Good Reading : July 2011
GOOD READING JULY 2011 7 ME MY SHELF I Described as Australia’s most dangerous and subversive performer, comedian AUSTEN TAYSHUS (aka Sandy Gutman) attained nationwide fame in 1983 with his pun-filled spoken-word piece ‘Australiana’. The new biography Austen Tayshus: Merchant of Menace tells the fascinating story of this intense and complicated Jewish vegetarian comedian and actor. Austen Tayshus ■ What are you reading now and why? Federico Fellini: His life and work by Tullio Kezich. Italian cinema has always fascinated and captivated me, from the post-war Italian neo-realism right up to today. But no director has impressed me more than Fellini. His imagination appears boundless, and his sense of humour and passion are much admired. I have seen all his films, and Amarcord, 8½ and La Dolce Vita are among my favourites. Tragically I was an Only Twin:The complete Peter Cook -- because he was a gifted comedian and didn't suffer fools gladly. ■ What are some of your favourite books and authors? L'Etranger (The Outsider) -- Albert Camus To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee Voss -- Patrick White The Catcher in the Rye -- J D Salinger Hello I Must Be Going -- a bio about Groucho Marx The Old Testament -- God ■ What are some books that have made you really laugh out loud? Everything by Philip Roth, especially Operation Shylock. ■ Which books have moved you most? Mostly Holocaust literature, like Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally. Also A Brief History of Time by tephen Hawking because the whole thing is so we-inspiringly mysterious. ■ What books on Judaism would you recommend to someone who wants to lear n about the religion? The Joys ofYiddish by Leo Rosten. Kabbalah by various authors -- not to be read until you are over 40. ■ What do books mean to you? My upbringing was all about education. Jewish education and secular education were equally important. Reading was a great pleasure, particularly as I matured. I have always loved books and try to encourage my daughters to get off Facebook for an hour or so and read something. Hard work. ■ When you were a child what did you enjoy reading? I had a religious Jewish upbringing, and so most of the literature had something to do with being a Jew. The fundamental sweetness of the essence of Judaism, monotheism, the festivals, the Talmud and so on were what I loved to read -- and read about. Judaism appears to be so misunderstood but to me is totally genuine, truthful, sweet, gentle, resonating and full of ideas about a rich, rewarding and fulfilling life. ■ Where are most of the books in your home? Everywhere. In my bedroom. In my children's bedrooms. All over the place. ■ Looking at the books on your shelves, what genre dominates? Anything to do with cinema. This has always been my greatest passion: the history of cinema and especially film noir. And biographies of great directors such as Billy Wilder, George Cukor, Howard Hawks, Phillip Noyce, Philippe Mora, Raoul Walsh, Charlie Chaplin, Edward Dmytryk, Federico Fellini, Bernardo Bertolucci,Vittorio De Sica and others. I graduated from the Australian Film Television and Radio School -- AFTRS -- in the '70s. Cinema has always fascinated me and I've always read very widely about cinema. ■ Do you write in the margins of your books or tur n down the pages to mark your place? Almost never. Never. ■ Where is your favourite place to read? Coffee shops, with a latte, publicly, so people can see how much of an intellectual I really am. ■ What is your favourite place to write? At my desk in my office. ■ Do you have a favourite bookshop? Yes. Lesley McKay's Bookshop in Queen Street Woollahra in Sydney. And why? Because Bills Cafe is next door. Browse and eat, or eat and browse. Austen Tayshus: Merchant of menace by Ross Fitzgerald & Rick Murphy is published by Hale & Iremonger, r rp $29.95.