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Interview

Lifeline Bookfest book reviews

Norman Wallis aims to review every book at the Lifeline Bookfest in Brisbane, which is held twice a year over several days. The last Bookfest made the charity Lifeline a bit more than a million dollars, which will be used for phone counselling and other services. The Lifeline Bookfest has a website where you can volunteer to sort and price books at future Bookfests, including the regional Bookfests. Norman Wallis has more on his book reviewing project…

There are more than a million books on sale at each Bookfest. That might seem a prohibitive number for me to review. But some books have more than one copy.
The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I picked up a $2.50 copy of this collection of four novels last Bookfest. It relates the author’s experiences living in Alexandria before and during WW2. He tells about the friendships he formed, the romances, and the Mediterranean culture of Alexandria. His style has been compared to Proust, with long elegant sentences, full of exotic details and a vocabulary that shall have you reaching for a dictionary on occasion. I found the novels to be page turners, even though there’s no rip roaring plot, and not many writers can pull off that trick.
Dust on my Shoes by Peter Pinney. There was a vogue for travel books in the 1950s, featuring lone travellers in exotic locations. Peter Pinney was an Australian who travelled through Asia and Africa with not much more than a passport and a string bag, and a dry sense of humor, getting himself in and out of all sorts of scrapes. Elegant writing by a man recently discharged from WW2 service and looking for adventure.
Hotel Splendide by Ludwig Bemelmans. This was a small 1948 Penguin paperback I found at a Bookfest, of around 142 pages, by a contributor to the The New Yorker magazine. He was from Europe, born in Austria-Hungary, in present day Italy. He scored a job in a leading hotel in New York, the Ritz-Carlton. In the book he calls the establishment the Hotel Splendide, and his short stories are full of old world characters. A charming visit to a vanished world.
Laugh it off. Cartoons from the The Saturday Evening Post. This was a wartime collection of single gag cartoons, with beautiful black and white line drawings, published 1944. A fellow drives a car into a brake repair garage and smashes it against the wall. The mechanic says: Yes, sir. What can we do for you?
I shall endeavour to complete my reviews of every book at the Bookfest anon.

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