A friend had recommended a John Fante book to me, and so, with some hours to kill, I took a walk from the CBD to Glebe to check some of my favourite book shops. The book I was after had a title that was something like Fellowship of the Grape or Brotherhood of the Grape (or perhaps Lord of the Grape or The Grapemarillion) but all anyone seemed to stock was the one that had been turned into a film a couple of years ago, Ask the Dust. Well, thatâs the big, new release bookstores I encountered: Dymocks in the Broadway Shopping Centre, a messy, less well-organised, certainly less well-stocked store than it used to be when it was a Collins bookstore; and Gleebooks, a far more pleasant shopping experience (though invariably more expensive), but strangely more cluttered and yet less extensively stocked by books or staff than I remember it in my student days, skipping lectures and wandering over from Sydney Uni.
Eventually I came to The Cornstalk Bookshop; I knew I wouldnât find what I was looking for, but itâs always a pleasure to get lost amongst their piles of stuff. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this hardcover little number â an old humorous novel of yesteryear, by Madge S. Smith.
A bit of googling reveals an author who wrote a lot of childrenâs books, mostly around the middle of last century â but not a lot more. Do you suppose some of her work may have sat on bookshelves within the households of Messrs Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones and Palin? (Not likely that Terry Gilliam would have owned any, being the American of the groupâ¦.) Itâs just that it does seem very similar to that scene that opens Monty Pythonâs The Meaning of Life:
Hereâs some detail of the artwork from the back cover of the soundtrack album, inspired by that opening scene: