Adelaide Should Not Be Shut Down

I arrived home from Adelaide to find Lord Mayor of Melbourne had been quoted as saying Adelaide should be ‘shut down’.

The feeling of oddness was still with me from traipsing up and down Hindley Street all weekend – sex shops and tittie bars (and cyber sex cafes – the point?); R&B-type slick and shiny clubs open at 9am and quite full; bogan beats cruising up and down the street; being kept awake all night by pop-rap crap and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and some guy yelling ‘woo’ until 5am … but pockets of delicious culture (bookstores, old buildings, the Format Fest and wider Fringe fest); and such enthused, lovely people everywhere – be it the Keno counter or the zine fair tables.

Isn’t the boredom of a small city and the way people amuse themselves of cultural interest in itself? A crazy man in the street stopped to tell us that the Hell’s Angels had taken over, treating Adelaide like a birthday party. He then jogged off, peering cautiously over both shoulders. Past the heavy-breasted women in windows my friends and I found two of the best comic book stores I’ve been to, and one of the most comprehensive and passionately-stocked antiquarian booksellers. Note my haul:

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That’s Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Frank Moorhouse’s The Electrical Experience as I’m just in love with him right now; John Fowles’ The Magus (loved The French Lieutenant’s Woman and am told this is even better); James Joyce’s Ulysses (yes – I’m going to give the ‘great book’ a go); Edgar Allan Poe’s Forty-Two Tales (have read many – love the illustrations in this edition); my own copy of Alan Moore/Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen (I borrowed Gerard’s to read it); and in my search for a comic with a strong female character I somehow ended up with erotically-charged vampire story Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K Hamilton. Oh well, it’ll be fun at least!

The Saturday also featured a zine fair as part of the Format Festival. Here’s my haul from that:

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My friends and I fell in love with Dave Roche, Texta Queen, zinesters Fetus and Amanda Panda, and all the work done by Breakdown Press.

On Saturday night we found a classy place called The Apothecary 1878 (which used to be just that) and had a sherry, darling, and then we moved on to an even classier joint, the Woolshed. Unfortunately we didn’t see the mechanical bull in action but we enjoyed gargantuan steaks (so fat and juicy) while shifting around Phil Collins, Supertramp, Little River Band, Fleetwood Mac, Bowie and co. on the jukebox. Sus, Sus, Sussudio!

The Sunday opened with large coffees after the night’s endurance of drunken shenanigans in the apartment above. Gerard and I ran our blogging workshop – too early for most people but a fun and fascinating discussion (I’ll bring up some points when I’ve refined my ‘on blogging’ post). Our Watchmen Read and Seen is coming soon too… I participated in three other panels – Indie Publishing, Writing and Activism, and Style Council. The intimate and engaged audience often joined in the discussions.

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Some points:

* People engage in indie publishing as a radical act (defying monopolisation), to innovate, break new ground and support emerging writers and art forms, but also because they just love it. There was so much goddamn passion in that venue.
* It was generally agreed that both nonfiction and fiction writing can have activist qualities, but it’s important not to ‘preach’ and alienate readers. Agendas must be presented with honesty and yet not forced. Nonfiction writing can be just as engaging and personal as fiction or poetry. The actual ‘acts’ of activism were discussed (many had worked/lobbied etc. on the front line) but all found there is meaning in everyday activism. One panellist was a poet but also runs her own shop – completely fair trade, environmental etc. There was much talk of subverting the norms.
* People wear animal hats. People are chameleons. People use fashion as a filter (if someone will judge them, they’re not the kind of person they want to be around). People wear yellow pants with elastic ankles and palm trees while hitchhiking in America. Women are still unsure what the whole leg hair things signifies. Style can be a signifier of mood, interests and personality. Muumuus can look hot with a belt. Recycling/swapping clothes is good for the environment.

