“A Thinking Reed” by Barry Jones

2006, 528p.

Barry Jones has been typecast, to his chagrin, as a “lovable eccentric”, and is best remembered for his appearances on Pick-a-Box quiz shows during the 1960s and has recently reprised his quiz-show persona on “The Einstein Factor” on ABC television.  His contribution to public life, though, is much wider than this.  He served as both a state and federal Labor politician, he was ALP President, a delegate to UNESCO, the author of “Sleepers Wake” and a major contributor to the since-discarded  (but probably more pertinent than ever) Knowledge Nation policy.  He can often be seen around Melbourne and has the status of National Living Treasure.

In many ways this book reflects its author very accurately: rather pompous and yet awkward, fact-bound and passionate.  At times its very didactic and rather strained writing style frustrated me but by the end of the book, I was absolutely won over by the innate goodness and complete authenticity of the man.  He has much to be bitter about, and he does not hide his disappointment and sense of betrayal, but he keeps on giving- and there is his true nobility.  His last chapter is the most passionate, but at the same time the most disillusioned- I hope that since November last year he has more cause for optimism, although I’m not really sure that he has.  There is no “front” in this book- Barry Jones just is as he is, and we are all the better for it.  8.5/10

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