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

Under Cover: Adventures in the Art of Editing by Craig Munro

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

University of Queensland Press (UQP) is a fine independent publisher but from the early 70s to the late 90s in particular it really punched above its weight. At one time or another, its stable of aut…

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Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

There’s a small group of us at Readings who are great fans of William Boyd, with one of my colleagues claiming his Any Human Heart as one of her favourite books. Boyd is a master storyteller who weav…

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A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I’ve always felt that Gail Jones is yet to receive the recognition she deserves. This is her sixth novel and it is, I believe, a masterpiece. It is a beautifully constructed novel that builds slowly …

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The Mothers by Rod Jones

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

I vividly remember Rod Jones’ 1986 novel Julia Paradise, the story of a Scottish psychoanalyst and his eponymous patient set in pre-war China. It quite justifiably caused a sensation with its explora…

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Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Last night I went to I Gradi for pizza with my son. It was an easy decision for Joe and me to make and we enjoyed the pizzas very much. You, possibly, think I should have written ‘Joe and I’. Well, t…

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The Life of Houses by Lisa Gorton

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

The Sydney Morning Herald once described Lisa Gorton as ‘one of the most sensuous and cerebral of Australian poets’, praise that could equally apply to her first novel, The Life of Houses. Gorton is …

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One of Us by Asne Seierstad

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

This is an horrific and tragic book; it is an account of one the most devastating mass shootings in recent history. In July, 2011, Anders Breivik detonated a home made bomb in front of the Norwegian …

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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Mark Rubbo

Anne Tyler writes about families; usually they are quite ordinary, middle-class families. They might have a few quirks but mostly they, like the rest of us, are trying to navigate their lives as best…

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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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News

Today is Indigenous Literacy Day

by Mark Rubbo

Today is Indigenous Literacy Day. Between 40% and 60% of Indigenous children living in very remote locations across WA, SA and NT are achieving below minimum standards in Reading in Year 3. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) is working to raise the literacy levels of Indigenous Australians living in remote communities by providing access to educational materials, getting culturally appropri…

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Mark’s Say, September 2015

by Mark Rubbo

Last month I went to an event at our Hawthorn shop to celebrate the publication of The Hush Treasure Book. The book is a collection of original writings and illustrations by some of Australia’s leading children’s authors, and lots of the contributors came to read their stories to a huge crowd. The book comes out of the Hush Music Foundation which was established by physician Dr Catherine Crock. W…

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Mark’s Say, August 2015

by Mark Rubbo

The Australia Council was formed in 1967 by then Prime Minister Harold Holt and it was given statutory authority by the Whitlam government in 1975. Modelled on the successful Canada Council, it took on many of its features including arms-length funding to organisations and artists decided by groups of peers. Over its life it has periodically suffered attacks from many sectors in the community; un…

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Mark’s Say, July 2015

by Mark Rubbo

The Australian merger of two publishing giants Penguin and Random House will be all but completed in early August as their distribution facilities merge into one combined facility. The process of merging the two companies will have taken almost 3 years since the original announcement. The merged companies will have a market share in Australia of close to 30%; in addition, Penguin and Random House…

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Mark’s Say, June 2015

by Mark Rubbo

For those of you who’ve read Drusilla Modjeska’s most recent novel, The Mountain, you’ll be aware of her affection for the people of Papua New Guinea. The Mountain is set primarily in the lower reaches of Mt Lamington, an active volcano in Oro Province. Modjeska first went to PNG as the wife of a young academic, in the late 1960s, at a time full of optimism as the nation was preparing for indepen…

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Mark’s Say, May 2015

by Mark Rubbo

Last month the Harper Competition Policy Review delivered its final report. Set up by the Abbott Government in late 2013, the report runs to 500 odd pages. As you might expect, the Review does not favour regulations and makes a number of recommendations to the government. Recommendation 13 in particular refers to the book industry, as well as the film industry, recommending that restrictions on p…

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