang and numerous lively and colourful idioms, regional terms from different states and territories terms from Aboriginal English, a major dialect of Australian English.

The Australian National Dictionary differs from general dictionaries in being based on historical principles, in the manner of the comprehensive Oxford English Dictionary.

The aim of this second edition is to chart the historical development of Australian words - the definitions begin with the oldest sense and move through to the most recent sense. As part of this history, it includes all obsolete words and all obsolete senses; because it is concerned with the complete history of a word, the historical dictionary places more emphasis on the etymology of a word than does the general dictionary.

There is detailed information on the origins of these Australian words, including comprehensive coverage of more than 550 words that have been borrowed from 100 Aboriginal languages. Quotations from books, newspapers, diaries, etc., show how words have been used over time. More than 123,000 quotations illustrate the entries.

New entries cover all aspects of Australian life, history, culture, and values, as indicated by this brief list:
ambo, barbecue stopper, bogan, budgie smugglers, bunny rug, captain's pick, chiko roll, chook lit, chroming, copha, corkie, couldn't run a chook raffle, do a Bradbury, drop bear, fairy bread, firie, goon bag, grommet, hip-pocket nerve, hornbag, humidicrib, karak, land of the fair go, marn grook, negative gearing, not happy Jan, pizzling, reg grundies, schmick, schoolies' week, seachanger, secret women's business, shirt-front, skippy, songline, spunk rat, trackie daks, ute muster, welcome to country.

The Australian National Dictionary is the only comprehensive, historically based record of the words and meanings that make up Australian English. It is a unique lexical map of Australian history and culture.

This beautifully produced edition is an absolutely wonderful enrichment to any Australian home filled with books and the love of reading.

Limited Edition: Slipcase Edition (sold out)

Australian radio broadcaster Kel Richards has an ongoing fascination with the Australian vernacular, with books such as Kel Richards' Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and Kel Richards' Wordwatch and also with his children's books and in years past has had many chats about books on his radio shows with Eve Abbey.

In this book Kel Richards tells the story (with a lively narrative) of the birth, rise and triumphant progress of the colourful dingo lingo that we know today as Aussie English.

The English language arrived in Australia with the first motley bunch of European settlers on 26 January 1788. Today there is clearly a distinctive Australian regional dialect with its own place among the global family of 'Englishes'. How did this come about? Where did the distinctive pattern, accent, and verbal inventions that make up Aussie English come from?

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street (next to QVB) Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers