Recording date:

With over fifty years' experience in writing and publishing, Thomas Keneally examines the survival of the physical book and asks 'Why does it exist at all and where does it sit now, as a tool of research or a source of transcendence and joy, amongst its electronic siblings?'

Supported by the Ray Mathew and Eva Kollsman Bequest

Thomas Keneally - Gutenberg Fights On: A Survival Story

Date:18 November 2014
Location: National Library of Australia

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

Distinguished guests and dear friends welcome to the National Library of Australia, I’m Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and I’m the Director-General of the National Library and as we begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, I thank their Elders past and present for caring for this land we are all now privileged to call home.  I’m delighted that so many of you have joined us tonight for the 2014 Ray Mathew Lecture, presented by one of Australia’s most esteemed writers and a great friend to the National Library, Thomas Keneally.

The Ray Mathew Lecture is named in honour of the Australian poet and playwright, Ray Mathew, who left Australia in the late 1960s never to return.  Ray spent most of the remainder of his life, and he died in 2002, living in the New York apartment of his patrons Ava and Paul Kollsman.  The Ray Mathew and Ava Kollsman Trust is a generous bequest made to the Library by Ava Kollsman to support and promote Australian writing. 

One of the ways in which we have benefited from this generosity is through the presentation of the Ray Mathew lecture, but the bequest has also supported research and projects that help us to improve access to our literary collections.

Our lecturer this year, Thomas Keneally, is much loved as this full theatre attests.  Born in 1935, and I only mention that, so that you can all get your birthday cards ready for next year which is a big year.  Tom’s rich life experience has included study for the Catholic priesthood, a vocation he left in 1960 before ordination.  Work as a school teacher, football coach, drama lecturer and he also studied law.  He has travelled widely in Australia and overseas and has worked and lived abroad for extended periods.  It was his interest in history that brought Tom his first major success as a writer and the first of many awards.  His second published novel, Bring Larks and Heroes, was awarded the Miles Franklin award in 1967.  Three Cheers for the Paraclete, his third novel published a year later in 1968, also received the Miles Franklin.

None of us will forget Schindler’s Arch, earning Tom the Booker Prize in 1982 or the film adaptation Schindler’s List, receiving numerous awards including seven academy awards a decade later.

Tom is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has been Chair of the Australian Society of Authors, a member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council and President of the National Book Council.  Tom received the Order of Australia in 1983.

Rather than take up more of our time tonight listing his works and awards, let me just say that Tom is also a great friend as I said to the National Library.  We hold copies of all his published works, many also in foreign editions. 

Tom was interviewed by Hazel De Berg for our oral history collection in October 1967 and has been interviewed on a number of subsequent occasions.  He’s represented in our pictures collection, the Friends of the National Library celebrated him in 2006 and we are honoured to hold Tom’s papers in our manuscripts collection.  Please welcome Thomas Keneally to share with us the 2014 Ray Mathew Lecture, Gutenberg Fights On: A Survival Story.  Welcome Tom.

Thomas Keneally

Well thank you Librarian and I am – I was so honoured to be asked to give this lecture because I did meet Ray Mathew in the mid 60s at a writer’s event in Sydney and I therefore should have a decent lecture prepared [laughing].

My story is that, and you have no reason to believe this, because you’d expect a – a sort of skiver from Sydney to say something like this, I lost my lecture, but I rewrote it again outside.  However, there were many learned quotes from Marshall McLuhan included in this lecture, pretentious quotes as Marshall McLuhan was given too, which – with which I would early in the lecture have tried to prove my intellectual bona fides and sort of forced you to eat your brussel sprouts before you got on to the good stuff.  I’m afraid the quotations that were very germane to the question of the book, in the Gutenberg Book, I am unable to reproduce from memory and thus will be lacking those, but I was able to get here in time to rewrite what I wanted to say and I – if the lecture is incoherent and unsatisfactory then so was the original [laughing] that is lost somewhere at the Crown Plaza Hotel.

