Friday, December 23, 2005

Three Aust things to read for Christmas

1) The current Bulletin, which has chapters from a new novel by Murray Bail, a riveting essay on religion by Christos Tsiolkas, Eva Sallis on foxes in Tasmania, Kate Grenville on being an Australian in an English library (always a horrible experience; if I ever have to do that again I will bung on a cut-glass accent like the Queen's), the multi-talented William McInnes on cricket, the ever-classy Gideon Haigh on Enron, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a classic Patrick Cook: 'The artist formally [sic: is this a joke or a typo?] known as Mark Latham will launch his next book, You've Got to Have Friends, in time for the Christmas rush out of the shops. He'll finally have time for his favourite sport, speedway racing, in which he will have a dizzying array of cars to chase, barking.'

2) Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw's story 'Christmas' (1931), a lovely, wry comedy of manners about assorted punters left behind in the raw new capital at Christmastime.

3) Olga Masters' 'The Christmas Parcel'. If I had to name the great Australian short story of the 20th century, this would probably be it. Seriously.


  1. I missed this issue. I don't buy the Bulletin as a rule and so forgot to check out the Christmas edition. If only they were of the quality of the Yuletide issues from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Then you could expect a magazine of about 64 pages, tabloid sized, saddle-stapled, and packed to the gunnels with short stories and poetry. None of that annoying news crap.

    Does it say when the Bail novel is due for publication?

  2. I have the Christmas Bulletin edition now (found a newsagent that had probably over-stocked) and have read the Grenville piece. I well remember the glares of the volunteer ladies at the Royal Genealogical Society ("No, you may not photocopy that volume") as I attempted to look up some ancestor of my mother's. And then there were the volume hogs in St Catherine's House who muttered "Bloody Colonials" under their breaths whenever you asked if they really needed to rest their elbows for hours on the one book you needed.

  3. I was actually completely flabbergasted by the open rudeness of the English, and I'm very sad to say that the women were the worst offenders. The only people in England (as distinct from Scotland, whose population for the most part had the most wonderful, civilised, ironic, Enlightenment feel to it) who were even remotely polite or nice to me were either Scots, Irish, or people of (various) colour.

    Tragic. I never had a thing against the Poms till I actually went there, and had to deal with some of them over the counter and on the phone. I got treated better in France than I did in England -- after they'd ascertained that I wasn't English. The sentence I quickly learned to use most often in France was 'Je ne suis pas anglaise, je suis australienne.'

  4. People say that the Parisians are rude to tourists, which is true; you just have to remember they are rude to everyone.

    I was in a cab in Dublin once and started up a conversation with the driver which was monosyllabic on his part, until I mentioned that our Rugby team had been in town a week or so before. He thought a bit and said, "Sorry?" "The Wallabies," I said. He twigged I wasn't English and I could barely shut him up after that. The English may get a hard time out here but I reckon it's nothing to the reception they receive in the rest of Europe.

    Actually I think the friendliest people in the UK live outside cities. The family history people I mentioned earlier were in London but those I came across in the county records offices were very helpful.