Schmooze Review: Affirm Press Book Launch
Affirm Press Book Launch
Thursday 3 September
Bella Union Bar, Trades Hall, Melbourne
In the depths of very early spring, a packed Bella Union is a rather enjoyably toasty place to be (unlike the sweltering Dev launch earlier this year). It must also be a relief for an author wanting to launch a book to see the cavernous space filled with comedians, literati of the independent persuasion… and small children. They were everywhere, the tricky little ankle-biters!
This evening was the launch of two books by independent publisher Affirm Press: Fiona Scott-Norman’s not-quite-self-help 50 Reasons To Quit Smoking/50 Reasons To Keep Smoking and Mic Looby’s novel Paradise Updated. Affirm is the project of Martin Hughes and Graeme Wise. Hughes is a former editor of The Big Issue, the non-profit magazine sold on the street by the homeless and long-term unemployed, and both tonight’s authors have been columnists, feature writers and, in Looby’s case, an associate editor for that magazine. (Disclaimer: this reviewer has also contributed to and edited at The Big Issue.)
Affirm Press’s “influencing by delight” mandate extends Hughes’s socially inclusive approach at The Big Issue, where, memorably, he kickstarted the Street Soccer program. Among Affirm’s books are the Slow Guides to exploring Australian cities at a more leisurely pace, and From Little Things Big Things Grow, a children’s book created in collaboration with the Gurindji people.
Hughes was in demand on the night, with almost everyone stopping him to congratulate… and schmooze. “He totally blanked me!” a former Big Issue music editor pouted.
“Nah, he was just heading to the bar; he’s Irish after all,” quipped The Enthusiast.
Speaking of the bar, there was no bar tab, forcing The Enthusiast to pay for our Adelaide People’s Beer™. However, it seems a tricky drink-card system was operating for Affirm’s VIPs. There was probably food very early on; however all we saw were forlorn empty platters.
Comedian Judith Lucy, who presumably had been attending the event in a social capacity, was plucked from the crowd to deliver a general (and rather bewildered) introduction. Now’s probably a good time to air my theory that people have a Pavlovian response to well-known comedians, especially those with voices and mannerisms as distinctive as Lucy’s. She had the crowd in the palm of her hand without even really saying anything especially funny.
On the flipside, Fiona Scott-Norman was trying very hard to be funny but was not especially succeeding. She had a speech all written out, complete with poor-taste jokes (“Too dark?” she asked after each one). She had a certain presence but to be frank, she’s far more witty and engaging on the printed page.
Eddie Perfect, in character as Shane Warne, made a little speech and sang his song about Warnie’s love affair with cigarettes. It was a little disconcerting to see him divorced from his eponymous musical, but it was a fitting introduction to 50 Reasons…, a small, double-covered book that aims to address smokers with humour rather than self-help sanctimony.
The laughs continued as Bob Franklin did an amusing stand-up routine about the things he takes with him when travelling. I’ve only ever seen Franklin in movies (most recently as a brothel enforcer in Matthew Newton’s Three Blind Mice), and there’s something appealingly daggy about him. Travel, of course, ties in with Looby’s ‘travel-guide writer confidential’ novel, over which the Affirm lawyers have no doubt run a fine-toothed comb. At one stage, Looby called out to Hughes, “Am I allowed to say ‘planet’?”
The official proceedings concluded, Casey Bennetto took the floor with his band, who had a different name but seemingly the same personnel as the Duskbuskers from Evening: A Cabaret. Honestly, Casey Bennetto may actually live at Trades Hall for all we know.
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