Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Of books and houses II (click on “Advances”)

The Australian Book Review is a venerable publication indeed, being actually pre-Whitlam in its origins (founded 1968). I usually only occasionally leaf through it at the bookshop to see what token Gen X’er they have roped in for this once-off clutch at fame – the ABR is right up there with the worst magazine offenders in setting up a roped-off, baby boomer treadmill to power [cough, cough] both its content and its readership.

Anyway, there is a curious message from the ABR editor in the March issue. He sends out a call to Oz authors living overseas to send their books into the ABR for review (and so, some cheap, and perhaps also even good publicity).

Such lamington-drive like calls to authors are not, of course, the way ABR usually sources its books for review. Publishers, both Australian and overseas-based, are usually quite happy to forward free review copies, of any book which has an Oz nexus, to the ABR – as long as the book is intended to be sold in Australia.

And there’s the rub. From the tone of the editor’s call, it seems that Australian authors (albeit usually expats) are increasingly writing books that will not be distributed in Australia. Hence, the publisher’s decision (quite understandable) not to bother with any publicity measures in Oz at all, and hence, the ABR editor’s personal call to the authors themselves to raid their stamp and postpak draw.

Of this clearly sad situation, the ABR editor had this to say about publishers not forwarding of review copies of all Oz- authored books: “This strikes ABR as anachronistic — not to mention a tad provincial”.

Huh? While regretting the situation deeply, I don’t find being effectively told that I live in an intellectual backwater to be at all “anachronistic” or “provincial”. “Sobering” – yes. And as for making scapegoats of multi-national publishers for supposedly grudging the few stamps that would make everything all right again (as if!) – you see, Mr Editor, now *that* is provincial.


Re house prices:,5744,6180897%255E7583,00.html

The more than doubling in the ratio of household debt to income (56 per cent to 125 per cent over the past decade) can be somewhat defused by zooming in on to the actual balance sheets of households with mortgages. On such balance sheets, it is true, the asset valuation has bloomed alongside the capitalized debt. Nor, with low interest rates, are debt service ratios a problem, as least provided that the mortgagor keeps their job.

Only one ingredient is not addressed in such comforting analysis – that the global ratio of household debt to income (presumably) includes renter’s income, but not (because they have none, or only very low levels) renter’s debts. Of course, a renter’s notional balance sheet is another story …

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