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Showing posts from July, 2020

Ten Years After.

It was 2010, late July. Mid-afternoon on a crisp but very cold day. Pale sunshine tiptoed across the carpet and onto the bed on which I lay, ill with a severe flu. I subconsciously felt the sun's friendliness on my feet as I finished the third volume of The Lord of the Rings. That night she lay next to me, heavily pregnant. The baby, a girl, was born a few days later, overdue a week. The funny thing is, a few months ago in late summer, and now all grown up at nine, she had finished all of the Famous Five, some 1960s horsey girls books by upper class British writers (Pullein-Thompson sisters etc) and a million of those children’s large-print faux-novels in which the author varies the text point size for emphasis, or prints them in capitals of a different font, or puts words like 'fart' or 'bum' in the title.  And she was looking for something else to read. Browsing my shelves, she pulled down a copy of The Hobbit. Will I like it? she asked me. I don't know,  

Best seller gets grudging critical respect fifty-seven years later.

Although Grace Metalious's novel Peyton Place was a best seller from the day it was published, thanks to its provocative content, it never gained critical acclaim. A 2014 New York Times retrospective marking a half century since the author's death sniffed, 'Metalious's writing is mostly undemanding, but it's also, often ... not bad.' Damned by faint praise fifty-seven years down the track. Metalious can rest in her grave.  By the flower-powered free-loving 1960s Peyton Place 's themes were old hat. Anyway, by this time the fiction prurience index had been turbocharged by any copycat writer who could type. In later decades the book was forgotten almost completely and if mentioned was mistaken for the movie or the TV series or the meme or the lyrics – Tom T. Hall: 'Well, this is just a little Peyton Place and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites'.  Writers 'who could type' proliferated in the computer era, when they mightn't have bot

Return to Luna Park.

It was a winter Tuesday afternoon with no sun, and the air was ice-cold under a steel sky. I stood on cold concrete staring up at the whirling, swooping amusement park rides. Shrieks and yelps rose and fell, like the ride operator was twirling a volume button. The place seemed smaller inside than it had looked from the street, but that might have been because the entire block was penned by a giant lattice, rising and falling like a suburban picket fence built on a castle-scale. That, of course, was the white-painted timber scaffolding for the roller-coaster, a live relic from the early twentieth century. I stood and gazed as the boys went around again and thought about once when I had stood on the same spot on a sunny spring afternoon, queueing to sail through the river caves with a girl in my arms and her younger brother in the back seat, a kind of idiot chaperone whose presence had been ordered by their mother. The memory I kept was like a postcard, a static picture full of yello

Fiddler, singer, guitarist, polariser ...

That pulsating lightning rod of noise I heard in the early 1970s burned itself into my sonic brainbank along with several million other short bits of music that would activate when heard again a year or ten years or forty years later. It was just a guitar. I heard it again a few weeks ago during a radio tribute after its player passed. The player was someone called Lynford Brown and the lightning bolt was the start of a Paul Simon song of that era, something about a reunion. I never particularly liked Paul Simon's work: my favourite Simon or Garfunkel song was the sorrowfully evocative Tim Moore minor hit Second Avenue that Garfunkel covered the same year. By comparison I found, for example, Simon's Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover to be the diametric opposite in sentiment; a lightweight collection of hardboiled rhymes. As for El Condor Pasa, I'd rather be a chimney than a sweep. But that guitar on Mother and Child Reunion. So they had a Hux Brown tribute on the serio