The Walking Men of Melbourne

I grew up in Melbourne’s inner west in the 1990s, back when it was still a hotbed of heroin addiction and burglaries.  Before it was cool.  I’ve gotten a bit defensive about this since the area started becoming über trendy, because once upon a time no one knew where Yarraville was and I always had to define it by its proximity to Footscray.

“Oh,” people would say.  “Oh.

Now it’s all, “Yarraville’s so lovely!  That must have been so great!”  And I have to remind them that back in those days, Yarraville was basically the same thing as the rest of the west.  Think Sunshine, think Braybrook.  Explaining it all to people from the other side of the river, who just don’t understand, is the burden I bear for existing in an area before it started gentrifying.

But this isn’t a piece about the east/west divide or the development of my class consciousness, or even about that time in my creative writing class (at the University of Melbourne, for added context) our tutor asked, “Raise your hand if you’re from the eastern suburbs”, and I was the only person who didn’t.  No, this piece is about a unifying oddity I have noticed in the various locales around Melbourne, not one specific to the west.  From what I can tell, anyway.  I lived in Heidelberg for a total of 6 months and found it weird.  There were too many white people*, it was too far from the city, and it was just weird, okay? You can take a girl out of the west …

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Melbourne Writers Festival Retrospective

MWF-pink_smWith the Melbourne Writers Festival now mere hours behind us, I’d like to have a brief reflection on the various sessions I attended.  Being the bleeding heart that I am, my interest lay more in the political sessions, rather than the industry-oriented ones.  Unfortunately I missed our erstwhile ex-opposition leader Mark Latham’s display, but there was much else on over the ten day festival to entertain and inform.  I attended six events across the course of the festival.

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The Case of the Sherlock Holmes Anthology


Photo from

An interview with Wendy C. Fries

Hello there friends, readers, and erm… others. Are you—like so many clever special and all round interesting people—a fan of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and all manner of mystery, mayhem and adventure?
Of course you are.
Now, dear reader, friend… er… thing, please allow me to introduce you, if you’ve not heard about it already (tut-tut), to a massive, three volume anthology of brand spanking new Sherlock Holmes stories.
Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.
The Kickstarter campaign for MX Publishing’s ambitious project reached its initial goal within 48 hours and, with under three weeks to go, is well on the way to achieving its stretch goal. The proceeds from this anthology will be used for the restoration of Arthur Conan Doyle’s (ACD) home Undershaw. Once in danger of being destroyed, it has now been saved from developers and was bought by Stepping Stones—a school for children with learning difficulties.

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The Waffle Cone of Life


Due to the demands of life outside of books, I am unable to provide you with a review this week.  Instead, have some dramatic back story*.

It may shock you to hear this, but I went to Catholic school.  Religious Education was a compulsory subject, which I was cool with, because in the later years especially the focus was more on spirituality and comparative religion than anything to do with Jesus.  I had some shocking teachers, but one in particular is another story for another day.  Today, we are to learn about Papa Smurf. Continue reading

Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board Rules and Regulations 1957

01011109 - Copy

MELBOURNE AND METROPOLITAN TRAMWAYS BOARD RULES AND REGULATIONS 1957 – Relating to Employees Concerned in any Aspect of Fare Collection, Ticket Issues, and Monies in Connection Therewith

Issued by Order of The Board, HA Warner, Secretary (No publishing information)

Back in 1994 I emerged fresh from uni, with an honours degree in science in my pocket, bright eyed and ready to take on my first real job. It wasn’t until 1996, due to a small thing you might have heard of called ‘The Recession’ – that I got my first job (after nearly two years of 40-job-applications a week unemployment) – as a tram conductor at Glen Huntley Tramways Depot.

They’d made all the connies redundant when the new ticket machines came in – two years later were still hiring part time contractor connies as the machines were not operational and the tickets did not yet sell themselves. I had a green uniform and a leather bag from probably 1957 and into the Melbourne winter I traveled on Z1s (all the heaters were broken).

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Every Book You Read In High School

book_logoAn occasional viewer of ABC’s First Tuesday Bookclub, I tuned in the other month to see the “classic” up for review was Anne Tyler’s Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.  Having nursed a fierce loathing for that novel since studying it for English in year 10, I watched, somewhat in the hope of having my opinion confirmed.  Obviously I knew by then that teachers don’t intentionally assign books students will hate, but I was still surprised when a majority of the panel loved it.  “To reject this book,” one panelist gushed (to paraphrase), “is to reject the nourishment of life.”

