Blesok no. 57, November-December, 2007

Reading between the Lines
(Tom Petsinis, "The Twelfth Dialogue")

Nick Richardson

    From the moment you open this book, you are struck by a strange other-worldliness.
    On the face of it, it is a simple enough story. A young woman who loves books opens a second-hand bookshop.
    She is a singular character, immersed in the nature of books, treating them as something beyond simple words on a page.
    While the business struggles in a recession, she finds a series of mysterious dialogues, addressed to her, appearing in the shop.
    At first she is not sure where they come from. They are a kind of emotional bounty.
    The dialogues are strangely mannered conversations between a range of historic figures, including writers Ernest Hemingway and Franz Kafka, and Moses and Marx.
    The bookseller slowly makes contact with the dialogue's author and a resolution to her financial problems emerges.
    This is in no way a conventional novel, yet it explores the novelist's conventions of story-telling. It is a gentle and compelling rendition of an emotional landscape.
    There are deep philosophical discussions here, too, which are handled with elegance and finesse.
    Tom Petsinis has written a rare book. Not only does it capture the booklover's obsession, but it also manages to include a wide sweep of ideas.
    This is stimulating storytelling, done simply and with the lightest touch.

(Published in “Herald Sun Weekend” – 25 March 2000)

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