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Interview

Lifeline Bookfest June 12-15, Brisbane

Fictional reporter Norman Wallis gives plenty of notice for the Lifeline Bookfest at the Brisbane Convention Centre for four days from Saturday June 12 to 15. It's a paradise for second-hand book lovers, with more than a million books of all kinds going for next to nix.

One wonders about the provenance of some of the books to be found at Lifeline Bookfests. One book at my side here is called Twenty Years Later by Alexandre Dumas. It’s the sequel to The Three Musketeers. Inside is the imprint of a purple stamp that says Overell and Company, Direct Importers, 2 March, 1898. Where was this company based? In Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane? And who owned this book? Perhaps it was passed along to the next generation, and then the next before being donated to the Bookfest. Perhaps they gave it to someone who’d already read it, thanks, but they knew someone they could give it to. And maybe that person planned to read it, but never got around to it and someone else ended up with it before someone else donated it to the Bookfest. What sort of journey did it have? What sort of frequent-flyer points would this book have accumulated?
I picked it up recently at a mini-Lifeline Bookfest in Caboolture, held in a small hall. It was a curtain-raiser, if you will, to the Lifeline Bookfest in June 12 to 15 which is at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
While fossicking away in Caboolture, I also came across a nice little brown hardback from 1931 by E.A Greening Lamborn, The Rudiments of Criticism . He was Head Master of the East Oxford School. The first edition was published in 1916. The Head Master says that communicating an emotion should be the first condition of poetry. Later he quotes that poetry could well be listened to twice: first for the music of the words, and then for its sense. What a refreshing take on poetry. I don’t know what the first condition of poetry is nowadays.
He gives a lot of the tricks of the trade of poetry, too. Tennyson went for as many different vowel sounds as he could within as few lines. And Shakespeare really hammered the alliteration, and the alliteration isn’t always obvious: isn’t always on the first letters of words. What a magic little book.
Look, I won’t bore you with the titles of some of the other books I bought in Caboolture. The Story of Elizabethan Drama by G. B. Harrison, for example. The Essential Shakespeare by J. Dover Wilson. It would be self-indulgent of me. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. But I will say that if that little mini-Bookfest yielded so many good titles, then I’ll warrant that the Bookfest in June will be a total Blitzkrieg.
It’s on again, as they say, on the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, in Brisbane, Australia, at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. I think people shouldn’t take Bookfests for granted. Something this good is extremely rare these days.It only goes for four days this time, too. Interesting. It used to go for a week. I wonder how long it will go for next time.
Nothing beguiles the despair of a living in a banal environment like a wonderful old book. And the Bookfest is full of them. And they should have something akin to this in every city in the world. That way people who have loved wonderful books all their lives can have a good chance of passing them on to someone who will love them just as much. What a sanguine prospect.
It’s in a room the size of a football field, with second-hand books lined up on scores of long wooden tables. Volunteers for this deserving charity constantly tidy up the tables, keeping the books neatly lined up, spine upwards, ready for the picking. And the books are dirt cheap. There’s bound to be something interesting at the Bookfest you would never have otherwise heard about. Bring a large bag.

-copyright Simon Sandall.

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