Weekend Round-Up #15 Part 1

Carmel Bird leads off the Book review section of "The Age" this weekend. Jane Sullivan provides a detailed profile of the writer to coincide with the release of her latest collection of short stories, The Essential Bird.

After Wendy Harmer's first novel was reviewed extensively last week, we now have The Catch by Marg Vendeleur, continuing what apepars to be the start of a publishing trend - that is, if 2 novels can be considered a "trend", or even the start of one. To be fair though, this novel was published a month or so back and briefly mentioned in this weblog. For a first novel this book gets a reasonably sized review by Leslie Cannold, herself the author of What No Baby? recently. All in all, Cannold is impressed with the work: "Spritely, sure-footed, rich with colour and authentic understanding of place, The Catch, by first-time author Marg Vandeleur, maintains its innocence and light-heartedness on a potentially chin-dragging topic: the shortage of suitable men for desperately ticking women."

John Baxter has been living in Paris for over ten years now, writing biographies of film directors and his recent memoir of book collecting, A Pound of Paper. He now turns his attention to the city in which he lives and has produced We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light which is reviewed this week by Dmetri Kakmi, who puts the essential question about the city early on in his review:

   "Why is Paris a beacon, and what makes it one of the great cities? Biographer
   and film writer John Baxter tries to provide an answer by immersing himself in
   the French capital's sensual delights. We are only too happy to follow because his
   writing exudes the confidence of one who knows where he's going."

The rest of the review progresses pretty well but he loses it a little with his summing up:

   "Finally, the question of whether John Baxter is propounding cliches for the sake
   of randy foreign tourists seems almost superfluous. Still, it would be interesting
   to know what the French think of how the world perceives them. Most likely,
   they don't give a profiterole."

Yes, it might be interesting to know how the French see Paris, but Baxter has written this book explaining how he sees the city. To imply a criticism of the work for not approaching a topic that the reviewer wants to see seems a little off the mark. By the way, Baxter is now working on a biography of the painter and writer Norman Lindsay.

Cathy Cole has written an examination of crime fiction in Private Dicks and Feisty Chicks, which is given the once-over by Sue Turnbull. Noting that the book "bears the inherited traits of its academic origins as a PhD thesis", Turnbull goes on the state that "Cole is at her best when describing her experience as a writer or discussing specific authors, but at her weakest when she feels compelled to generalise about crime fiction and its readers." Which seems to happen to a lot of genre fiction.

By the time I got to this point in "The Age" Book review secton I started to think it must be Australia week. The bulk of the reviews deal with Australian books, and two first novels get decent attention. The second of these novels is Player by Tony Wilson, published by Text Publishing, which is building up quite a reputation for interesting fiction. The reviewer, Ian Syson, is the publisher at Vulgar Press, and he puts his review in context right from the off: "As a publisher, I've been waiting in vain for a manuscript such as this for a long time: an intricately crafted, hilarious, ultra-contemporary political parody/tragedy set in a context giving it the potential to be immediately compelling to tens of thousands of Australians." And there's not much more to add to that really.

A couple of non-fiction works finish off the major reviews in "The Age": Freud in the Antipodes: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in Australia by Joy Damousi: "Psychoanalysis, like Plato, suggests the soul's health lies in its curiosity. This book will open the door to more questions"; and Hellfire: The Story of Australia, Japan and the Prisoners of War by Cameron Forbes: "We need to be reminded of these things over and over again. Lest we forget the lesson... It is our story and we need to know it."

In addition to this multitude of long reviews, short notices are given to: Jane Austen & Crime by Susannah Fullerton: "This study, by the Australian president of the Austen society, is not so much an attempt to present the 'seamy' side of Jane, but to show how the seamy, dark and dangerous side of the society she lived in is manifest in her works"; The English Dane: A Story of Empire and Adventure from Iceland to Tasmania: "Jorgen Jorgenson was one of those 'colourful' characters of history who generally recede into footnote obscurity"; Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks: the book inverts the usual quest narrative as Cadal "must discover the ordinary within him - the need for friendship, the need not to be betrayed, the need to be respected"; and Arthur Boyd and Saint Francis of Assisi: Pastel, Lithographs & Tapestries 1964-74 by Margaret Pont.

After which I think I need a good lie down. I'll continue this weekend's round-up tomorrow.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 11, 2005 10:12 AM.

"The Book was Better" was the previous entry in this blog.

Weekend Round-Up #15 Part 2 is the next entry in this blog.

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