A Pale View of Hills 

Dulwich Hill branch manager, radio personality, and book selling superstar, Morgan Smith tells us how it is.

To Petersham Bowlo

 - Wednesday, July 02, 2014

After closing the shop on a cold Saturday night in June, I made my way to the Petersham Bowlo, where there was a fund-raiser for the Asylum Seeker’s Resource Centre. The place was packed, mainly with people over 50. Good on them (us) for caring, I thought, but where were the young people? The answer came in the form of the writer whose book I was there to sell—Mark Isaacs, author of The Undesirables. In his mid- twenties now, Mark was only 22 when he was sent by the Salvation Army, totally untrained and unprepared, to work at the Nauru detention centre. What he witnessed there politicised him and led him to write the book, despite the fact that all workers are forbidden to speak out about their experiences inside the detention centres.  All power to you, Mark Isaacs.
As many of you will know, Barbara and Tony Horgan have closed Shearer’s Bookshop in Leichhardt, after over 30 years in the book trade. The massive turn-up at their goodbye drinks is proof of the great respect and affection in which they are held across the trade and with their customers. Booksellers are more collegiate than competitive, and many from around Sydney came to raise a glass, along with publishers and authors (William McInnes, David Marr, Libby Gleeson), with Richard Glover and Gleebooks co-owner David Gaunt among the many admiring speakers. Barbara and Tony are moving to Perth to be near their children and grand-children, presumably in retirement, but as someone remarked, who can imagine the irrepressible Barbara Horgan not beginning some kind of book-related venture in her new home?
My reading’s been rather patchy over the last month—picking books up, then putting them down, starting on this and switching to that. I wonder if it’s because there’ve been so many brilliant novels over the last 8 months or so (The Goldfinch, The Blazing World, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Signature of All Things, to name just a few), that other novels pale in comparison. I’ve therefore turned to non-fiction and enjoyed My Salinger Year, a memoir by Joanna Rakoff in which she recalls the year she worked for Salinger’s literary agent, developing a rather hilarious relationship with him over the phone. The book is beautifully evocative of 1960s literary New York. I’ve also started the Stella prize-winner, Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, which is hugely readable and interesting. Proof copies are coming in of some fab new books by Australian writers, which I’m looking forward to—a new Sonya Hartnett for adults, Favel Parrett’s second novel (can she match her debut, Past the Shallows?) and a new Joan London, one of my favourite Australian writers.
See you on D’Hill, Morgan Smith