Ray Mathew let us honour him and say Ava and Vale to him.  Recently Howard Jacobson who wrote a Booker Prize winning novel called The Finkler Question, a very interesting novel in the light of the dispute – the argumentation and the moral anguish over the recent fight in Gaza.  A question that – a novel that tries to put the business of being Jewish next to the fact of the Israeli State.  Well he was a Professor at Sydney University, he’s an Englishman, and he has made a documentary called Brilliant Creatures, which is about ex-patriots like Ray Mathew.  His focus in the series, which has been shown on the BBC and is about to be shown on the ABC, has Bob Hughes, Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries and Clive James, but above all on this phenomenon of Australians with ideas and talents fleeing Australia post World War II.  And as I say that is about to be shown that I think it will be next week on the ABC.  Ray Mathew was one of the people who left Australia because for a – for sundry reasons.  One of those reasons may have been the culinous of Australian culture and the impossibility of making a living out of writing here, that was certainly one of them.

One of them was a yearning that all Colonial boys had to make their mark with the Poms.  I think when I started writing it was more important to impress the English than it was to be read by your own fellow countrymen you know, because they were impressed by any old footballer and cricketer, so we still had that cultural inferiority which made us look upon England with its magnificent metre shilling – dropping metres for heat as the homeland of culture.  And so Howard Jacobson dealt with, as I said, with Bob Hughes, Germaine Greer, Barry Humphries, Clive James. 

I participated in that documentary and I thought that there was a subclass of ex patriots that we could have dealt with.  Not sub in the sense of inferior but sub in the sense of classification, and they were all the gay writers I’ve known, including Ray Mathew, who went to other countries.  I think Ray went to England first because it was the place Australian boys and girls went.  We were raised with a belief that every plumber and electrician and welder in the UK was reading Thomas Hardy and we had to read like buggery to keep up with your average British welder, and that’s how – that’s how people like Germaine and Barry Humphries and Clive James ended up smarter than the people in the northern hemisphere, a cultural inferiority.

But I think of all the gays, as a aging heterosexual, past it, not quite Viagra needing yet, but getting there, male I think of the tragedy of the boys who left because they were gay including Ray Mathew, Sumner Lock Elliott whom I knew in New York, Randolph Stow who became a bar tender in a pub in East Anglia and Ray Mathew who first went to England, who went first to England and then after his partner died as a gentle soul became the protected companion of an American company – of an American couple who have endowed tonight’s lectures.

I feel it’s very sad to think of these fellow Australians who were impelled in part or in whole from my country because of our hysteria about homosexuals.  I mean I don’t think we’re unique in that but we did take gay bashing to an art form, and I think of Russell Braddon too, another Australian I knew, now when I was youngish, Russell Braddon’s the Naked Island was the ultimate book on being a prisoner of the Japanese in Changi and on the Burma Railway.  It’s a great book and he wrote many very fine books, Braddon’s career is detailed in a very good biography called Nigel Stark called – called – and since I don’t have – uh – thank God for the aging brain, Proud Australian Boy.  Ray – Russell Braddon was the lover of a British cartoonist on the Burma Railroad, his name was Ronald Searle and he survived the War, he was saved by Russell Braddon and by a Sydney surgeon called Dennis Fagan.  And he went on to become the creator of St Trinians, and a cartoonist of cats and he became the Hogarth of the 1960s and the 1970s.

So Russell Braddon comes back to Australia after saving this Englishman’s life and being a brave kid he was – he was an astoundingly brave kid on the Burma Railroad and he’s only 20 or something and he survives all that, comes back, starts his university career again and he begins to find it all beyond him, he can’t sleep in a bed, he can only sleep in the floor- on the floor after all these years of imprisonment.  And he gets stranger and stranger and then he attempts suicide and at that stage the fact you were a survivor of the Burma Railroad – Railway didn’t save you from being clapped with a criminal offence for being – for attempting suicide.  And he was he was put in a closed psychiatric ward which was hell. 

