I don't know if this is news to anyone else or not, but Giramondo Publishing has begun a Classic Reprints imprint, kicking off with a reissue of Gerald Murnane's first novel, Tamarisk Row, which has been out of print for quite some time (almost twenty years, according to the website.) The recent success of Alexis Wright's prize-winning novel Carpentaria, which has sold over 25,000 copies in Australia, seems to have left the small independent publisher buoyant and optimistic.
Last year saw no less than eight titles from this house, run in his spare time, it would seem, by academic Ivor Indyk, including four collections of poetry, a book of essays and three novels. 2006 saw the publication of Carpentaria, poetry and essays, and 2005 was even busier.
And I haven't even mentioned HEAT magazine, have I - my favourite Oz litmag has gone from two to three issues a year. What excitement. But back to Mr. Murnane's reissue.
Murnane's most recent collection of essays, Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs, was published by Giramondo in 2005. He spoke about memories connected with Tamarisk Row in this article, 'A Detrimental Education', published in The Age last June.
I assume there will be more reminiscing and media coverage of this happy event happening around release time in March, though I doubt any of it could top the poignant account of Murnane's first exposure to seventeenth-century French music recorded at the very end of this article:
When Mr R learnt that our school lacked a library, he generously brought some of his own books to school and made them available as background reading for his students of history.
He did more. Having implied politely that our education had been previously somewhat narrow, he took his dozen or so students of modern history one afternoon to his home to learn what our textbooks could not teach.
Mr R was unmarried and lived with his widowed mother in an inner-suburban terrace house. We students saw no more than the large front room, which was Mr R's study. Two sides of the room were lined with books. Against another wall was a device that would seem primitive in the extreme today but was the first of its kind that I had ever seen: a three-speed record player. Mr R owned not only hundreds of books but dozens of long-playing records. I had never suspected that one person could own such a treasury.
Do read it all - I feel bad stealing this silver thunderbolt from the end of a measured, spare and desolate reminiscence which will have to serve for now as an introduction to Murnane's singular body of work (which has an international reputation) if you haven't read him before.