Gang-gang. Eyes Wild, Nostrils Flaring

Gang-gang. Eyes Wild, Nostrils Flaring

Tossing my silky, tousled mane, my nostrils flaring (forgive me but I am influenced by all the romance fiction I'm reading) I cross the newsroom with a panther-like grace to sit down to write about ... obelisks.

Too many obelisks are not enough, but our city is obelisk poor. And so it is with excitement that, lost in the suburbs of the National Capital Authority's gigantic Commencement Column Monument Draft Heritage Management Plan, one comes across discussion of the possibility of our acquiring an obelisk.

Toni Robertson's 'Small Matters 2' (1984). Pic courtesy CMAG

Toni Robertson's 'Small Matters 2' (1984). Pic courtesy CMAGCredit:Toni Robertson/CMAG

Back to obelisk thrills in a moment but first a diversion to discuss structures in which our city is rich, the iconic "bunker" bus shelters so reverently and wittily captured by artist Trevor Dickinson.

But now it emerges that he was not the first artist to see something in the shelters. The Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) has a new art exhibition Urban suburban. It focuses on Canberra as a place to live, not as our nation's capital. One of its more than 100 works is Toni Robertson's Small Matters 2. It was painted in 1984, long before Trevor Dickinson knew of these squat treasures. Urban suburban continues until June 21.

Sylvia Day's 'Bared To You'

Sylvia Day's 'Bared To You'Credit:act\ian.warden

But back to obeliskery. As discussed here earlier this week, the forlorn Commencement Column Monument up on Federation Mall (like a shag on a rock) was intended to be the base on which an actual monument, an obelisk, would stand. The shaft was designed but never made. Now the NCA's draft plan is inviting discussion of what might be done to have us all notice and appreciate the present monument (really only a monument's base). For the time being it is an orphan, just gathering lichen, bubblegum and magpie poo.

One possibility ventured in the cautious draft plan is that a new embrace and enhancement of the column's base (presently an unsexy, unobtrusive thing) might move some to want to give it at last its column/obelisk.

In which case the draft plan can imagine an orgy of hot debate. By its very nature and site it would stick out, and for some vista lovers might spoil the parliamentary vista. Remember how the suggestion of a 100 Years Of Women's Suffrage installation, in this same space, knotted the knickers of vista geeks? They got their way and so, instead, the Suffrage memorial is a sweet little, feminine, water feature, out of sight and out of mind (perhaps symbolising women's role in Australian life) in an anonymous niche of an Old Parliament House garden.

The original 1912 design by John Smith Murdoch was for an obelisk/column over 7 metres high. Will today's vistarazzi allow such a thing?


Meanwhile, responses to the request for comments on the draft plan have included one from Dr Hannah Jaireth, a member of the ACT Heritage Council (but writing in her own right).

Part of her submission, imagined to get the monument better embraced, submits that "the Monument be included in civics and citizenship virtual/walking/Segway/cycling tours ... that include other important sites in the Parliamentary Zone from a civics perspective".

From something very difficult to read (the Commencement Column Monument Draft Heritage Management Plan is the size of a Dostoevsky novel but lacks that author's storytelling flair) to the easiest reading of all, romantic fiction.

The panel sessions and other events of this weekend's huge Romance Readers Convention in Canberra are all sold-out, sorry. But organiser Debbie Phillips advises that at everyone is invited, without charge, to an orgy of book selling and book signing from 4pm to 6pm on Saturday at which 90 romance authors (yes, 90!) will be embossing their books with their signatures.

We asked Phillips what the names of some of the convention's sessions meant.

"Animal Instinct", she explains, will feature a panel of writers whose romance fiction includes "shape-changers", humans who spend some of their time as werewolves, demons, vampires, etc. But there is no werewolf to human sex (thank goodness!) since romance only occurs when folk are human-shaped.

"Speed Dating" turns out to be a form of speed dating ("but without the cocktails and the heartache", she laughs) in which authors' fans get to sit for four awe-inspiring minutes gibbering with an adored author.

And no author at the convention will inspire more awe than Sylvia Day. Although her writing makes literary snobs (like this columnist, who would rather everyone everywhere read the fiction of Nobel laureate Alice Munro) wince and scoff, she is breathtakingly, bodice-rippingly popular.

The American is a number one bestseller in 27 countries. Her just-published Captivated by You, a sequel to Bared to You, is sitting, throbbing and moaning, at my elbow as I write (sent by Penguin, her Australian publishers).

Let's dare to open it and browse at random, to get a taste of what it is about romance fiction that drives its (overwhelmingly female) clientele into ecstasies.

"I felt Gideon approaching before I saw him, the air crackling with the violent energy of an impending summer storm. He rounded the corner from the hallway leading to the bedrooms. I lost my breath. He was shirtless and barefooted, his hair a silky tousled mane that brushed his shoulders. Black sweat pants clung to the lowest point of his hips, underlining the tight lacing of his abs ... his eyes wild and nostrils flaring ... I was suddenly melting in my jacket. The hunger between us was a living thing in the room, sliding sinuously around us ..."

Yes, more Canberrans would read the NCA's heritage-important Commencement Column Monument Draft Heritage Management Plan (it's at if it was written in prose as purple as that.

Ian Warden is a columnist for The Canberra Times

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