The Eyeball End by Ali MC

I suspect that self-published books offered to Readings on consignment (accepted and shelved for sale, but only paid for once sold), are similar to those found in the rather unfortunately termed ‘slush-piles’ of mainstream publishers. That is to say, the books are no doubt the product of tons of work on the part of the authors, but only rarely do they achieve high literary quality or appeal to a wide readership and therefore have some chance of commercial success. At Readings, we only take a small proportion of the many titles offered, but it is satisfying to give these works some exposure.

Hence my delight at having Ali MC’s The Eyeball End cross my desk recently. An account of about 10 years of travel all around the world, it belongs to the genre of travel writing but is much else besides. Ali was not the sort of twenty-something to go to the regular destinations favoured by young people looking to stretch their boundaries, such as New York, Bali and Berlin etc. Instead, feeling pretty downcast about his humdrum middle-class life in Melbourne, Ali’s awareness that the great majority of humanity was doing it far worse set him on a journey towards greater understanding of how the world works.

Each of the chapters looks at a different and challenged (politically, economically, and usually spiritually as well) part of the world: Rwanda, Burma, Lebanon, and Haiti, to name a few. There’s also a decidedly unsettling chapter set in the backstreets of Derby in the Kimberley region which brings issues closer to home to light as well.

I was really impressed by Ali’s courage, often putting himself in quite uncomfortable (and sometimes hair-raising) situations in his hunger for knowledge. His reportage is invariably involving and moving, and conveys some pretty uncomfortable truths about the way a large portion of the world’s population lives today. Entertaining as well as empathetic, I’m sure many a ‘regular’ publisher would be proud to publish this book.

Martin Shaw is Readings’ Books Division Manager.