Recently I posted links to a clip of Robert Hughes talking about the decline of old fashioned ideals in art: the meaning of art aside from its commodity value.

From the sublime to the ridiculous; or at least, the commercial. This coming Tuesday, 21 August at 6:30pm, I’m giving a talk on book cover design (my day job): specifically on the 40 plus covers I have done so far for the Text Classics — a series reviving great Australian books (novels and histories mostly) which have fallen out of print or have been neglected to the point of oblivion. I’ll be explaining how it’s done: the necessary discipline, the diet, the daily practice, the meditation — it’s just like training for the Olympics 100m sprint. (Kidding.)


Book chat interlude: classic Australian boy, classic Australian girl

Two of the four Text Classics titles published this month:

All the Green Year, Don Charlwood‘s classic fictional memoir of his childhood in 1929 (pub. 1965). If I ever wondered if there had been an age of innocence and carefree days, well, it happened 80 years ago (around Frankston!) and it is faithfully and beautifully recorded in this novel. The voice of the 14-y-o narrator, Charlie Reeve, is effortlessly guileless and the procession of the book from its first funny scrape to the climactic escapade happens with the lightest touch, as if the author were making an old-fashioned sponge. The delicate tone of wide-eyed wonder is superbly maintained right to the quite perfect ending. Michael McGirr provides a tender introduction. Sadly, its author only just pased away, but was able to see his book in printed form, and to approve the cover illustration (which shows in part the Great Camel Scandal).

The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson. A famous title, but not anything as well read as it ought to be. The central character, Laura, is a brilliant creation, as feisty and endearingly rebellious as one could hope for, and she came into being in 1910. This, like Charlwood’s book, is an absolute classic about Australian childhood. If we still read Great Expectations or David Copperfield, if we read Huckleberry Finn, or Little Women then it’s astonishing that we are not reading All the Green Year and the Getting of Wisdom. It has a rousing introduction by Germaine Greer, who has a few things to say about Australian childhood.

+ + +

I’ve given a version of this talk previously at the Wheeler Centre — that’s a sizeable hall and about 180 folk turned up, see picture below (courtesy Fred Kroh). Thankfully for me (and anyone else concerned) the Prahran library, in Greville St in the beautiful old Prahran dance hall, is hosting it in an intimate space with perfect carpet-assisted acoustics — room for up to 40 (I expect at least four people, you know who you are). It’ll go for 40ish minutes, and yes, I’ll be answering questions. As I said to Phil, who is the Team-leader at the library, I have three answers so anything beyond that will be unchartered territory.

I’ve added more material as I’ve designed another dozen covers since the thirty I presented in May. If you’re the bookish/art’n’design type and in the area and your DVD player is not working this could be a cosy, free alternative.

So, come and get on the same page! Prahran library events

Free talk!
6:30pm, Tuesday 21 August 2012
Prahran Library
180 Greville Street, Prahran
Phone: 8290 3344
(Bookings recommended but not essential)


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