Weekend Round-Up #22

Jane Sullivan kicks off "The Age" weekend book reviews with a profile of Paul Jennings, one of Australia's best-selling authors of young adult and childrens' books. This coincides with the release of Jennings's latest book, his most autobiographical to date: How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare..., or, to give it its full title, How Hedley Hopkins Did a Dare, robbed a grave, made a new friend who might not have really been there at all, and while he was at it committed a terrible sin which everyone was doing even though he didn't know it. Even though Jennings could have a quite confortable living (for Australia anyway) writing the same types of books he has produced so far, he senses the need to write a novel for adults: "I guess I'm doing it for me really. There's always been an element with the children's books, I'm doing it for you...Maybe I've finally grown up. It's quite a scary thing. I can fail...But at this stage of my life, I won't write anything unless it really terrifies me." I look forward to it.

Christos Tsiolkas's third novel, and first since The Jesus Man in 1999, is reviewed by Ian Syson, who wonders if he is "destined to become the happy-clappy publicist for new Australian writing? While all around me the grim literary coteries are despairing of what is to become of Australian literature, I am enjoying most of the Australian fiction I read. Maybe I just get to read the good stuff, such as Christos Tsiolkas' Dead Europe." Syson is impressed with Tsiolkas's [yes, I know I add the extra "s" after the apostrophe, and believe I'm right in this regard] "prose is sometimes so achingly tender and beautiful that it gives us pause to reflect on the tragedies that force a writer capable of communicating such joy and delight to stare down the many spectres haunting Dead Europe".

Short notices are given to: The Companion to Tasmanian History edited by Alison Alexander, "as is inevitable in state-based references of this kink, [this book] is both history and celebration"; Yesterday's Tomorrows edited by Graeme Davison and Kimberley Webber: "A book about a museum is a strange beast...this museum of science, technology, design and social trends is implicitly dedicated to notions of progress"; Surviving Amber by Charlotte Calder, who "...approaches [the] familiar storyline (including a romantic sub-plot) with originality and a lightness of touch..".

"The Weekend Australian" also reviews Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas this week finding that the writer "delivers on his youthful promise". The novel challenges the New/Old World divide in that the main character "acts out contemporary Australia's search for a grown-up identity, our struggles to break free of European fantasies and demons."

Sarah Blackwell's book The English Dane: A Story of Empire and Adventure from Iceland to Tasmania has taken a while to be reviewed in "The Australian" and I wonder if this has done her no harm whatsoever. Having the reviews appearing over an extended period may have helped the book find a wider audience. Having a reviewer conclude that "this is an extraordinary story, told brilliantly" can't do anything but help either.

Short notices are given to: Mary Cunningham: An Australian Life by Jennifer Horsfield: the story of a pioneer in the Australian wool industry at the time of the rise of Australian nationhood; Sandman in Siberia by Steve Abbott: Steve "Sandman" Abbott - dead-pan comic extraordinaire - traces his family roots in Siberia.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 30, 2005 10:10 AM.

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