Thursday, 24 February 2011

Melbourne Literary 1: Story of a Bookish City

This week's guest blogger is fantasy novelist Narrelle M Harris, author of the Melbourne Literary app for the iPhone and iPad.

Melbourne, Australia is a UNESCO City of Literature, which means it’s packed to the gills with wonderful bookshops, writers, publishers and writing organisations. 

Basically, it’s a word nerd’s paradise; so when I decided to create an iPhone/iPad application, Melbourne Literary, to showcase all the wonderful wordy things about Melbourne, it was easy to know where to start. Let me share with you a few of my favourite literary things...


State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St, Melbourne
Ph: +61 3 8664 7000

The State Library is glorious. Elegant architecture, a superb collection of reference material, an atmosphere steeped in radical, deep, amazing thoughts and ideas – what’s not to adore? The domed reading room is bathed in natural light and fitted out with gorgeous wooden tables with power points, so you can use your high-tech in a classic setting.

As the icing on this cake, the State Library also contains the Wheeler Centre and a number of associated writing organisations offering a calendar of literary talks and events.

You can replenish your reading strength at the café attached to the north wing, Mr Tulk (named after the institution's first librarian).On sunny weekends, you can sprawl on the slope of lush green grass out the front and read, spy on what the other loiterers are reading, or watch the pigeons despoil the statuary.



Miss Marple’s Tea Room
382 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Sassafras
Ph: +61 3 9755 1610

This old-fashioned tea room out in the Dandenong Ranges is kind of cheesy, I know, but I have a sentimental attachment to Miss Marple’s. It’s one of the first placed I visited when I first moved to Melbourne, in the company of dear friends who were making us welcome to our new home town.

I can’t resist the call of waitresses dressed as respectable English parlour maids, serving giant freshly-baked scones while photographs of Miss Marple cast a benevolent yet spritely eye over the proceedings.

Miss Marple’s always reminds me of one of the later Marple books, At Bertram’s Hotel, because Bertram’s was also an establishment that operated long past its appropriate time period. It’s a bit touristy, but it’s also a bit like theatre. We’re all play-acting in the background of a Christie novel. And the scones are delicious.



Metropolis
252 Swanston St, Melbourne
Ph: +61 3 9663 2015

On the third floor of one of Melbourne’s ‘vertical laneways’ is my favourite place to find gifts for people who allegedly have everything. I first visited Metropolis when it lived on Acland Street in St Kilda. The current shop’s loftier elevation has provided it with more light through large windows.

The shelves are chock full of books on design, art, burlesque, music, mid-20th century advertising and quirky greeting cards. When I have no idea what to get for someone, I visit Metropolis and find something unexpected and fascinating. And then I have to make myself give it away.



The Drunken Poet
65 Peel St, West Melbourne
Ph: +61 3 9348 9797

Actually, I only discovered the Drunken Poet after I had started compiling the Melbourne Literary app. I went along to a friend’s farewell drinks to discover a lovely little pub with a lively, friendly atmosphere, framed faces of poets lining the walls and no television. Let me say that again – NO TELEVISION.

I am, sadly, a bit easily distracted by colourful things moving about in my peripheral vision, so the infestation of television sets in pubs, with the sound turned down but flickering away, both distracts and irritates me. At The Drunken Poet, there are no distractions from good company and a decent beer, unless you count the occasional live band.

I've only identified about half the poets that hang on the walls, but I’m content knowing Oscar Wilde is gazing down upon us, no doubt wondering why we’re all talking such rubbish...

Next week: Narrelle continues her exploration of Melbourne's literary gems, including a magically-gifted dessert, a group of crime-loving women, and an alleyway full of mysterious words. If you're interested in finding out more about Narrelle's Melbourne Literary app, click here: www.iwriter.com.au/apps