A Pale View of Hills 

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

July 2018

 - Friday, June 29, 2018
Over the previous two months I’ve got you up to speed on what is forthcoming over the next few months. Now I can report on books I’ve actually read. I mentioned the crime novel Scrublands by journo Chris Hammer last month, and recently spent an entire day on the couch engrossed in this small-town crime story. (I know, after The Dry they’re all the rage). I really liked Hammer’s journalist character Martin who is suffering PTSD after having spent a harrowing time in the Gaza strip a year before. A labyrinthine plot involves Martin arriving in a town on the Murray River to cover the aftermath of a mass shooting by a priest the year before. Throw in discovery of two murdered backpackers, a fire, a bikie gang, a drug ring, false identities and, of course, a beautiful young woman—and you’ve got a complicated situation which twists and turns right to the end. Most satisfying and really well-written.
 
My favourite book of the year so far is White Houses by the incomparable Amy Bloom. Bloom was to come out for the Sydney Writers’ Festival but cancelled—which is sad because many more readers would have discovered her wonderful writing. White Houses tells the now reasonably well-known story of Eleanor Roosevelt’s long love affair with the writer and journalist Lorena Hickock (Hick), who for some time actually lived in the White House with Eleanor and President Franklin DR—who, by all accounts, was having affairs of his own. Bloom writes the book in the voice of Hick—intelligent, funny, loving, eccentric. Although it’s always been thus, it seems that in this post same-sex marriage world, more than ever it matters not what sexual preference the characters in books and films have. All we care about is a good story told well. (Witness the success of Call Me By Your Name which also sold well as a film Tie-in.) Hallelujah!
 
A novel I read some months ago now, and which I’ve recommended to many, is a debut by the American Lisa Halliday called Asymmetry. In seemingly disconnected sections, Halliday riffs on writing, identity, fame and power. In the first section a young would-be writer has an affair with a very famous older writer—Phillip Roth proudly claimed to be the writer Halliday based her character on. This first section is really very funny New York style humour. When the young woman first sees the heart operation scar on the older man she asks ‘who did that to you?’ he replies smartly ‘Norman Mailer’! I laughed like a drain. The next section then seems completely unrelated until you read the third section and it all falls into place. Marvellous.

Lastly as it’s finally winter I must recommend a new cookbook, imaginatively titled Winter by Louise Franc. Still, the title says it all and it’s stacked full of delicious wintery recipes that don’t have too many ingredients and don’t look too hard. How about spicy roasted chicken with blue cheese sauce, whole stuffed pumpkin or coconut fish curry followed by slow baked quinces. Yum! See you on D’Hill, Morgan