Bookmarks: Dymocks marks its 140th birthday; Christer shifts sideways

The long-lived Dymock

William Dymock is credited with being the "first native-born Australian to launch and maintain a successful bookselling venture", according to The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. If he were alive today, he'd be amazed at how that business has prospered. These days there are 60 Dymocks shops around the country.

Credit:Andrew Dyson

Dymock was born in Melbourne but moved to Sydney as a lad and began working for George Robertson (not to be confused with the George Robertson of Angus and Robertson fame) in the late 1870s. In 1879, according to Dymocks' own history, he started a business selling books in Sydney's Market Street. In 1884 Dymocks' Book Arcade was in Pitt Street. In 1890 it moved to 428 George Street. In 1896 Dymock took over William Maddock's library – Maddock had managed and then taken over George Robertson’s first Sydney shop – and claimed that his bookshop was the largest in the world with stock of more than a million books.

But William Dymock died in 1900 and left the business to his sister, Marjory, who was married to one John Forsyth, and since then the Forsyth family has managed the business. It has grown substantially, of course, with the company establishing a franchise system in 1986. The company is celebrating its 140th birthday with a party on Monday at that well-known flagship shop in George Street.

Christer’s shuffle

Management duties can take their toll, particularly if what you really want to do is publish books. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Nikki Christer is stepping away from her group publishing director position at Penguin Random House after four years. She was publishing director at Random House for eight years before that.

She will now become Publisher at Large at PRH. Christer, who was also publishing director at Picador for 13 years, will be replaced in August by Justin Ractliffe, who until Friday was managing director of Hachette – he's now on ''gardening leave''. Christer told Bookmarks that the decision was entirely her own. ‘‘This has not been foisted on me. I came back from the London Book Fair and realised I needed a change. Last year was difficult.’’

Just over a year ago, PRH literary publishing director Ben Ball was ousted from the company, much to the chagrin of authors such as Tim Winton and Don Watson. Ball is now publishing director at Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint. Christer says she was keener on the publishing element of her job: ‘‘I am a publisher and will still be publishing, so the new job is an ideal one.’’

Fisketjon fired

There aren’t many people in American publishing who have – had? – a better reputation as an editor than Gary Fisketjon. So it came as a shock to learn that last week he was sacked by Knopf for ‘‘a breach of company policy’’. Trade newsletter Publishers Lunch said Fisketjon had been suspended and then dismissed following an investigation. Fisketjon worked with many star American writers, including Raymond Carver, Richard Ford, Donna Tartt and Cormac McCarthy.

He was also Peter Carey’s editor in the US. He loved editing. It was a question of trust, he told Bookmarks when he visited Austalia, and it required time to go through a book word by word, sentence by sentence. ‘‘I want to get my hands in nice and bloody. That’s how you understand the prose, you can’t get it at a glance.’’

A Child of time

British crime writer Lee Child’s popularity with library users has continued, according to the fourth Civica Libraries Index, which is produced in conjunction with the Australian Libraries and Information Association.

Loved in the libraries.Credit:Dan Callister / Alamy Stock Photo

Child had three titles in the top 20 most-borrowed books from Australian libraries in the 12 months to the end of March, including The Midnight Line and Night School in the top two spots. Most writers would be pretty happy with that, but Child had four top 20 titles in the previous year's list, and surprisingly his most recent novel, Past Tense, didn’t feature in the top 20, which was as usual dominated by thrillers. Australian crime writer Jane Harper had two titles in the top 10 – Force of Nature at four and The Dry at six – while Tim Winton’s The Shepherd’s Hut was the only literary title in the list at number three. Other Australian titles in the top 20 were Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor at 10, Heather Morris' The Tattooist of Auschwitz at 13, the perennially popular Andy Griffiths at 16 with The 91-Storey Treehouse and Liane Moriarty with Truly Madly Guilty (18) and Nine Perfect Strangers (20). American crime writer Michael Connelly had three titles in the top 20.

Oh lucky cloud

Brigid Delaney was lucky. When The Guardian writer lost her laptop at Melbourne airport a couple of Fridays ago, her angst was extreme – it contained a half-completed manuscript for a novel. She tweeted about it, Russell Crowe offered a reward, a friend managed to download the prose from the cloud and eventually the laptop itself was found.

Tim Winton on cloud nine.Credit:Simon Schluter

The idea of losing a manuscript must be every writer’s nightmare. Tim Winton, for one, came close to losing the manuscript for Cloudstreet. He wrote it on the hoof, while the Winton family was travelling in Europe. When they arrived in Rome en route for Athens, he was carrying his sleeping three-year-old child and a large suitcase. His wife, Denise, had two other big cases. All of a sudden someone grabbed at Winton. He thought it was something to do with drugs – he has long hair and people were always trying either to buy drugs from him or sell them to him. So Winton was shrugging the guy off, not understanding what he was saying. What he was saying was, is that your bag left on the bus? Winton told me the story a while ago and finished like this: "I sort of dropped the sleeping child. That was it – the handwritten manuscript, the carbons and typescript so far. More than half the book and I couldn’t have redone it. I could have kissed that whiskery Italian guy."

Meeting of minds

Unesco Cities of Literature from around the world – there are 28 in 23 countries – have been meeting in Britain this week for an annual get-together. According to the organisers, the CoL network will be planning future projects, discussing international exchanges and residences and how to promote books in translation. For the first time, David Ryding, the director of Melbourne’s City of Literature office, is not there, but Australia’s only CoL is represented by Helen Withycombe, head of programming at the Wheeler Centre who is very involved with its activities. Ryding is instead heading to the Unesco summit of creative cities in a couple of weeks at Fabriano in Italy (a city of craft and folk art), which he reckons is a more productive exercise.

Keneallys help out

Tom and Meg Keneally will be talking about their writing and books in Melbourne on Sunday to help raise funds for Jane Davey who has motor neurone disease and has been given only 12 months to live. The aim is to accrue enough money to buy a specially adapted so she can more easily get out of her home. Davey's sister, Clare Vane-Tempest, says ''A wheelchair-adapted vehicle would make such a difference to Jane’s life''. The sisters' father, Richard Vane -Tempest, a doctor, was a long-standing friend of Tom Keneally, who credits him with saving his life on several occasions (Keneally suffers from asthma).

The special lunch is at 12.30pm at George's Restaurant, 819 Burke Road, Camberwell. The cost is $65 and all profits go to the fund-raising campaign. eventbrite.com.au

Source: Read Full Article