It’s good to be back in the best city in Aus – but if the silly-buggers really were to shut down Adelaide somehow they might as well shut down all the other places I’ve been that have a whiff of the same character – Newcastle, Armidale, Canberra, Wollongong, good ol’ Coffs – one could go on forever. Sometimes we live in a vacuum in Melbourne or Sydney. It can all get a bit pretentious and wanky. Everyone needs to get bored and drunk and find themselves on the back of a mechanical bull, or emerging from a cyber-sex cafe to an aesthetically confused street, or pumping the bass from a hotted up vehicle once in a while.

16 thoughts on “Adelaide Should Not Be Shut Down

  1. Yep Adelaide has some great bookstores – Imprints of course is fantastic.

    It’s been a while since I lived there, but back in the 80s and 90s on Hindley St there used to be a good second hand bookstore called something like the “third world bookshop” (though my memory is failing on that, so I may have got it confused).

    And well done for giving the great book a go!

  2. Gerard – thanks.

    Grog – welcome! Could your avatar pic be any cooler?

    I can’t remember what the second-hand bookshop was called (silly me) but they really had a great range. They may have even passed the test on your blog – although I couldn’t find copies of Lolita and Slaughterhouse 5, which I wanted my friend Gerard to get. I suspect those kind of cult classics do get snapped up quite quickly though.

    I may not get to Ulysses for a little bit, but I will get to it!

  3. Hi Angela,
    Thanks for your kind comments about Adelaide and I an pleased that you had a great visit. The secondhand bookshop is OConnell’s. It used to be in Leigh Street for many. many years (a sidestreet of Hindley) and now for a number of years in Hindley Street itself. I think the Adelaide bashing stems from the old rivalries from sport, especially Australian Rules between Victoria and South Australia. Adelaideans need to have more of a sense of humour when criticised becauce we KNOW what we have and most of it is very pleasant indeed. I for one have many frends in Melbourne and visit once a year, but I have faced attacks about Adelaide across dinner party tables in Melbourne and it usually about Australian Rules. I think the Victorians used to like to have our footballers but when the Crows and the Power joined and were successful, I think it was all too much for many Victorians. Most of my Melbourne friends are artists and so Sport is a definite no, no when it comes to topics for conversation! Thank God! I have a first edition of ‘The Electrical Experience’, so I had better reread it again after all of these years. Come back to Adelaide soon, there are more secrets to be discovered. Kind regards. Brenton.

  4. Greg – ah that’s classic. Yes, I started reading it before bed (it is the lightest of bedtime reads) and the story is thus far very inane. I’m just so, so disappointed by the lack of complex comic heroines in my search thus far. I’m sure Promethea will be better though, which just arrived in the mail.

    Brenton – Thanks for naming the bookstore for us! Ah – the old sporting rivalries. Being one of those Melburnians who is not so into sport I suppose I missed that.
    A Moorhouse 1st edn! I’m jealous. I’m only new to his oeuvre but I’m just loving him.

  5. Hey Ange, if you’re looking for strong female comic characters, have you ever read Y: The Last Man? As the title suggests, the main character is male, but he’s the only survivor of a plague that killed off every man in the world. Quite a lot of strong female characters and great writing in general.

  6. Cheers Angela. Love the funky bookcase you’ve got on the side here.

    I’ve been meaning to read Blonde – shall have to go hunting in the 2nd hand bookshops.

  7. I love it too except I wish it put my favourites on ‘random’ – you have to click next to see them all.

    Blonde is a viscous book – I adored it. But I am also a huge Marilyn fan.

    I love that there are four new commenters on this thread. Hope you’ll be back. Love that there’s a Grog and a Greg. 🙂

  8. I nominate you to travel the world attending Literary Festivals so that we can all enjoy your reporting of them. Well done, many thanks, I felt like I was there.

  9. Grog, it was indeed the Third World Bookshop you remember in Hindley Street. What an Alladin’s Cave that was, packed literally to the rafters with all manner of treasures. Also a good place to find import LPs including those funny ones with paper insert covers and white labels.

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