Mark Rubbo

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Twitter: @markrubbo

Mark Rubbo is Managing Director of Readings. He is a past president of the Australian Booksellers Association and was founding chair of the Melbourne Writers Festival. In 2006 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia “For service to the community through fostering an awareness of Australian literature as a bookseller, literary critic, and promoter and supporter of Australian writers.”

Reviews

Charlie’s Country

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Charlie (David Gulpilil) lives in a small community in Arnhem Land. A sequence of events, funny yet sadly moving, drive him to eschew the community and go bush. But even he can’t survive in the bush …

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Amnesia by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Despite its more serious subtext, Amnesia is a very funny book and is Peter Carey at the height of his powers. I read it a second time because I wanted to savour it again for its structure and its wr…

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Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy by Sophie Cunningham

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It’s almost 40 years since Cyclone Tracy destroyed the northern city of Darwin on the night of 24 December, 1974. Australia had not known a natural disaster like it since European colonisation. Seven…

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Lygon Street - Si Parla Italiano

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Surely everyone loves Italy and the Italians; the country has given us pasta, pizza, coffee, and, of course, Lygon Street in Melbourne. Lygon Street – Si Parla Italiano is a delightful homage to the …

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The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama by Julie Szego

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In 2008, a young Somali man was convicted of the rape of a 48-year-old woman at a Doncaster nightclub. The woman had been found unconscious in a locked toilet cubicle with her pants down: she had no …

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A Mad And Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It’s a strange irony that Bernard McGinn died of natural causes just a few months or so back; Mcginn was part of an IRA group of snipers based in South Armagh, Northern Ireland, on the Irish border. …

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My Promised Land by Ari Shavit

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

My Promised Land is a profoundly inspiring and challenging book. It is an intensely personal impression of a country, for which the writer has intense admiration and affection but also grave misgivin…

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Coal Creek by Alex Miller

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Alex Miller migrated to Australia when he was only 16 and his first job was as a ringer in outback Queensland. That early experience in the Australian outback informs a number of his works, including…

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Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I heard Andrew Solomon talk about his book earlier this year at the Jaipur Literature Festival. He was so inspirational that I had to buy it. In 1993 Solomon was asked by the New York Times to write …

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Gotland by Fiona Capp

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In 2009, Fiona Capp spent part of a summer at the Baltic Writers and Translators Centre in Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland. Her time there has provided an exotic and compelling backdrop for he…

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No Safe Place by Jenny Spence

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Elly Cartwright writes software manuals for Soft Serve. On returning home one evening after having a meeting with Carlos, the company’s brilliant and reclusive programmer, her Brunswick neighbour is …

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Life in Ten House by Sonya Hartnett

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Coming in at just over 70 pages, this latest addition to the Penguin Specials range is an evocative glimpse into a writer’s life.

Sonya Hartnett’s has been a rather peripatetic one, having lived in …

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Left Hand Drive by Craig McGregor

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Craig McGregor is a writer and academic whose career has spanned many years and many iterations. He started as a journalist in the early 60s, wrote books on contemporary Australia, became a freelance…

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Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life by Yashodhara Dalmia

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913. Her mother was Hungarian and her father was from a noble Sikh family. The family lived in Hungary, India and Italy at various points. From an early age, …

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The Memory Trap by Andrea Goldsmith

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

It’s been three years since Andrea Goldsmith’s Reunion, a big, bold work. In both Reunion and her new novel, The Memory Trap, relationships, family, ambition, lust and goodness come together to make …

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Boomer & Me by Jo Case

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

When Leo starts school, his mum starts to notice little things that make him stand out. His first teacher calls him gifted; his reading and verbal skills are very advanced. But, as time goes on, othe…

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The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

When they arrive in the town of Novilla, a child and a man are directed to a building with a large sign in Spanish that reads ‘Resettlement Centre’. The man seems to have had his memory wiped from hi…

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The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

At a large airport, people might mingle, join queues and follow instructions peacefully, and it’s most likely that they won’t know anyone else around. In traditional societies, those kinds of intera…

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Davis Mccaughey: A Life by Sarah Martin

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Davis McCaughey was a rare public figure, one that was almost universally admired, respected and indeed loved. Born to a middle-class Belfast family, he began his career as a theologian and in 1953 a…

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Montebello by Robert Drewe

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

The Montebello archipelago consists of around 174 small islands, 130 kilometres off the Pilbara coast of north-western Australia and 20 kilometres north of Barrow Island. Between 1952 and 1956 they w…

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A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This book is described as a novel, but in fact it’s more like five parables tenuously connected by the vicissitudes of life.

