Psst… read any bad books lately?

A new year. Do we really have to? I hadn’t finished with the old one. Let’s recycle 2011. Nobody prepared me for this headlong pitch into the new century.

A new year. Do we really have to? I hadn’t finished with the old one. Let’s recycle 2011. Nobody prepared me for this headlong pitch into the new century. I am still amazed that I made it past 2000. I am a woman in search of boredom because it slows time. But it’s not happening. The world grows more interesting by the day, by the year. Ennui is not an option. I look sideways at my friends, my peers, to see if they are possessed by the same sense of panic. Surely all that travel is to do with the fear that if they stop moving around the world they’ll have to get off. Then again, the ones that stay home may be searching to arrest time with happy boredom like myself. I arrive panting at the end of the day, exhausted by the things I have not done. A new year is a reproach for the way I treated the old. I will greet the new year with a little lie down. Perhaps with a bad book. Bad books are fascinating. I get them from the “please take me for free” box at the library. The librarian who chooses them is a genius. I don’t mean comfort reading or out-and-out rubbish. Real bad books have to be by authors who believe they are writing literature. But they are, sadly, wrong. If you can find a good bad book, hours of fun are ahead of you. My latest, a novel published only in 2003, leapt into my hands because of the promise of its cover – “In the idyllic summer of 1914, the battle lines are already drawn”. That’s on the front. On the back, Publishers Weekly proclaims that it is “A surpassing excellent historical and psychologically intricate mystery”. Surpassing excellent, eh? That sounds bad. Chapter One begins, “It was a golden afternoon in late June, a perfect day for cricket. The sun burned in a cloudless sky and the breeze was barely sufficient to stir the slender, pale skirts of the women as they stood on the grass… parasols in hand. The men in white flannels were relaxed and smiling”. The characters seem to remain as above throughout the noble-minded spy and murder mystery that follows, except that in moments of high drama, colour floods their faces, or drains from their faces. There is a huge coming and going of colour from both men’s and women’s faces. I won’t tell you all the joys of this “surpassing excellent” bad book, but I will just mention that within a single page Mr Gorley-Brown becomes Gorley-Smith (a real find for bad book lovers) and the menials, such as barmaids and policemen, say “Oi” instead of “I”. I did notice, though, that the cop who says “Oi” thinks this or that, manages to say “Bible”, not “Boible”. Comfort reading is another matter all together and must be respected. For many people, the doyenne of comfort authors is Georgette Heyer, 1902 – 1974 (whose name I have just discovered should be pronounced “hare”). She is not my glass of port, but I know many people, among them mathematicians and lawyers, who love Georgette dearly, and when life is too hard, they jump under the doona with her until her Regency world makes everything seem better again. As one reviewer put it, “Georgette Heyer is just about the best fun it is possible to have between soft covers: romantic, funny, zippy and, because she wrote the same book over and over, entirely reliable (as the publisher Carmen Callil once put it: ‘She just used Jane Eyre and jiggled it around 57 times’)”. There is a new biography of Georgette by Melbourne researcher Jennifer Kloester (Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller, published by Heinemann), and although I drop off after a few pages of Beauvallet, Arabella, Regency Buck or Bath Tangle, I had to read about a successful 20th century author who kept herself nice and private, and made enough money to have serious problems with tax inspectors. Alas, she is a crashing bore if this biography is true to her character. She struggled to support her family for years, which was admirable, but she was a middle class snob and loved herself to bits while being self-deprecatory and coy. Her work ethic was immense, but I cannot love her, despite her feistiness and determination not to be done down by publishers and the taxation people. She even patronised the Queen who described her as a formidable woman. ***** I am not making resolutions because I still have issues with 2011’s give-up-chocolate vow. But I dare make some predictions which have relevance to third agers. They are: the question of discrimination against older drivers, including compulsory health checks, will have to be examined in the light of absence of evidence that we are scarier than young or even middle aged drivers. Compulsory health checks for all drivers or none. Television stations will refuse to increase their closed captioning of programs for the hard of hearing and the deaf; indeed, for anyone who needs to turn the sound off. All programs should be captioned, of course. Prediction: this will be ignored as per usual. Even by the ABC which clings pathetically to a quota of captioned programs, making 24-hour news availability a farce for at least 10 percent of the population. At a time the ABC deems is a decent bedtime for hearing impaired people, the captions will still disappear from Channel 24, and the deaf treated as second class citizens as per usual. Did you know that the live broadcast of President Obama’s speech to the joint sitting of Parliament was not captioned? Deafies who complained were referred to iView, which was captioned some time later, but silly old us, we wanted to watch Obama live like other people. Prediction: There will be more pious words about care for the aged (coupled with terrifying warnings that the aged are going to ruin the economy), but 2012 will be just like 2011 and the years before then. Nothing much will be done. I speak with the wisdom of my years. So old, so cynical. Happy New Year.

Adelaide In-depth

Get the latest stories, insights and exclusive giveaways delivered straight to your inbox every week.