- The Reviewers: Writing About Books & Music
Saturday 8 June
- Biography, Memoir & Blog: Life Stories
Sunday 9 June
Elias was born in Murwillumbah in northern NSW and raised in the Bellingen Shire. He moved to Sydney for university studies, completing a BA, MA, and, recently, a PhD at the University of Sydney. All of this study was funded and made possible by over a decade of retail work, first as a shoe salesman, and later as a bookseller—his current occupation. Those long years on the wrong side of the counter have proved surprisingly helpful in Elias’s other career as a casual tutor and sessional lecturer at the University of Sydney.
His writing has appeared in Hermes (which he was proud to edit in 2010), Contrappasso, The Conversation, and most recently in Overland, where he discussed the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut Sunday penalty rates as a symptom of the wider disregard for and invisibility of retail and service workers.
As any bookseller will tell you, customers can be irrational, demanding, abusive, and brain-scramblingly, mind-bendingly strange. They can also be kind, thoughtful, funny, and full of pathos. Something about the often-fraught interaction between customer and worker, with the dividing line of the counter between them, loosens inhibitions and has a kind of hot-house effect on eccentricity.
These insights became the basis for Elias’ recent first book, 2018’s I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue. A hilarious, unpredictable and at times touching compilation of things that people have said or have been overheard to say in bookstores, the stories range from ill-behaved children to nostalgic seniors and everything in between. The book began as a social media blog, which Elias friends and family urged him to publish and it’s quickly become a surprise bestseller.