The dictionary definition of a nook as a spot or angle the place two sides or edges meet hardly does the idea justice. Robyn Annear says it so a lot better when she describes metropolis corners as ‘the prime locus for collisions, confrontations, ambushes – encounters of all types’.
Certainly Corners of Melbourne is overflowing with encounters. These come to mind with gusto and brilliance and a depth of understanding of the zeitgeist of the time. And since not the whole lot occurs at a nook, Annear has seen herself free to wander extra broadly.
Annear demonstrates exceptional ability in weaving many anecdotes seamlessly collectively. She sashays from one episode to the subsequent and inserts her personal feedback organically into the movement, so what might have learn as episodic or lumpy is definitely a clean and fluid studying expertise as an alternative.
The ebook opens with the unhappy story of a person who broke his leg slipping on an orange peel. This was round 1860 when apparently new flagstone paving stones, mixed with discarded orange peels, had been a critical hazard. Oranges had been a preferred snack on the time and peel littered the pavements, with ladies blamed by the newspapers because the ‘chief strewers of peel’. Apparently, moist climate and leather-soled footwear contributed to many a spill, some critical.
However in fact Annear doesn’t restrict herself to the hazard of oranges. Within the second chapter she recounts how runaway horses and rushing carts added to the perils pedestrians confronted, significantly at intersections the place all highway customers had equal proper of means and rushing cab drivers took no heed of the requirement to decelerate to strolling pace at crossroads.
By the point I received to the top of the third chapter, which has fountains, and water usually, as its theme, my unrealistic romantic image of Melbourne was fully shattered. Mid Nineteenth-century Melbourne appeared harmful and unhygienic, Melbourne’s charming lanes had been brazenly used as pissoirs and the Yarra was unspeakably polluted. The rest of the ebook, which incorporates chapters on larrikins, swindlers and advertisers, does nothing to change this impression. However I’ve little question a reader higher knowledgeable than I of Melbourne’s historical past and of city life some one and a half centuries in the past wouldn’t share my disillusionment.
That doesn’t alter the truth that so most of the tales so well-recounted by Annear are of disasters of 1 sort or one other. That’s the pure final result of analysis essentially based mostly on newspaper articles, and Annear offers a well-deserved tribute to Trove, however it’s hardly shocking that newspaper articles are inclined to concentrate on unhealthy information. Nonetheless, letters printed by newspapers and quoted by Annear supply attention-grabbing insights into elements of public opinion, and there good-news tales should not solely missing.
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Anybody with a love of historical past or an curiosity in Melbourne will discover this ebook enthralling. Annear is an excellent storyteller and recounts occasions in a non-judgemental fashion. She has devoted this ebook to an individual she dubbed a ‘Melbourne ephemerist’ and maybe the contents of this quantity might finest be described as very worthwhile ephemera.
Corners of Melbourne: The nice orange-peel panic and different tales from the streets, Robyn AnnearPublisher: Textual content PublishingISBN: 9781922790453Pages: 288 hbPublication Date: 31 October 2023RRP: $35