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The Book Show – David Malouf (1988)


A magazine-style program with presenter and interviewer Dinny O’Hearn talking to David Malouf, who has just won the Haskell award for his body of work. He also interviews Joanna Mendelssohn about her new book on Lionel Lindsay, the lesser known brother of painter Norman Lindsay. This episode also features a review by zoologist David Smith of the book Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo (1988) by Eric Hansen.

Curator’s notes

This program is one of the earliest examples of The Book Show. Its style is clunky, with DJ (Dinny) O’Hearn new to presenting and interviewing on television. What makes the program so enjoyable is the quality of the content. Dinny knows his writers and the interviews are warm and wide-ranging, especially his discussion with David Malouf. Only later, when SBS could see that The Book Show was a firm favourite with the audience, was a little more money found to lift the production values. The later addition of Andrea Stretton as the second interviewer-presenter, with her own brand of literary knowledge and natural warmth, seemed to lift a burden from Dinny’s shoulders and his performance improved as well.

Whether it was a question of lack of budget for studio sets or simply to create a range of backgrounds, the interviews for The Book Show were usually filmed in an environment that tried to match the world of the book under discussion. This mostly works, although trying to recreate the rainforests of Borneo in the local botanical gardens for the David Smith review is perhaps trying a little too hard.

DJ (Dinny) O’Hearn was a Melbourne University academic and administrator who made a lasting contribution to Australian writing and literary life, not least by tirelessly promoting Australian literature in the media. He helped to establish the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne, and set up the Writers’ Theatre. He was committed to social equity and opportunity and was always concerned to have Australian literature better known and understood by ordinary Australians. He died in 1993, much mourned by his Book Show audience and his co-presenter, Andrea Stretton, who later passed away herself in 2007.

This is episode 12 in series 1 of The Book Show.