Oxford University Press snubs the Mac



We’re all dictionary fiends at Knocklofty. We have metres of shelves of them and some — such as James McDonald’s A Dictionary of Obscenity, Taboo and Euphemism (Sphere Books 1988) — are more well-thumbed and tattered than others.

Our mainstay is the monumental Oxford English Dictionary, all 20-plus volumes of it. Some of our older, grumpier and more insufferably persnickety staff actually read it for pleasure.

We were going to dispose of our first edition when the wonderful new second edition arrived, but Dr Abernethy Twistleton, one of our more senior pedants, author of A Catechism of Catachresis (now sadly out of print) and a man famed for his ability to detect an anacoluthon under six feet of wet cement, threatened to resign on the grounds that it had been good enough for his grandfather and was therefore good enough for him; and, further — and this was what really terrified us — if it left the office he would bring no more of his stock of peerless Old Goanna Crusted Ruby Tonic Port to the monthly Knocklofty literary lunch.

Obviously, the arrival of our first computer didn’t impress him at all. A relatively compact machine, it occupied only three floors in Knocklofty Towers and provided nobody switched on the office kettle while it was running it didn’t blow the electricity company’s substation round the corner more than a couple of times a week. Read more…

Newsy new literary site


A new website launched by literary agent Margaret Connolly and Associates promises to be an excellent source of information on many of Australia’s leading authors.

Connolly represents many prominent and emerging authors, children’s writers and illustrators, including Les Murray, Natalie Jane Prior, Nicholas Rothwell, Rachael Treasure, the late and lamented Alex Buzo and many others.

The site features notes on the authors in their own words, news about forthcoming books, publishing deals and much more.

It’s busy and newsy, so visit it regularly if you want to keep up with a lot of the latest literary news.

On Writing: an occasional Knocklofty series

Chapter 1: A Word about word processing


In the late 1960s, one of Knocklofty’s more disreputable staff was knocking around London doing casual jobs to feed his book addiction.

One of these was a stint as a clerical labourer at IBM. Even IBM used pen-wielding clerks in those days – you needed at least three science degrees to be allowed into the sacred presence of a computer, which were still widely known at the time as electronic brains.

His attention was caught by a sign saying ‘Word Processing’ at the entrance to a huge office full of folk in white coats and great big nerdy spectacles, whizzing tape drives and colossal printers so noisy they needed special enclosures to protect human hearing.

He thought it was all rather sinister, especially the term word processing, which seemed to have distinctly Orwellian overtones – was there a huge international corporate conspiracy to replace English with Newspeak? Read more…


I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettiness, without being either good businessmen or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without any intermediate parasite.

George Bernard Shaw, letter, 1895

I don’t believe in publishers who wish to butter their bannocks on both sides while they’ll hardly allow an author to smell treacle. I consider they are too grabby altogether and like Methodists they love to keep the Sabbath and everything else they can lay hands on.

Amanda Ros