Classic Penguin : cover to cover: edited with an introduction by Paul Buckley

Penguin Books/Random House, 2016

Penguin Books/Random House, 2016

This eye-popping paperback from the American arm of Penguin Books is not just brimful of some of the wildest art to grace the covers of classic literature, it also comes with fascinating insights from the artists, designers, editors and others involved with a particular edition. Audrey Niffenegger nails it in her Foreword: Classic books need to be reimagined every now and then, no matter how terrific their original covers might have been. The cover shapes the reader’s desire. The book only lives in the mind of its readers. The book designer and the artist respond to the book itself, to the writer’s biography, to the book’s reputation, to the covers that may have come before this one. They deploy typography, images, wit, history, sex, flattery, anything they can think of to give this book a future, to seduce the reader into picking up this book and no other. Then they go off and have lunch and do it all again for the next book.

Thank goodness!

Number 96 , Mavis Bramston and me by David Sale

Vivid Publishing, 2013

Vivid Publishing, 2013

How good it is to see Australia’s television history being documented by those who helped create it. David Sale came to Australia from Manchester in the early 1950s, landing in Melbourne with his parents to escape a fairly grim life in post-war England. Little did he, or Australia, know that he would go on to be involved with two of the country’s most popular and controversial television shows of the 1960s and 70s, The Mavis Bramston Show and Number 96. It is probably difficult for many people growing up in the eighties and nineties (let alone the noughties!) to imagine how prudish and censorious Australian society was in the fifties and early sixties, and this was certainly reflected in things like popular television and radio where wholeseome values were the order of the day. Little wonder then that anarchic talents such as Graham Kennedy and even Barrie Humphries would time and again find themselves skating on thin ice with the arbiters of taste and acceptability. The Mavis Bramston Show went out of its way to poke fun at just about all branches of society, while Number 96 confronted television viewers with an ongoing story that involved strong women, appealing gay men, sex, drugs, neuroses of all types, and all the other colours of the rainbow that make a good, salacious soap-opera. As Michael Kirby says in his introduction: I pay tribute to David Sale and his co-conspirators for their magnificent contribution to loosening up the Australia in which I had come to maturity. We are still a somewhat self-satisfied and uncritical community. But we are a whole lot better than we were before the Mavis team took us to pieces.

The Osamu Tezuka story : a life in manga and anime by Toshio Ban and Tezuka Productions

Stone Bridge Press, 2016

Stone Bridge Press, 2016

The esteem, indeed veneration, in which manga maestro Osamu Tezuka is held in Japan is clearly identified in this mammoth and remarkable manga-style biography of the great man. For many years he was principally known in the West for his lovable creation Astro Boy, followed closely by Kimba the White Lion; if pushed I could probably still sing a few verses of the theme song from the animated Astro Boy television series from the early 1960s, but I promise not to. With well over 700 volumes to his name, and a host of characters who have become beloved around the world, Tezuka’s reputation as a Japanese version of Walt Disney doesn’t appear even slightly exaggerated, and this astonishing labour of love from manga artist Toshio Ban and the team at Tezuka Productions is indeed a fitting tribute to one of the giants of the art.

Terminated for reasons of taste : other ways to hear essential and inessential music by Chuck Eddy (ebook)

Duke University Press, 2016

Duke University Press, 2016

Rock music writer Chuck Eddy has been writing inflammatory, opinionated, divisive and brilliant pieces on almost every conceivable branch of popular music since his early days writing for Creem magazine and The Village Voice. Not just interested in the great and the good of rock, he goes in swinging for the underdogs, bravely defending the legacies of bands and genres flying under the radar of most writers and afficionadoes. Metal, country, indie, rap, new wave, etc., etc., the list of his enthusiasms just goes on and on, his deft turns of phrase and ability to nail a thought with an almost poetic sensibility reason enough to dip into this terrific compilation. Careful though, you hard rockers out there might even find yourselves having second thoughts about Billy Joel, before hurriedly closing the book down lest the infection spreads. Feeling brave? If you’re one of our registered Victorian members you can read this  ebook at home.

 

A particularly gripping scene from Number 96; très bon ya great galah!

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