Whilst more devout Christians than myself attended Maundy Thursday church services, I went along to Trades Hall Bar in Carlton for the launch of Conceived on a Tram, which is a book of cartoons, illustrations and graphic stories done by various artists in Melbourne, with essays by Age columnist Danny Katz and Australia's unheralded comic genius, Shaun Micallef.
Mr Micallef was also present to officially launch the book. With his trademark self-deprecating humour, he commented about his own lack of artistic ability, which he demonstrated on stage by drawing a picture of a man pointing. When he was 12 years old, he enrolled in a correspondence art school, where students had the opportunity to submit their work for appraisal. His effort was a picture of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, traced from a photograph, but also submitted on tracing paper. Needless to say, it wasn't evaluated favourably. To this day he appreciates good cartooning and illustration, with the exceptions of Snake Tales, Bristow, and Fred Bassett.
With the formalities over, the next part of the evening was the draw off, which was like Pictionary, or that segment on Spicks and Specks, but with book titles. Two teams of three, with members drawn from the audience, and Micallef captaining one of the teams, competed for the reward of recognition from their artistic peers.
To be honest, I felt a little out of place mingling with artistic, creative types. This wasn't quite my cup of tea. I don't have an artistic bone in my body. It's not that I don't like art, or appreciate artistic talent, but I don't understand it, and can't be bothered putting the time in to develop an appreciation for it. Having said that, I appreciate good writers and speakers.
As a longtime fan of Shaun Micallef's work, in television, print, and radio, I wanted to hear what he had to say. I'm not one for small talk or fawning over celebrities, so this time I didn't bother to buy the book or have it signed by anyone who contributed to it. However, that didn't stop me from once attending the 2004 Melbourne Writer's Festival launch of Shaun Micallef's own book, Smithereens (Penguin, ISBN 0143001213, $24.95) and having it personally signed by the author, with whom I chatted briefly on the night.
For more information on this book, which should be available direct from the publisher, visit http://www.sleeperspublishing.com/