The ABC is echoing the anguish of the luvvies as local book reviews are expurgated from the Canberra Times.
This surprised me slightly. Because in 25 odd years of reading the paper I can’t recall ever coming across that section. Consuming the paper only online for the last few years I can’t say I’ve found it in my travels there either.
Now here’s the thing; does a local perspective add anything to a book review? If there was someone local of such insight and perspicacity that they can outdo the book reviewers of the Guardian, Telegraph, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, or even the bigger Fairfax mastheads surely they would quickly be writing for those august bodies?
Does a Canberran, as a Canberran, have anything to say about, say, Hilary Mantel’s latest book “Bring Up The Bodies” that is going to be distinctive to our audience?
So the only real edge is writing about books written by local authors. This might explain why few outside the corridors of the sacred cows, were even aware this section of the crumbling Canberra Times was still consuming dead trees.
Now RiotACT has long supported local cultural endeavours. We champion local music, and cheerfully promote local playwrights, movie makers, painters, you name it.
On the rare occasion we’ve been sent a local book review we’ve been happy to find space for it too.
But the problem is that life’s too short for bad books.
A bad song wastes 3 minutes of my life. A bad short film 7 minutes. Bad theatre maybe 3 hours.
But a book takes up a couple of weeks of my life I could be reading something good. (If I have a really, really good book I can finish it in a couple of days but my entire life is on hold during the process).
Furthermore compared to the dazzling titans of global literature the quality gap is grating. The best of most local arts can at least sit comfortably in close comparison to the best anywhere (interestingly dance is probably another area where, once you’ve tasted the best, provincial offerings disappoint).
Realistically here we’re talking about local authors reviewing each other. Ideally this is the subject of a blog. That no blog has colonised the niche of Canberra literature reviewing truly makes one wonder what it was doing eating up newsprint in the first place.
That said, if you do come across a locally written book you’d care to recommend, please do let us know about it.