Well then.

To clarify, I wasn’t one of those students who refused to read assigned texts.  I didn’t, either, automatically hate assigned texts.  I actively enjoyed reading and analysing most of the set books*.  On learning a friend in the literature class* had to write an essay on 1984, I became very excited and volunteered to write it for her*.  Nonetheless, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant is one of the three assigned books I hated with a passion.  They were as follows:

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Announcement: Commenting Switched On



Just a quick announcement from us at The Melbourne Review of Books. In the first stage of our online launch we kept  commenting switched off on all posts. We’ve now opened commenting on new posts. You will need to enter your name and email address to leave a comment and we reserve the right to delete comments that are deemed to be intentionally offensive or inappropriate.

Where a comment may cause offence but we feel the comment has been made in good faith we may flag it as having the potential to cause offence or in extreme cases we may resort to ‘disemvoweling’ where the vowels are removed but the comment is left in place so that people can read the comment if they really wish to.


If you wish to make a more substantive comment on an article or engage in general discussion, please send an email to and mark the topic as LETTER. We will publish letters in a semi-regular fashion under a letters post with editorial responses where appropriate.

Thanks and regards,

Chris Johnstone on behalf of The Melbourne Review of Books team

Inaugural Post


Welcome to The Melbourne Review of Books. Updates are Monday, Wednesday and Friday Melbourne time.


The Melbourne Review of Books is a venue for reviews, literary criticism, essays and discussion on  stories.


The world of books and stories has changed drastically in the last decade. Here at The Melbourne Review of Books we want to review and discuss written stories (and storytelling) of the modern global culture while also casting an eye back to great books of the past.

So what sets The Melbourne Review of Books apart from other literary magazines?

The first thing is that we aim to pay serious attention to genre fiction. Whether romance, crime, thriller, science fiction, fantasy or horror, any book that is shuffled onto the genre shelves tends not be taken seriously by most literary venues. We think that a really great romance deserves to be reviewed just as seriously as a really great piece of literary fiction.

We will also be looking very closely at print on demand, podcast books and ebooks. Currently, we think that literary venues are not paying much attention to self-published works or eBooks. In the past there was very little to entice a reviewer to wade through self-published works, but increasingly the eBook is becoming the paperback of the 21st century. We think that the book-selling and book-reading world is sitting on the threshold of a big exciting time. Books are not dying, if anything they are expanding exponentially both in terms of their sheer numbers and ways in which they can be enjoyed. We want to keep a  track of what trends may come and watch for authors that no-one else is watching for.

Comics and graphic novels, and maybe even narrative computer ‘games’ will be reviewed here too. Comics have matured vastly in the last two or three decades and some of the best stories being told today are hidden in the pages of these drawn stories, both in print and online. The other place where storytelling is taking on a whole new fascinating scope are narrative  computer ‘games’ where the whole point of the experience is to discover a story, not solve problems or shoot aliens. This is still a very young area of written narrative with only a couple ready examples to discuss, but it is a field we intend to watch closely.

Finally, we are not very obsessed with reviewing only new titles that are coming out of the bookmills right this moment. Although we will kept abreast of new titles where we think they deserve attention, with the hundreds upon hundreds of books being produced each week, there are bound to be many excellent titles that have already slipped through the reviewer’s nets and were never noticed. There are also great and wonderful authors of the past who deserve some discussion and consideration now and then, whether they are obscure novelists or acknowledged masters.


We do not run ads. We do not run those pop-up things where the background turns grey and you are forced to watch a car commercial or an ad for insurance from a country you don’t live in. We do not use paywalls. We will not run banner adds, we will not assail you with one weird trick boxes or you won’t believe these nine ways to make you click a link gimmicks.

What we will do:

We will run novel excerpts. Preferably the first chapter. These will always be marked as sponsored material.

We will run giveaways or competitions. Eligibility for such competitions may depend on the nature of the competition and where in the world you live. Sponsored giveaways and competitions will always be marked as such.

We may decide to promote a local Melbourne business such as an independent bookstore just because we really like it. If we decide to promote a local business because we think they’re just fabulous, we’ll tell you that up front so that you know it is a recommendation not an advertisement.


Send any questions or queries to

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      THE FOUR BOOKS Yan Lianke (Text, 2015) ISBN: 9781922184487, RRP AU$29.99 It’s been a while since I read a book that left me with the single thought, “what the fuck?”  Strange as it might sound, I don’t mean this in a negative way.  It’s good when a book provokes thought … Continue reading