Thursday, 29 May 2008

Shaun Tan the Musical

Today was a big day for Shaun Tan fans at Abbey's. Not only did we receive stock of Shaun's new book Tales from Outer Suburbia, but we also found out that the Australian Chamber Orchestra will be performing two pieces featuring Shaun's images in July. There will be performances in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Here is a link to a page with all the details.

The New Angel

I've just finished reading a new book called The New Angel by Ali Alizadeh which has floored me. There are scenes in this novel that imprint themselves onto the brain, where they tend to reside for days.
The story concerns Bahram, currently living in Australia, who after receiving a phone call from someone in his past, begins to recall his time growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, and of his burgeoning love for Fereshteh (Persian for 'angel'). Much of the novel mirrors Ali Alizadeh's own story and it is the blurring of fact and fiction that makes this book so potent.
Alizadeh's anger at fundamentalism is so heartfelt that it is impossible to engage with the story from a detached distance. The vitriolic tone that seethes through the novel leaves the reader in no doubt the suffocating atmosphere such regimes pose on its citizens. This is not the book to read if looking for cold, objective reportage. This is a man trying to show that no matter where you run the past is always there waiting for its moment before it taps you on the shoulder and despite oppressive circumstances poetry(and all that word entails) and even possibly redemption is attainable. Greg

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A Trio of Über Readers

In case you missed it, last night's Late Night Live on Radio National featured Phillip Adams, Harold Bloom and Bob Carr talking about reading, great books and what they mean to them. Bloom, who has written many books on books (How to Read and Why, The Western Canon, etc) had nice things to say about Bob Carr's own book on books My Reading Life: Adventures in the World of Books. Here is a link to the Late Night Live homepage. Dave

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Indigenous Literacy Project Launch

I feel like the social butterfly, but this launch was for a very special reason. Yes, there was the chance to mingle with the leading lights of Sydney bookselling, and say hello to the heads of various publishing houses, and even see David Malouf across the room, but we were all there for a cause very dear to the book community's collective heart - the Indigenous Literacy Project.

Run in conjunction with the Fred Hollows Foundation, this project started with one bookseller asking why it was that indigenous children had a lower literacy rate than others in our country, and what could be done about it. Suzie Wilson of Riverbend Books in Brisbane started a reader's challenge with the local schools in her area and raised a nice little sum. The next year it extended to schools within the state, and more funds were raised. The money was used to purchase books and resources for remote communities in the Northern Territory, with the assistance of the Fred Hollows mob. With the support of people like Jeff MacMullen and Ian Thorpe, the challenge extended nationwide, and to adults as well as children. Last year in an effort to streamline the whole process, bookshops, publishers and distributors were asked to donate a percentage of their takings on a particular day. The support was overwhelming - close to a quarter of a million dollars was raised, and more communities were able to be helped. This year Indigenous Literacy Day will be held on the 3rd September, when the book community will once again donate a percentage of their takings; but this year the Reader's Quest will be reinstated. I was privileged to be asked to help compiling the children's lists, so of course I am not at all impartial, but I do think it is a wonderful collection of titles to choose from!

This is not a trickle down project, the people of the communities are fully involved and consulted, and without their support, all the well-meaningness of Australians on the edge of our continent would be negated. You and I know how essential it is to be able to read, and in the (paraphrased) words of the patron, Therese Rein, in her speech to launch ILP, reading gives you somewhere else to go, as well as the ability to make choices. All children should be given this opportunity, and this is one way we can make sure the opportunity is extended.

Have a look at the website Get involved in whatever way you can. Mark 3-9-08 in your diary (it's the Wednesday before Father's Day). We live in a nation that can collectively say sorry, but individually, we can do something positive to show our support. It isn't that hard! Lindy