Turning his final page: Mark Rubbo celebrates a literary legacy
Mark Rubbo, a beloved figure of Melbourne’s independent bookshop scene, has officially called time in his role as managing director of Readings.
With an illustrious career spanning, incredibly, nearly 50 years, which has seen Readings expand to eight shops, including two in the CBD, Mr Rubbo’s departure will mark an end of an extraordinary era.
“It’s been a great pleasure,” he said in acknowledging the friendships and networks he has built with customers, authors, and Australia’s independent publishers.
The first Readings store opened in Lygon St, Carlton in 1969, which was named after the then owner Ross Reading, who offered Mr Rubbo the store in 1976 – an opportunity he now admits he didn’t know “where we would end up” after having initially run a record store called Professor Longhair in Carlton.
“I’m very grateful to Carlton and the people of Carlton. I always say to people it’s the best place to sell books in Australia and possibly the world – people are engaged and interested,” he said.
At the age of 74, Mr Rubbo said he wasn’t sure what the next chapter of his life held, conceding he “would play it by ear”, but adding it would involve spending more time with family, and of course reading books.
A novel he’s just finished and highly recommends is called The Visitors by award-winning author and playwright Jane Harrison, which comes out next month, with the plot reimagining the arrival of the First Fleet from a First Nations’ perspective.
Speaking of his retirement, Mr Rubbo admitted he simply could not resist the pull of his beloved bookstores, saying “I’ve still been going in a bit”.
“It’s a gradual process, I’m going away for a month so that will be a real test,” he laughed, as he handed the reins over to his son Joe.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s exciting to see local publishers like Scribe, and Text, and Black Inc. Melbourne has been the centre of so many independent Australian publishing so it’s exciting to be a part of that.”
Among those to share their admiration for Mr Rubbo was Scribe Publications founder and publisher Henry Rosenbloom.
“Apart from being one of my oldest friends, Mark has always been my idea of a bookseller’s bookseller – an indefatigable champion of local authors and good books, a builder of wonderful bookshops, and a great supporter of the wider community and of Indigenous literacy,” he said.
City of Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said Mr Rubbo “is without doubt one of the world’s great independent booksellers”.
For many Melburnians his bookstores are like an extension of their own homes, a favourite room they visit when they have a few minutes to spare,” he said.
“Mark has been a huge supporter for publishers, writers, and people in the creative sector – he is a living treasure of Melbourne, and we are so lucky to have him.” •