There were other survivors of POW camps who were in there and they were exploited by the orderlies, they were exploited sexually, financially, if they caused any trouble they were chucked into a padded cell with their own excreta and that’s sadly the country we – an aspect of the country we were then and Russell Braddon signed a statutory declaration that he would never attempt suicide again and was let out and guess what, he caught a ship to Britain, gay and an attempted suicide. 

And that’s the sort of pressure that was probably more subtle in Ray Mathews case but I do want to send as futile as it is, a fraternal message out to those writers who were like Ray Mathew and who were part of who’s motivation for departing Australia was our – oh gee I hate to use buzz words, but for short hand let us say homophobia.

So vale to Ray Mathew.

I’ve now been a writer for 50 years and I began writing because I didn’t have a social life and because I was a social outcast.  I belonged to a kind of Irish Australian community and I’d studied for the priesthood and there’s nothing worse than a failed priest and I was one.  I did not know – I had no social skills, and it’s typically people are so awed by writers but they don’t know that we are dead beats and derelicts saved from ourselves by getting published and that is the – that is I’m not kidding, I’m not trying to be funny, that is the truth.  And so I was saved by writing a book called The Place at Whitton, which has been reissued and it’s very interesting it begins with a very not wanting people to leave after the first page I think I have a murder where a pig eats the victim’s face that’s the sort of riveting and with its overtones of the gathering swine and all that stuff, the possessed pig like beast, in which Jews certainly believe and Muslims believe and Christians half believe it doesn’t interfere with their enjoyment of the processed product.

And when I began writing there was no visible literary community in Australia, there were a few lonely nunataks out there largely unread by school children, largely unread by the public, there was Judith Wright and there was – there was Kenneth Slessor, the great poet, Five Bells, and there was Patrick White, the isolated squattocracy homosexual, why didn’t he leave, because he hated us enough.  [laughing]

He needed, he was wise enough to know he needed to be here for his own authenticity, that he was irrevocably Australian and the – so when I got the news that I was going to publish a book I had no one to turn – I was going to get my book published.  I had no one to turn to there were no literary festivals to go to, where there were panels of editors from trade publishers telling you how impossible the industry was.  No panels of writers to go to who’d say oh writing’s so solitary it’s appalling and then you get published and that’s when the agony really begins; I had no one to turn to and in my post-colonial innocence I thought oh mate this is the way to go.

Around about the same period Betty Cuthbert I think 1960 won the 400 metres gold medal from lane eight, because her post-colonial – in her post-colonial innocence she didn’t know it was impossible.  In the same – same post-colonial innocence I became a writer.

The Society of Authors had just been formed, that no one knew about it, it had just been formed by brave figures like Dal Stivens, Barbara Jefferies, Maurice West, and ultimately it would come to be a powerful trade organisation which I will talk about later.  There were no literary festivals and indeed Australian authors were paid a colonial royalty, that is your book published in England, English authors books shipped to Australia, attracted full royalty for them, but Australian authors had to pay, they received a lesser percentage on their book to pay for the transportation from England.  So echoes of convictism isn’t it?  Transportation from England, and the – there were – there was also of course no visibility for Australian writing in schools and there was no recognised craft of letters, you know, what do you do for living, I’m a writer, yeah but mate what do you do for a living?  That – the idea of the craft of writing didn’t exist in Australia and the idea of a publishing industry for Australian literature didn’t exist in Australia and of course now we come to a time where things are still powerless but Australian writers are visible in what is taught to school kids for good or ill.  We have a visible literary community, a kid could go to - his girl or boy could go to his/her parents and say I think I’d like to try writing without the dying apoplexy on the spot, there is a system of festivals that – that allow most Australian writers if they wish to, to step – you know the stones that allow you to cross a running stream you could spend a year stepping from festival to festival in Australia, from Byron Bay to various festivals on the south coast to Canberra to Mildura to Adelaide, Melbourne, various regional festivals in – and so on.  And you end up at Albany and Perth and you think where did the year go while I was pouncing around at festivals.

