It’s a gray day in the Emerald City. Rain is setting in and I’m a feeling just a bit hungover. What better restorative than to proceed to my local bookshop to purchase the just released Judith Brett opus – Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class – from Alfred Deakin to John Howard. You’ve read about it here on the Confucian Armadillo (check Wayne’s Columbus post below for further details) where Lord of Ten Thousand Cyber Years, Ken Parish, gave the Paul Kelly review the thumbs down, smelling a Howard hagiographic plot. Ken, to his credit, later revised this opinion on the very sound basis that no-one had actually read the book in question. Well, it’s just been published, I’ve purchased it and more exciting yet, I fully intend to read it – and not just the good bits either!
But it wasn’t easy. I raced to Newtown where student grunge meets uberhip middle class, the lesbigayocracy and feral people in a great co-mingling of facial piercings. If you held a large magnet above Newtown, most of the population would be sucked skyward in a trice. But I digress.
And so to the catchily named “Better Read than Dead” book emporium. It’s totally radchic. Queer Theory jostles with Monbiot, Chomsky, Moore, Pusey, Manne and Tariq Ali in a bibliographic cacophony that runs the whole gamut from left to left. I didn’t see ALATMMM in evidence on the New Release stand nor in “Hot Staff Picks” nor anywhere really. I attempted to browse the Australian section but access was delimited by an incredibly fat chick in a top hat sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the shelves, reading avidly.
I asked the staffperson if she was aware of the book at all. “What?” she said as if I’d inquired after an autographed copy of Mein Kampf, “like, a Liberal Party thing?!”
“No, it’s more an exploration of how politics and society have kind of intertwined…look, she’s an academic at Latrobe Uni with Robert Manne and, (noticing his latest work on the shelf adjacent) Dennis Altman.” In retrospect, mentioning Dennis may have been a mistake as his excellent advice to the inanely ranting Fiona Stanley to “stop playing fucking politics” at the recent Adelaide Festival Of the Same Old Ideas wouldn’t have gone down well in these circles. She fixed me with a steely gaze and delivered the ultimate Weapon of Uberhip Bookshop Destruction, ” have you tried Dymocks?” Were it not for my Mohawkish haircut, army surplus pants and “Happy Little Sodomite” T shirt, she would probably have mentioned Angus and Robertson. At that point her colleague leaned across and enquired as to the book. “Oh yeah!” he said. “We’ve got maybe one or two copies of that” He lunged athletically (for a bookstore guy) over the fat reading chick and extricated one of the two copies. The other fell out and landed in her lap. As she gazed at it in frozen horror the guy said, ” I read her other one about Menzies, it was cool, but we don’t get like a lot of Right type stuff in here.”
Well, no, clearly. It wasn’t the moment to correct his misunderstanding of Brett’s oeuvre. I paid and left. At the door a couple of people with a babyperson in an authentic Inca pack thing – male person carrying – were peering at “Stupid White Men.” “It’s complete crap” I assured them cheerily as I departed.