The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted

Every so seldom I come upon a book to treasure. Every day I read. I inhabit a forest of books,

I sleep between towers of books, some read, some half-read, most unread. No day goes unbooked.

Some in my world of books inform or advise or enlighten. Others – not enough of them – delight or tickle me. Some inspire, some shock, others outrage and a few disgust me. Plenty bore me. But every so rarely comes a story that calls for that overused word, love. Robert Hillman’s ‘Bookshop of the Broken Hearted’ is a book to love.

What do I mean here by love? In two separate surveys carried out a decade or so ago, respondents were asked to name their most-beloved Australian novel. I saw listed many books I’d enjoyed, by authors I admire. Before reading the results I made my own nomination – Tim Winton’s ‘Cloudstreet’. I read the rankings, and there, topping both surveys, was Cloudstreet.’Just so: Winton’s characters, their stories, their rich and variegated humanness, are given to us in their fulness, given us to love. ‘Cloudstreet’ stays with the reader and is recalled with love. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is another such.

Ripe for adding to that list is Hillman’s ‘Bookshop’. It broke my heart and it healed it. I laughed (my guffaws this morning alarmed a tramful of screen-trapped commuters) and I ached for the child. And for the adults who saw this child and that child torn from them I felt a distress that has visited me only once outside of a book, when the (false) report arrived that my child had a fatal malignancy.

‘Bookshop’ left me hopeful but not complacent. I will cherish the simple farmer who is the protagonist and I will tremble for him so long as memory abides.

I invite you come to Readings Bookshop in Carlton, to hear Robert Hillman in conversation with this happy blogger at 6.30 pm next Monday, May 7th.

Report of the World Preview of ‘A Threefold Cord’ 

they came from barwon heads

they came from the usa

they came from king david school

they came from haredi schools

they came in their numbers

they came with their foreskins and without
they numbered ten – plus adults
they fell instantly and hard in love with tali lavi, my interlocutor

she told them the book was exciting

and rude

and scary

and funny

and sad

and wonderful
i said the same – especially wonderful
i read, tali and i spoke and discussed, kids made comments
and i collected phone numbers and email addresses to advise attendors – there is no such thing as attendees (in this context) – of publication details
it was a triumph

I’d be grateful if you would open the link below and watch and listen to the video in which the author reads from the first five chapters of this quite outstanding work.

IN RETURN I HAVE A FAVOUR TO ASK OF YOU: After enjoying the viewing of my video would you very kindly respond to two questions:

1. Please indicate whether you would buy a copy of the E-Book of ‘ A Threefold Cord’ at $5.00
2. Please indicate whether you would buy a copy of the print book at $15.00
3. (Yes, this is the third of two questions): Would you purchase additional copies as gifts?

Not a Vegetable, not a Lolly, Something entirely Novel

Carrots and Jaffas

Carrots and Jaffas

I have just given birth to two brainchildren. Named ” Carrots and Jaffas”, the two are alive and well and between the covers of a book of that name available from Hybrid Publishers.

The conception of these identical twin red-headed boys was painful; the gestation was prolonged; the birth leaves their parent happy, proud, excited and sore. And, to tell the truth, a bit nervous.
Will the world love my newborns?
Will they survive?
They said, everyone has a novel in them: what if they meant everyone has a navel. I do.

They said the novel is dead. But kindle and axon and hundreds of bookshops around Australia seem unaware of the news. Readers will find carrots and jaffas – the novel, not a veggie, not a lolly – in bookstores from April or as an e-book from iTunes or Amazon.

See the sample attached: C&J 1-1

Please tell me what you think.

The Birthday Card

photo-1 photoI lent a book to a young woman I know. It was was one of those  works that tells you “How to Enrich your Life/Relationships/Soul” – books I find offputting because they presume to know me better than I do and to instruct me in a better path, the only path.

The young woman read to page forty or so and returned with my the volume and an expression of mild embarrassment. She opened the book and pulled out her bookmark.

I asked her: “How’s it going?”

“It’s quite helpful…”

I told her I never got past page forty: ”Too bloody know-it-all for me.”

But it wasn’t the book or its author that brought her back. The young woman handed me her bookmark.”This must be yours.” She blushed. ”I’m sorry, I found myself reading something personal…”

The bookmark was tiny, about two inches by three. Inches, because the card dates back to pre-metric days. It was was yellowed a little, its edges furred and thickened. On the obverse was a tiny posy of dried flowers, pressed, still intact. The date on the reverse side read January 8, 1967.

I think my mouth fell open. I recognized the handwriting – an odd and elegant hand, it looped and curled in a crisp and orderly way, warm yet somehow formal. No-one I know writes like that, not any more.

The writing was Mum’s!

The greeting was affectionate. It began, “Howard, darling…” It went on to congratulate me on my twenty-first birthday. The message spoke of my twenty one years, praising and prizing me in the way only one who had known me from birth could do.

I felt the rush and the glow of that primal love, the love that formed me. I felt deeply happy.

I looked up and faced the young woman. “Thank you.”

She averted her eyes from my face that was surely naked.

I looked down again and read the signature. It wasn’t Mum who had signed the card, but her sister, my Aunty Doreen. The handwriting so similar, the shared cuneiform of their bonded lives.

Now it was Aunty Doreen who returned to me, not displacing Mum, but present alongside her, together now as ever through their long lives. If Mum was Pollyanna, Aunty Dor saw a world in its rough reality. Orphaned early, the two turned to each other and went through their remaining scores of years love-laced and life-loving.

I held the card, soft in my hand, and thought of two women who knew me so well – better even than the author of the book I had loaned the young woman, witness to my intimate moment.

“Thank you”, I said again.

The Reader in the End Times

You and I are fellow readers. We see words and we read them. It
happens without deliberation; it has become our condition, our

This morning, I sat in a small room and performed one of my daily
functions, a function one of my patients termed his ‘constitutional’.
And while in that small room, I read. I didn’t go there to read, but
there was reading matter.
These are the items I saw, the texts of evacuation:




ADVANCED LIFE SUPPORT (4 items, once advanced, now outdated)

Q.1 – are you over 18 years of age?
Q.2 – have you ever had sex?
Q.3 – is it more than 2 years since you had a Pap test?

I read all of these documents and gave them due thought. In
particular, I answered the (highly personal) questionnaire above. I
was candid: I answered ‘yes’ to all three questions. The notice went
on to advise me:
If you said yes to all these questions, you should have a Pap smear
without delay.
This left me even more thoughtful. Continue reading