Book Lovers’ Book Club Inaugural Event Report: “Goodbye Crackernight” by Justin Sheedy
EVENT ROUND-UP – BOOK LOVERS’ BOOK CLUB SUNDAY 17 APRIL 2011, DUKE OF EDINBURGH HOTEL, ENMORE – FEATURING GOODBYE CRACKERNIGHT BY JUSTIN SHEEDY
Well, I was eminently grateful for a good turn-out for what proved a highly enjoyable and rewarding afternoon. My thanks once again to Book Lovers’ Book Club founding members, Donna Barlow, Lindsey Leehy and Julie Wall for allowing me to talk on my book, Goodbye Crackernight, at their inaugural book club event.
Amongst the early arrivals on the day was none other than Matthew Green, and his lovely partner, Heidi. Not having seen him since 1978, Matthew provided me with one of the most wonderful friendships of my childhood – until he was most rudely ripped away to Budapest near Pagewood. Talk about coming full-circle in one’s life, Matthew was the basis for a major part of the character, “Steve”, in Goodbye Crackernight, along with the true person of Steve Guthrie himself and a few other boys – this ‘compression’ of characters being a simple necessity in memoir writing in order to keep one’s story accessible for the reader. Heidi hails from England’s Oxford, and shared with me towards the close of the afternoon that she’d been transported by the experience directly back to book clubs in Oxford. I was certifiably chuffed to hear such a thing and look forward to seeing this excellent couple again soon.
It was a privilege to meet Collette McGrath in person for the first time, having communicated for the past many months with this dynamic czarina of all things retro-pop-cultural on Facebook, where her highlights of classic pop music and TV are a constant delight, her knowledge of Lost in Space and Monty Python verging on the professorial. My huge thanks to Collette for accepting the role of official photographer on the day and I’ll long be in her debt for the fact she dubbed the intended humour of my writing as “Palin-esque” in her mini-review of Goodbye Crackernight in the lead-up to the event. SEE LEAD-UP ARTICLE HERE.
The day kicked off with some readings from the book which evolved into some good discussion of the era of our 1970s childhood which it attempts to capture. Of this, one of the most rewarding points for me was our observation of something that seems to render our 70s childhood so remarkable, so special: Namely, that our 70s childhood could well have been one of the 1950s, the do-it-yourself “Billycart” reality of our growing up having changed very little since that of Clive James’s 1950s Kogarah as portrayed in his classic Unreliable Memoirs: Our 70s childhood seems characterised by the upward curve of societal change having been a very shallow one since the end of World War Two through the 50s, 60s, and 70s, until this curve skyrocketed circa the early 80s with the Information Revolution. As a result of the radical increase in the pace of societal change since that point, the childhood of today’s Generation-Y and Z seems unrecognisable from anything that came before it. And that’s fine. But I suspect us Gen-Xers (as with the Baby Boomers before us) derive a certain pride from the fact that, in wild contrast to today’s kids with their reliance on technology (and electricity, basically), we were largely independent of such things. We WERE the Electricity.
How excellent it was for me on the day to be reunited with some great blokes I haven’t seen since school: Martin and Robert Zitek, both just as quietly charming as they always were. It was indeed my pleasure to share with Robert that I’ve in part based a supporting character from my next book on his good self: a 20-year-old Briton who, despite his ostensibly un-warlike Hat Collection (like Robert’s), turns out to be a Spitfire pilot par excellence and natural warrior. Also present from school days were Justin Roche, Simon Robinson and Peter Berg. THANKS for being there, guys, and I’m sorry that I hardly got to speak to Simon and Peter (or Cameron) – Hope to see you again as soon as possible. And a special thanks to my old friend, David Chisholm, who, despite having remained in constant contact with me since school, STILL isn’t sick of me yet.
From uni and band-scene days, it was great to be with Regina Safro, whose gentle Ukrainian tones are always a delight, also irrepressible groover Greg Shaw, as ever resembling a young Al Pacino. Representing Sydney’s Rock fraternity were my old band-mate, Kendall James (ex-Purple Knights, Crusaders, Thurston Howlers), Rodney Todd of The Chimps, and Olympic Good Bloke Alan Hislop (ex-Moffs, Interstellar Villains). You could have knocked me down with a feather when Kendall stressed that, YES, he really would like to play some bass in a new musical outfit recently suggested by a certain world-class guitarist. (!) Yours truly would be singing. …The Fools! The Fools, I say!
New faces, too: It was excellent chatting with veritable culture vulture, Rob Crasti, also with the urbane Gareth Jenner, who swears that my Goodbye Crackernight portrayal of early high-school years at Sydney’s Riverview College is an alarming carbon-copy of his own at boarding school in Campbelltown. Oh, the Pain! The shared Pain!
Proceedings were indeed graced by the presence of the lovely Karen Baranenko and Oz medical luminary, Steph Newell, whom I must thank again for her belief in my writing efforts and for spreading the word re Goodbye Crackernight.
The Book Lovers’ Book Club has been born. Stay tuned to their Facebook Page for details of their next event, Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, Enmore, 1pm Sunday 5 June, featured book, One Day by David Nicolls. See you there!
I’d like to close this article with my thanks to all who made the BLBC’s inaugural event such a great day. Also by reprising the thought with which I opened the day: That of the fundamental ambiguity of Fireworks…
Whether you take the term literally (the fireworks exploding right above you on special occasions, the fireworks of Crackernights long-gone) or figuratively (the fireworks of those brilliant moments in your life when magic happens and all is right with the world), there is always an underlying sadness to Fireworks: No matter how blissful these moments seem, the underlying nature of Fireworks is that they are transient. They are always soon to be over. Hence the title of the book: It’s not Crackernight, but Goodbye, Crackernight, a goodbye to childhood magic, a goodbye to something that won’t come back. Personally, I always tend to feel that, my Fireworks having happened, they have happened. They have passed. They are gone. That lightning does not strike twice. Why would it? However, BIG HOWEVER, my experience shows me this is Not true. Despite my natural instincts and beliefs, long experience shows me that there are always more Fireworks to come. That they always recur. They are never expected. But there will always be more.
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