Merger moves closer
Nanjing Night Net

THERE’S a long way to go but the proposed merger between Random House and Penguin is closer to becoming a reality after the US Justice Department completed an investigation of the deal and said it would have no objections. It’s safe to assume that other regulatory authorities might well follow the example set by the Americans and approve the union that will give the new entity more than 25 per cent of the global consumer anglophone publishing market. When Penguin’s global boss, John Makinson, was in Melbourne last October, shortly after the announcement of the merger, this column asked him about the possibility of the deal coming unstuck. ”The regulatory process is a pretty complicated one; it involves a lot of different jurisdictions so it would be a very brave chief executive who said there is no possibility of this thing going wrong here but you would expect that we would have taken fairly comprehensive legal advice before making an announcement of this kind, which indeed we did. So we feel we have the ability to meet the regulatory tests in the major jurisdictions, but I don’t want to pretend this is going to be a completely straightforward process. Obviously we’re going to have very detailed discussions with the Department of Justice in the States, with the European Commission and, indeed, here in Australia and Canada and other jurisdictions.” The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is undertaking an ”informal review” and considering the proposed transaction under section 50 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which ”prohibits acquisitions that substantially lessen competition in a market, or are likely to do so”. The ACCC expects to reveal its outcome in early March.

Amazon under attack

WHEN the Random and Penguin deal was announced, much was made of it as creating a bulwark against the increasing power of Amazon. Makinson told Bookmarks that ”the strength of Amazon featured in our thinking just as the pressure on physical booksellers featured in our thinking”. So Makinson might have given three cheers to the comments of James Daunt, managing director of British bookshop chain Waterstones. Certainly owners of bricks-and-mortar bookshops would. In an interview with the Financial Times, Daunt got stuck into the online retailer for destroying jobs and for the loose tax regime it enjoys. ”What proportion of jobs do they create in a warehouse relative to the number they destroy on the immediate high streets around them, and why is the taxpayer funding this destruction?” He said the online retailer’s business model was a ”job destroyer” and castigated politicians for not creating tougher tax rules for multinational companies. But to be fair to Daunt, who last year made a deal with Amazon to sell its Kindle e-book readers, he did acknowledge in the interview that, like supermarkets, Amazon offered ”tremendously good value”.

Shop sales steady

FIGURES from the US should give enthusiasts for the traditional bookshop some cheer. In 2012, sales dipped by only half a percentage point to $15.3 billion, a result that was described by Publishers Weekly as the smallest drop in years. The monthly results fluctuated throughout the year – in May, for example, they jumped 5.7 per cent compared with the same month in the previous year, while in September they dropped 8.3 per cent. December bookshop sales climbed 2.9 per cent to $1.7 billion.

A Tartt return

SHE can hardly be called prolific – two novels in 21 years – but at long last another is on its way. Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, will be published in the US, Britain and Australia in October by Little, Brown. Her most recent novel, The Little Friend, came out 10 years ago to little enthusiasm from readers and critics, unlike her first, The Secret History, which sold millions on publication in 1992. Apparently, the new novel has been with the publisher since 2008. According to its description, young Theo Decker survives an explosion in New York that kills his mother. To avoid being taken into care, he scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He then becomes obsessed with a small, mysteriously captivating painting that reminds him of his mother and soon draws Theo into the art underworld. The novel ”is a haunted odyssey through present-day America. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art.”

Tolstoy with sex appeal

ANDREW Davies has a pretty good track record adapting for the small screen classic novels from the 19th century. Think Pride and Prejudice – yes, he was responsible for Colin Firth as Mr Darcy emerging wet and tantalising from that lake – Bleak House and Little Dorrit. In Sense and Sensibility he had a fireside sex scene at the start of the first episode, a seduction scene not mentioned and certainly not dwelt on in Jane Austen’s novel until page 218. When Davies spoke at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2008, he told the audience at one session that Pride and Prejudice was all about ”sex and money and young people with raging hormones”. So what are we to make of the news that Davies’ next project is a six-part adaptation for the BBC of Tolstoy’s whopper, War and Peace? He says Natasha Rostova beats Elizabeth Bennet as the most loveable heroine in literature. And Davies wants to get women ”excited about one or two of the male stars”, apparently.

POETRYA Useful Fan

Queen Victoria woke up near the embersof a burnt-out gum, where Tony Abbottdozed lightly in his capacity as VolunteerFirefighter. Her copy of his publication,The Minimal Monarchy proved a useful fanfor her. Active charity work always seemed to her odd, like Mr Gladstonecombing the streets for ladies to reform,but she supposed being Leader of her Oppositionwas still the cause of great frustration. Abbottseeing her at last felt huge reliefthat she wasn’t Santamaria, Mannixor Loyola, with all of whom he’d growndeeply tired of conversation. “Mam,”he implored, “I do not despise women,” sinceshe looked motherly not minimal and seemedto understand him with her owlet gaze. She sawthe genuine stillness of hurt, did notpoint out that electorally it would not matter, said:”Some woman has flirted with you, thenattacked you and you expected goodness, justas my dear Mr Disraeli required Mr Gladstoneto provide him a radical context. But onecannot always rely on the enemy’s rightness, a flirtnot to attack one after flirting. That is whatthe flirtatious always do. Concern yourself,as Mr Gladstone would, with the singlemothers she impoverished on that very day.”  “As Mr Disraeli also would,” he added, forthe mercy from her fierce woman’s eyes.

Jennifer Maiden



NIGERIAN novelist Chika Unigwe discusses her writing. 6.15pm. The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, city.

LES Murray on the sacred in life. 6.30pm. Carmelite Centre, 214 Richardson Street, Middle Park. $25. Bookings:; 9690 5430.


CLIVE Hamilton considers the threats posed by ”geoengineering” the planet. 12.45pm. The Wheeler Centre.

MICK Dodson discusses indigenous politics with Robert Manne. 1.30pm. John Scott Meeting House, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

JAMES Button discusses his memoir Speechless with Bruno Lettieri. 6.30pm. VU Bar, Building M, Level O, Footscray Park campus, Victoria University, Ballarat Road, Footscray. $13/$6. Bookings:; 0422 298 643.

LAUNCH of Belinda Hawkins’ Every Parent’s Nightmare. 6.30pm. Readings Hawthorn, 701 Glenferrie Road.

NOEL Tovey discusses Little Black Bastard and And Then I Found Me. 7.45pm. Hares & Hyenas, 63 Johnston Street, Fitzroy. $15/$10. Bookings: trybooking南京夜网 (keyword: hares).

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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