A Pale View of Hills 

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

March 2018

Gleebooks Bookshop - Friday, March 02, 2018
Regular visitors to our emporium on D’Hill may have noticed my absence for some weeks in February—or not! There’s no getting out of admitting it happened while showing off my ice-skating skills in my living room. As I executed a particularly difficult spin, the rug slipped out from under me and my little toe bent back at such an angle the base of the toe split open, nearly severing the whole thing. I’m calling it the ‘I, Morgan’ incident. I’ll be gone later in March too, as I take a short holiday and then join other Gleebooks’ staff at a book industry conference in Hobart from which I intend to return professionally enhanced, renewed and social media savvy—or not! 
Closer to home, I’m looking forward to the launch (see below) on March 2nd of River Dreams: the people and landscape of the Cooks River by historian, Ian Tyrrell. In this fascinating history Tyrrell combines ecological history with the story of how humans and industry destroyed the river and how now, humans (ie. The Cooks River Association and its offshoot of eco-volunteers, the wonderful Mudcrabs) are attempting to restore it.  The book is eminently readable—and a must-read if you want to know more about your local environment as well as the surprising and interesting history of the region. 
I was delighted to catch up with Vanessa Berry’s Mirror Sydney, a stunning and widely-praised series of observations about the out-of-the way, the lost, the hidden, or only imagined secrets of Sydney—it’s geographical and built terrain. Beautifully written—the following refers to (an imaginary) Sydney Park at St Peters: ‘The park is different when I look up. The green hills are transparent. Behind them is another scene, of brickpit craters…of an old-growth forest, and another, a lagoon and ferns …Smoke trails up from the brickworks chimneys. It merges with the clouds that move over and across this complicated landscape, all that has taken place and is taking place here.’ (ie. West Connex). Accompanied by her own charming drawings, Mirror Sydney is a truly marvellous book. I predict prizes for Vanessa Berry this year. 
And from the other side of the world, one of my picks for March new releases is Philip Hensher’s The Friendly Ones. This is a wonderful contemporary fiction about how the lives of two neighbouring families, one very English and one Pakistani—intertwine. While the lives of the English family are interesting and fraught, it is the back story of the Pakistani family during the war for independence which is really moving. In its episodic structure, its wit and its humanity, The Friendly Ones reminded me a little of Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come. Both, in the end, celebrate ordinary people in all their complicated, chaotic beauty. See you on D’Hill, Morgan

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