books part 2

It always seemed obvious to me, from adolescence, that it was necessary to have a library. If you read The Grapes of Wrath, you needed also to own Tortilla Flats. As with The Old Man and the Sea and To Have and Have Not. You expected not only to be able to read The Turn of the Screw when you wanted to, but also to able to read it again.

Not only that,  but you were the person who owned copies of those books. To some extent, it defined who you were.

All that has changed.

The canon is no longer of any consequence. And even further: not only is the ownership of books no longer of any consequence, but neither are printed books themselves of any value of any kind.

Many, most, of the books I have are paperbacks. They are dirty and deteriorating. They have no monetary or any other kind of value as artefacts.

The cultural value they allegedly contain has come in question, and indeed found wanting, post modernism.

Having written all that, I find that I have convinced myself that I can throw into recycling or into landfill – it doesn’t matter much, as the one may become the other – almost of my capital L Literature library.

I shall of course ask my heirs and assignees (whatever that means) – as I happen to be still alive – how they feel about it, but I think they will agree with the conclusion I’ve come to.

I shall have many bookcases to give away.


When my mother died, there was no problems about books. I had already taken my books out of the house when I came back to reside permanently in Western Australia in 1985. However, there was something else that surprised me.

I had never thought about the piano in the house, nor about the (sheet) music. The printed music had been there forever, and it never occurred to me that it would not still be there for me to inherit. However, my mother must have allowed someone to go through it and take whatever they wanted, as there are many items that I expected to be able to play again which had gone.

There was also the piano.  We only ever had two. The Volmer was my mother’s own.  It wasn’t a top-class instrument, but it was the one I grew up with – and may have been partly responsible for my lack of discrimination in pianistic finesse – in that it didn’t respond much to stylistic variation.

My father took on a new trade at the age of something like 50, moving from being a fitter and turner in an engineering factory to  becoming a self-employed artisan piano repairer and tuner. Props!

He created a modified piano, late in life.  It had no front door, just a sonically neutral cover, so that what came from the soundboard was literally right in your face. And he also created a rather silly row of press studs hanging on tapes which could be lowered in front of the hammers to create a ‘honky-tonk’ effect as the hammer struck the string with the press stud in between.

That’s quite hard to describe, and you might not have understood what I’m trying to convey.  The point is that it was a unique piano.  And after my mother’s death, I found that it was no longer in the lounge room. I have no idea who the lucky new owner is/was, but I felt deprived.

All of that is an analogy with my current problem (as I prepare to die) with books.

Having set that up as the topic, I now have to go. I hope to get back to this …


I watched almost all the live stream of the Sinny Mardi Gras from SBS tonight.  They shot everything that went past their broadcast station on the corner where the parade turned the corner from Oxford Street into Flinders Street (or maybe the other way around; I don’t live in Sinny).
I was struck by how many more fat people there were than a decade or two ago.  It occurred to me that we might have to add another letter to the long list of deviancies that we how have to accept as ‘politically correct’: LGBTQI … LGBTQIAGNC … LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA … … + F for Fat.

People Smugglers

Australia is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which obliges our country to accept people needing asylum. The present Australian government not only avoids its responsibility with regard to this convention, it goes further in criminalising the people who help refugees, as ‘people smugglers’. It should logically regard them rather as ‘humanitarian workers’.

To be consistent, the Australian government should withdraw its support for the 1951 Convention. If it does not, it should accept its responsibility.

Sherlock 4:1

There are some things I really hate about the way the ABC sends out its programs.

I particularly dislike the fact that that voiceover guy they have employed for years comes on immediately after the story has finished – while the atmospheric music is playing over the credits – with details about what’s going to happen in the next episode.

And his volume level is noticeably higher than that of the program – implying that it’s at least as if not more important.

There are at least two things about that that are reprehensible. One is that there’s no opportunity to take the thirty seconds of the credits rolling time to process the emotionality that’s been generated by the show.

Which implies in turn that what we’ve just experienced is not art but just trivial amusement. Switch it on, switch it off. It’s of no consequence.

It’s been making me angry literally for years, but I haven’t found a way of telling the ABC what I think … not that they would change a practice that’s been in place for a decade or whatever.

… I didn’t completely enjoy the first episode of series 4 of Sherlock, because I thought the performance of the actress playing Mary, Watson’s wife, was totally inadequate. She wasn’t remotely believable as the character she was playing. Which reduced the whole show to just that – a show – instead of the work of TV art that some of the Sherlock episodes are.

For once it wasn’t the writer’s fault. Or the director’s. It was down to casting director, maybe, but anyway the actress – who was merely suburban and lower middle-class – with an estuary accent – could not possibly have been the character she’s supposed to have been. Very disappointing.

Vale Gillian Alcock

Gillian Alcock was a prefect and dux of Narrogin High School in 1967. She went on to become an expert maker of hammered dulcimers and related instruments. She died 2 November 2018, probably as a result of having had MS for many years.

She is the second former student of mine of whose death I have heard. The first was that of architect Murray Etherington, who died of brain cancer in 2016.

Canine overpopulation

Because I live between a coffee shop and a park where people walk their dogs (in other words, take them to their toilet), I observe that the typical family these days has a man and a woman who either has two children or is pregnant with the first or second one – and … the dog – or two. And one of the humans is typically carrying a takeaway coffee cup – and often a phone.

From these observations, I conclude that from this (meaninglessly small sample) that human population growth is not a problem, but that dog population growth might be (because twenty years ago many fewer people had a dog) — and also that pollution from the needless use of non-reusable artefacts continues to increase.

Mary Magdalene

Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus

One of the reasons I wanted to see this is to get some idea of what Judaea might have been like back then – so, for historical reasons. And the opening scenes encouraged me to think that I might learn something – Greig Fraser’s photography is very good, and the landscape looked suitably unhospitable.

The only work that seems to be going on is herding and fishing, and Mary M seems to be a fisherman’s daughter. Everyone seems to be living in hand-to-mouth abject poverty. But as soon as ‘the Healer’ appears on the scene, everybody stops working. Mary literally drops the tool she’s using to mend a net and goes to join the merry band of disciples. Well, at least one of them seems to be inappropriately merry, as Jesus himself seems to be pretty miserable, and probably a bit deranged.

Joaquin Bottom (his birth name) is 43, but looks older – and much older than the 30-33 Jesus is supposed to have been, and not nearly as turn-the-other-cheek as the guy in the Bible. In fact, he does look quite like a rebellious insurgent – what we would now call a ‘terrorist’.

My main gripe about the film – as it was about Lion, Davis’s only other film – is that he clearly cannot direct actors, and has no global concept of the artwork (the film) as a whole (yes, I realise I can’t claim to know that – let’s say I intuit it). Phoenix is all over the place emotionally, and it’s hard to see that he has a lived-in core idea of what his version of Jesus is like.

Joaquin’s partner IRL is … Rooney Mara. It was probably contractual that if she took a role, so did he – or the other way around. Do they have sex in the film? … How dare I mention it! Of course they couldn’t. It would be something like sacrilege.

Bateleur Appears

I’ve started to compile cryptic crosswords again – like those in the Times and the Guardian – having acquired Crossword Compiler and a way to run it in a virtual box on this iMac.

My new setter name is Bateleur – after this guy  from the Marseille Tarot >