Jack stopped reading novels in around 2004 he reckons, an election year. Another unbelievable result, Howard back in and the national asylum seeker paranoia well and truly revved up. The offending book – the one that provoked him into action – was a present from his wife Cassy, a literary prize winner about some boy genius from Wauchope who grows up to be a world class cricketer and a spy for ASIO. To Jack this was a load of old rubbish too big for the skip. It is fair to say Jack has trouble suspending disbelief. So he takes a vow, makes a pact, gives his allegiance to non- fiction. Buys books about 1968, and the city of London, and the case for climate change. Biographies about Eddie Izzard and Captain James Cook, books about real cricketers and real spies. They are long books, heavy hardbacks, good for killing late night mosquitoes and holding doors open against a stiff breeze. Jack thinks he is happy with these books, which can be trusted because they are researched and true and factual. He is comforted by dates and times and names of real people and places. He tells people about this at barbecues. How it has revolutionised his life. How much he is learning. How superior facts are to stories. But sometimes, late at night when Cassy has turned in, he pretends to stay up to watch the late news, when he’s really indulging in a few chapters of the latest Richard Flanagan or an old Christopher Koch. Or maybe a Margaret Atwood. Depends on his mood. The truth is, Jack’s faith in fiction waxes and wanes, and he’s kind of annoyed that he was so evangelical at those barbecues, and that now he can only share his dirty secret with Ticky Fullerton on Lateline.


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