Sunday, 10 December 2006

Robert Hughes made a solo guest appearance on today's First Tuesday Book Club. Yes, I know it's Sunday today, but the ABC decided to run an hour-long edition on the weekend rather than half an hour at the usual time.

Hughes spoke with host Jennifer Byrne about his early reading habits. His father's library, he tells us, was full of Victoriana, which he immersed himself in. Books read at an early age included Dickens and Trollope. George Orwell, later, had an "immediate and tremendous influence", he says. "The vigour, the muscularity and above all the directness" of Orwell's prose impressed itself upon him.

Alan Moorhead (1910 - 1983) "a renown[ed] Australian journalist and historian-writer" was also one who apparently impressed the young Hughes. Patrick White he didn't get on with. White, who he dubs "the Dostoevsky of Centennial Park", objected to a bad review Hughes once wrote. "Like any other writer," says Hughes, "he produced a lot of not-so-good stuff, along with the very good stuff."

What book did Hughes wish he had personally written? "The Old Testament," he answers, dead-pan.

Special guests this week (in addition to regulars Jason Steger and Marieke Hardy) were Germaine Greer and Jesuit priest Frank Brennan. Greer and Brennan were impressive, intelligently discussing Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Greer had serious reservations, as did Steger, and Hardy was stung to rebel against its polemic.

The full video will soon be available on the Web site.

Following a cute diversion where Byrne hosted four children in a Kid's Book Club, the guests nominated their favourite reads of 2006. Hardy tapped DBC Pierre's Ludmila's Broken English, Brennan Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me, Greer Clive James' newest offering ("he really knows how to write a paragraph"), and Steger Irene Nemirovski's Suite Francaise.

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