Being – trying to convince the world that I’m a human being, and so you know writing and there is an industry in Australia, it’s a tenuous industry, if they reform the – well is reform the word?  But if they change the copyright laws it will largely vanish.  The Australian industry is protected by 21 day margin, so for example if my book’s published first in Australia, if a book is not published in Australia within 21 days of its publication anywhere else in the English speaking world, then you can import the books.  So the Australian publishing industry depends on publishing people within 21 days or more before they’re published elsewhere.  And – but that industry is a robust one and it’s better than what we had in 1964, but of course there are all sorts of wrinkles, they’re the – the ASA however – the Australian Society of Authors I should say fought and won battles for public lending right, we want our books in libraries, but the – there has been a worldwide argument that writers should be compensated for their books held in libraries.  It’s easier to prove that if you’re in Sweden; Swede – Swedish authors just took all their books out of the library, but we don’t have – there were about two or three books in English left on the shelves, but we don’t have that power because we share a language and we have through the operation of the Australian Society of Authors acquired photocopying rights where say a poet, a teacher wants to, which is a wonderful thing give 35 children access to a particular poem by a particular author, the authorities will pay for the teacher to be able to do that, she just writes down – he or she just writes down the poem, the number of copies and we get educational copyright lending right for that, it’s wonderful, it’s called the Writer’s Old Age Pension that stuff and of course people like Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald makes quite a bit out of photocopying rights.

So we’ve got educational lending right, school libraries and university libraries, public lending right – public libraries, we’ve got copyright compensation rights and all these were brought about by the Australian Society of Authors and being one of them I can’t help but applaud their activism and one of the great activists is a contemporary of mine, Frank Moorehouse, he learnt about – he says he learnt about copyright by reading a friend’s law books on the lawn of a house in Balmain with a languid Jewish girl who later became the Director of Drama at the ABC, they were both naked at the time and he sat up and he said “my God you know what they can do with my work?” and he became like Marbo, he became activated.  When Marbo found out that the Crown owned his garden, that was the – the moment when he began pursuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait land rights and began that huge campaign.  And similarly Frank Moorehouse without even a towel to protect the heavens from his manhood said you know “my copyright is being violated continuously and I’m doing nothing about it.”  And so he went ahead and campaigned for the ASA, so did others.

Now the – all this period from Ray Mathew’s time onwards I’ve heard that the book, and particularly the Gutenberg Book, the fixed tight book, is dead and one of the classiest people who said that the book was dead was Marshall McLuhan and I don’t have the quotes because I can’t remember them from my – the lecture which I am trying to convince you I left back at the Crown Plaza, but Marshall McLuhan basically said that the nation became possible with the creation of fixed type, and the creation of the book that is like this, and most of the books you have at home, other than the ones on your Kindle. 

And he said of the nation state, it was impossible in an age of manuscript reproduction the printing press haven’t unifying effect in its mass production, it’s by the standards of the past, it’s mass production of books, it could create national sensibilities but it also produced homogeneity in countries and repressed regionalism and he then went to say the electronic media, by contrast are going to produce a global village, a global electronic village, and it will be like the pre Gutenberg world.  It will be a world where they’ll be less emphasis on individualistic print achievements like the book, there will be – it will be a world in which the communal, the tribal, appropriate to a village, the tribal operates, and the individual excellence of the book or the attempted individual excellence of the book and the attempted individual excellence of the painting will no longer be relevant. 

Now if I understood him correctly he was wrong, but in the 60s we thought gee whizz you know we half understood what he read and we thought it was great to be the disciples of something that was dying, you know, necrophilia is a very strong impulse in the young and so that’s when I first heard the book was dead.  And of course the electronic medium which most proclaimed its death was television, a hot – a hot – we won’t go into that I don’t have my lecture.

