Reviews of Australian Books #4

In "Philosophy Now", Scott O'Reilly reviews Peter Singer's review of George W. Bush's statements on ethics. He finds that in The President of Good and Evil "Singer is very much performing the role of a modern day Socrates, asking common sense questions, applying clear reasoning, and using his interlocutor's own words as the standard by which they are judged. And like Socrates, Singer makes for a rather formidable gadfly." As you might expect, if you've been following any of Singer's statements over the years, that he is not a bit fan of George W., going "so far as to to speculate that Bush was intoxicated, on drugs, or perhaps out of his mind." Regardless of whether or not Singer makes a cogent argument against Bush, and I believe that he does, you'll like this book if you hate Bush, and vice versa.

Robert Dessaix's latest, Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev is reviewed by Stephanie Merritt in the "Guardian". She finds that "His knowledge of Turgenev's work is encyclopedic and enthusiastic and his central investigation - what love could have meant to his idol - is thoughtfully treated." But she feels that Dessaix imposes himself on the narrative too much. Maybe it's just a matter of determining what the book is about: if its aim is to deal with Dessaix's journey to discover Turgenev then this seems quite reasonable; if it's to introduce Turgenev to the reader then it probably isn't. Julian Barnes got over this problem 20 years ago in Flaubert's Parrot by turning the quest for the French author into a novel: fiction allows for more literary options. Barnes gets a mention in Merritt's review as well in that a recent short story of his tackles similar ground to Dessaix's. Merritt is of the opinion that Barnes did it better.

Marcel Theroux reviews Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey in the "New York Times". (This review is accompanied by a photo of Carey and his son - neither of whom look like they're having a good time.) Theroux comes to the conclusion that, as a writer of non-fiction, Carey makes a good novelist. Which is certainly the impression I got from Carey's earlier book 30 Days in Sydney.

Michael Robotham is mistaken for a Brit in Patrick Anderson's review of his book Suspect, in "The Washington Post". Robotham lived in London for a number of years making his living as a "ghost writer" for celebrities but has recently returned to live in Sydney, so Anderson can be forgiven this assumption. A little bit anyway. He finds the book to be "gripping", "taut and fast-moving" which is decent praise for a thriller.

[My thanks to Sarah Weinman's weblog for the link.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 2, 2005 9:58 AM.

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