Well, I thought the crowds were good for day 2, but star acts Geraldine Brooks and Peter Carey attracted much greater numbers to the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens in Adelaide on Tuesday 4 March – again in spite of the extreme heat as temperatures hovered around 35 degrees. The heat wasn’t sufficient to dull the enthusiasm of autograph-hunters, who formed snaking queues in the blaring sun to have their newly-purchased books signed. Thank god for the water spray man who kept me cool with a well-aimed shot down the back of my shirt.
Peter Carey seems to be enjoying himself in Adelaide with numerous references to wine drinking during the official launch of his new book, His Illegal Self, published by Random House. Carey is very proud of Random House’s efforts in Australia remarking that the physical appearance of his new book is the most beautiful of all editions released worldwide. He also praised the publishing house’s innovative marketing methods on the World Wide Web and through other unconventional means.
His Illegal Self is the story of Che. Raised in isolated privilege by his New York grandmother, he is the precocious son of radical student activists at Harvard in the late sixties. Yearning for his famous outlaw parents, he takes hope from his long-haired teenage neighbour who predicts that: ‘They will come for you, man’.
Soon Che too is an outlaw, fleeing down subways, abandoning seedy motels at night. He is pitched into a journey that leads him to a hippy commune in the jungle of tropical Queensland. Here he slowly, bravely, confronts his life, learning that nothing is what it seems.
Carey read to the crowd one of the more ‘serious’ passages of the book, when Che arrives in Queensland, but promised that the book contains humour and fun as well.
In the western tent, Australian expatriate author Geraldine Brooks was launching her new book, People of the Book. Brooks enjoyed significant success with her second novel, March, in 2005 winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
People of the Book crosses continents and centuries to bring stories of hope amidst darkness, compassion amidst cruelty, all bound together by the discoveries made by a young Australian woman restoring an ancient Hebrew book. When Hanna Heath gets a call in the middle of the night in her Sydney home about a precious medieval manuscript that has been recovered from the smouldering ruins of war–torn Sarajevo, she knows she is on the brink of the experience of a lifetime. A renowned book conservator, she must now make her way to Bosnia to start work on restoring the Sarajevo Haggadah – a Jewish prayer book – to discover its secrets and piece together the story of its miraculous survival.
Brooks popularity was demonstrated by the long line of bookworms seeking her autograph – her queue was marginally longer than Peter Carey’s.