And he – at the same time less sophisticated people, but equally intelligent were saying look we’re going to see crime stories and dramas on TV and we won’t need to read books any more.  And low and behold for some mysterious soul response we found that we did, that we watched TV and then we read, what a peculiar thing, that the one medium could not replace the other medium it’s in the name, medium.  As many mediums as you create they don’t replace the other medium.  And then I heard that the book was going to die because of the audio book, well that was a you know the audio book found its place in the palette of means of access to the book, but it didn’t do away with the Gutenberg Book, almost to our narcissistic disappointment.  And because of nothing I mean we all – all novelists you know to be tragic figures thought we also with the same energy attempt to avoid it.

And now we’ve had the eBook come along and I remember being at a seminar with a particularly annoying academic from Macquarie University who said that we all must – all we people must get used to not making a living out of writing you know, he knew rock bands that if people – 50 people bought their album they agreed to perform at the child’s christening and so on.  Well you know that’s not good enough actually, and it is true that the eBook has moved in and I’m amazed that the physical book still remains in that the – for a number of reasons.

First of all I’m amazed that young writers want to be published in this form first, it’s astonishing to me that it is so.  And they are – because they’re all computer savvy and so on, the eBook is still the recourse if the publisher’s brush you off.  Problem with the eBook is at the moment the trade publishers create the presence for a book which then goes online and has a future online because it’s created a presence for itself as a physical book.  Whether this will remain the balance between the two I just don’t know.  But it’s astonishing that the physical book exists, and there are many things that exist I realise that needn’t.  For example you needn’t have a physical university, why have we got physical universities when everyone can sit at their computer and download everything, a university seems to have to offer.  Well it’s not true we are communal and physical beings and we want to move about our university at least enough of us want to that we go to the university.  We want – we are tactile creatures, we want to open the book we want to feel our experience as well as have it.  So amongst our diet of reading we are very happy with the eBook but we’re also very happy with the physical book, the Cineplex the – the movie house we don’t need a movie house technologically, but there’s a sort of a cascade to asking someone you fancy to a Cineplex rather than to say come around to my place and watch a disc you know, it’s a [laughing] and we have sporting events, there’s no technological reason for the Canberra Raiders to expect a crowd, well the way they’re playing they’re lucky to get a crowd [laughing] but there’s no reason for them to expect a crowd at their stadium in Canberra.

But people want to go and people want to go because they’re tribal, because they want to rant, they want their abuse of the referee to be heard by other members of the species who will laugh and so there are these remnants that exist and may exist forever because at the end of the day even if we’re on the way to becoming cyber angels we are in fact homosapiens and we are animals who can read and we’ll possibly always want this thing.

I was going to go on and talk about how the writing of a novel is the same as it was in 1964, and the – but we’re getting close to the time when you should have your say, I had many wise things to say that I had a book with me from which I was going to read, but the prepared – the unprepared part of the lecture the lost notes, I have the lost lecture, I have covered by now and I would just like to say it is a great honour to give this lecture and to say vale Ray Mathew and the drama and the book of poetry is still there.  It is sad that poetry is not as widely published by trade publishers as it was, it has become a bit of a hole in the corner operation, but on the other hand the internet has opened up possibilities for verse, good and bad, no technological change is ever going to bring you unalloyed good, but I would like to speak to his spirit in its North American habitation but it’s Australian – it’s Australian casing and say good for you, you contributed to our literary culture, you contributed to our culture at a time when we were uncertain about it and if Australians hadn’t done that then we wouldn’t have had the visible culture we have now and indeed we wouldn’t have now what we didn’t have when I first started writing and when Ray Mathew first started writing, a National Library of Australia, where we can all put our scrap paper and get them to pay for it, thank you.  [laughing] [clapping] Thank you.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

Thank you very much Tom.  For a self-confessed chaister and dead beat who allegedly lost his notes I hope you will agree that we have had a lyrical and sobering description of the Australia that Ray Mathew left and what it was like to – to be a writer and an artist in those days and the reflection about what makes for a country that is hospitable to its writers and artists and moved through the developments over the decades followed by a very eloquent and passionate defence for the future of the Gutenberg Book.

Now Tom has finished absolutely perfectly on time to allow you to ask questions should you wish to.  We are recording the session and so we would be delighted if you would please put your hand up and if you would – not me I’m not asking a question, put your hand up and please use the microphone, we do have roving microphones and we would ask that you use the microphone so that we can all hear the question.  There’s one in the middle thanks.