In the first section, a young teacher enlists in World War II – as an int…

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Left Turn: Political Essays For The New Left edited by Antony Loewenstein and Jeff Sparrow

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I ran into Antony Lowenstein (left) at the Sydney Writers Festival and mentioned I was reviewing this collection of essays. ‘You have to remember Mark, that it’s not a manifesto and it doesn’t presen…

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Text Classics: The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo, Readings Managing Director

The Watch Tower is almost a psychological thriller; it has the pace and tension of one and is an absolutely compelling reading. Set in Sydney around the late fifties it’s the story of two sisters, La…

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The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo, Readings Managing Director

The Mountain opens in the heady years just prior to Papua New Guinea’s independence, a country grappling with the transition from Australian colony to independent nation. The new university is a magn…

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Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo, Readings Managing Director

In his new book, Boyd returns to the world of espionage and intrigue that was the hallmark of his wonderful novel, Restless. It is 1913 and English actor Lysander Rief has come to Vienna to seek trea…

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The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

In 1738 French inventor Jacques de Vaucanson built a robotic duck that ate grain, which went through a ‘digestive’ system and produced faeces at the other end. Peter Carey uses meticulous research in…

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News

Mark’s Say: Favourite reads of 2014 and the Readings Foundation

by Mark Rubbo

It’s the time of year when The Readings Foundation allocates its grants for the following year. The Foundation raises money from 10% of Readings’ profits, individual donations and our customers also contribute by making a small donation when they have an item gift-wrapped. It’s a lovely but also very difficult time as the requests we receive outstrip our resources and each project is very deservi…

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Mark’s Say: Popular Penguins

by Mark Rubbo

This month marks the retirement of Peter Blake, the Sales Director of Penguin Books Australia. Peter’s name may not mean much to you but he’s probably touched your life in some way. Text publisher Michael Heyward called Peter a publishing genius for his simple yet brilliant idea of repackaging backlist titles in the distinctive orange and white livery of the Penguin Popular Classics at an afford…

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Mark’s Say: Minecraft and the vitality of the printed book

by Mark Rubbo

If you are the parent or grandparent of boys aged between five to 12, chances are you are familiar with Minecraft, a computer game. Minecraft has spawned a range of official books, rather ugly affairs, which the developers insist can only be printed at one particular European printer. As the whole demographic worldwide wants these books, it’s often hard for the printer to keep up. For local publi…

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Mark’s Say: Readings New Australian Writing Award 2014 Shortlist

by Mark Rubbo

A few years ago our events manager, Christine Gordon, some friends of Readings and I went to the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). For lots of reasons it was the best literary festival I’d been to. Sorry Melbourne, sorry Sydney, sorry Adelaide and sorry Ubud, but none of you can match the vibrancy, diversity and sheer size of the JLF. This year, Readings has recruited Marieke Brugman to lead a to…

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Mark’s Say: Melbourne Writers Festival and Colm Tóibín

by Mark Rubbo

On my recent holidays I had the great pleasure of reading an advance of the new Colm Tóibín novel, Nora Webster (due for release in October). I have to confess that the only Tóibín I’ve read is The Testament of Mary, which I was fairly diffident about, and read, largely, because I’d been invited by his publisher to have dinner with Tóibín when he was here last year for the Melbourne Writers Festi…

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Mark’s say: Hachette vs. Amazon

by Mark Rubbo

Last month the US publishing industry’s annual get-together, the BookExpo America (BEA), was held in the giant Javits Center in midtown Manhattan on the banks of the Hudson River. It’s an event I’ve been to most years; this time I was joined by my colleague, Angela Crocombe, a recipient of the Readings Scholarship – a program designed to give Readings staff the opportunity to explore bookselling …

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