Question

Thank you very much Mr Keneally that was really very funny and very amusing and very enjoyable and informative.  But I actually knew Ray Mathew in the early 1960s; he lived in the same terrace as the artist, my brother Peter Upwood and John Olson and Bill Rose.  He seemed to mix more with the painters than the writers I think.  But I remember Australia then because I’m pretty old, it was just so conservative and they were the young avant-garde the painters and the writers, and I mean you know my brother went to England, Clem Meadmore went to New York, they were all leaving Australia because it was so conservative and they were the avant-garde.

Thomas Keneally

Ah yes that was the period, I think also that my generation, I was just a few years behind them, and I mean no more than a few, but there was a sense of culture inferiority that we had too.  I’ve got to say when I started doing Honours English at school I hadn’t known that there were modern writers, and that it was the possibility of Australians writing, I thought that Australia was a literary no go zone that nothing could be – I thought that because I believed that our culture was – our job description in the universe was to play cricket superlatively, produce fine wool and participate in foreign wars [laughing] I really didn’t know that you could have such a thing as Australian writing, and even after Ray and others and of course the painters had it tough too, although not quite as tough as the sort of the Roberts generation, the Heidelberg school and all those guys, but it wasn’t easy because it you know, yes however the great thing about the arts is that the young who want to produce the material you can’t dissuade them not to, and that’s what will keep literature and graphic art and music going no matter what changes they ring and no matter what benighted non-funding system of government we have in power. [clapping]

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

I’m trying to see if there’s another – up the back.

Question

Hi some of your books are available on Kindle, I would like to know what’s your view?  How do you feel people experience your book on Kindle rather than the physical?

Thomas Keneally

Based on my experience as a Kindle reader, and listen I listen to a lot of audio books, I live on the North Head of Sydney now and I go for a six or seven kilometre hike every day in an attempt to make up for the decadence of my youth and make it into my 80s.  And I listen all the books I should have read when I was young, and that you had to fake having read, you know you’ve got to pretend to have read The Brothers Karamazov.  So I’ve listened to them and I find the experience between listening to a book, and I got through the Brothers Karamazov thank God, I mean this is a bloke, this is a novelist, Dostoyevsky who writes to pay his gambling debts, and he writes a book like the Brothers Karamazov where the episode involving just Christ and the Inquisitor is as long as most modern novels.  Anyhow so I listen to audio, I access eBooks and I find there’s great, that the experience of reading eBooks and the experience of reading hard type just about the same.  I tend to read iBooks for – I tend to read the Gutenberg book for pleasure and the eBook for research and I read – but I read a lot of eBooks.  So I think the – there’s not a great gulf between the two in experience.

As yet the question if you read a non-fiction book which is index based you know it’s a book you’ve bought because you want to gut it and find out stuff about well I could give you examples but we don’t have time.  But if – if you want to gut a book it’s still easier to do it either online through sites like Gutenberg.com or archive.org, with 19th books that are out of copyright or to do it with the physical copy.  So if I want to get a book where I know I’m going to be using the index you know you’ve got a book on someone like oh someone like Napoleon, and you’re interested in this Polish mistress he had, even at 78 you can be interested in such things.  Countess Walewska, so you go to the biography and you look up the – go to the index and look up the pages for Countess Walewska and you can just read them one after another and that’s how people use many books and are entitled to.  And that’s still easier to do oh it’s easier to do it online but not on the Kindle and it’s easiest of all to do in the physical book.

But as for the emotional experience of reading books electronically and books physically I don’t think it’s different, but you may have a different view.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

One last question, there’s one just by the pillar.

Question

Fantastic speech thank you.  I’m just interested in hearing about who your favourite contemporary writers are.

Thomas Keneally

Oh well I tell you what, you know the big thing about promoting literature to philistines like the ones on Capital Hill of all – of many parties, is that literature is imponderable and unutterable and transcendent and economics isn’t.  And it’s so cock sure just because it knows what it is, and it relegates, particularly the Chicago School of Economics, relegates history and literature to the margins.  Marginal luxuries for people who don’t vote for us, you know, basically and the problem with literature is that it’s absolutely transcendent and you can’t say what it is or what it’s benefits are, because there are so many sort of stutter before you can say and the same with history, what’s the purpose of history, servers so many purposes the idea that it prevents us from making the same mistakes we made before is I think a dog that should be shot [laughter] but – and I therefore find that no economists has made me weep like some writers have, weep with exaltation and I say weep because last year I was a literary festival at Hay on Why on the book town on the borders of England and Wales, and I had had my session and I was going to go to a session involving Barbara Kingsolver.  Now Barbara Kingsolver is one of my heroines, her last book Flight Behaviour is absolutely wonderful, it’s actually about global warming but it’s primarily about human beings dealing with global warming, and anyhow I couldn’t get to a session, because I was signing copies of a book I was going to read from called Daughters of Mars, and so they said – I said I had tickets for Barbara Kingsolver and her session’s over, and they said she’s starting to sign come over and say g’day to her.  I’d never met her before, and I was you know meeting Mal Meninga I couldn’t have been more nervous, and I said Miss King Solver your last book Flight Behaviour was magnificent and I began to cry, and that’s what writing can do for you, it is beyond you know you can hear an economist say something and say that sounds half plausible even though he’s you know using the high priesthood of – what astounds me is they take these blokes seriously.  Anyhow economists have never made me weep as I wept – burst into tears for Barbara Kingsolver, I said I’m sorry Miss Kingsolver, and she said no I wish that I had that effect on everyone. [laughter]  When you get old you do weep more easily I have to say that, but Barbara Kingsolver is a favourite writer of mine but there are so many Tony Morrison, I’m a big fan of Peter – a big, big fan of Patrick White, he hated me, I wrote a – I wrote an introduction to his classics edition of Foss, Penguin Classics, and I said I wrote it because I loved the book, overwhelmed by the book, but I also knew that he’d hate that an Irish Australian working class yobo like mine wrote the intro to it.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

Thank you Tom. [clapping]  Can I ransom these?

Thomas Keneally

Oh yes.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

I just asked Tom if I could ransom his notes.

Thomas Keneally

Well you could sell them at your next prawn night [laughing].

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

Now there’s an idea Margie. [clapping].  I was – I was going to say that I think Transon – Transon Dentins and exhalation are good points on which to finish the Ray Mathew lecture and I would ask you to thank Tom for this evening.  [clapping]  Thank you very much. 

I wanted to let you know that the Library’s bookshop is open and is selling a small number of Tom’s books at a 10% discount, including the new 50th anniversary edition of his first published novel, The Place at Whitton that he graphically described for us this evening and the first two volumes of his major historical work, Australians.  And tonight only you can pre-order the third volume Australians: Flappers to Vietnam, which is going to be released in November and also receive a 10% discount. 

And can I in concluding acknowledge that it is through the generous support of our friends and supporters that we’re able to host wonderful events such as the Ray Mathew Lecture.  The Library relies on support large and small from our community and it comes in many ways from our volunteers and friends, donations, sponsorships and bequests.  It also comes from attending events like this evening’s lecture and playing a role in the Library’s community that very tribalism and community that Tom talked about this evening.  So if you love the Library and if you’re passionate about history, information, literature, and preserving the work that Tom has done for generations that follow please think about how you might like to support the Library.  From a single donation to a lifetime as a patron your contribution will enable all Australians to experience the Library’s collection.

Now we hope that you will join us upstairs for refreshments and I’m sure that Tom would love to meet you and to sign your copies of Keneally Treasures.  So thank you again Tom for the lecture, thank you again for the lecture notes which I’m going to give to Margie Byrnes straight away [laughter] to put in an archival box not for the next prawn night [laughter] and can I ask you all again to thank Tom for his lecture this evening [clapping].