Weekend Round-Up #25

"The Age" comes back strongly this week, at least on the non-fiction front, with four major reviews of Australian books, which is a nice return to form. For a sport that pretty much dominates southern Australia during the winter months, Australian Rules Football has not produced a great number of books on the subject. Although indigenous players had been around at the highest level for most of the game's history, they had not been a dominant force until the 1970s and the arrival of the Krakouer brothers at North Melbourne. Now Sean Gorman tells the story of the two players in Brotherboys: The Story of Jim and Phil Krakouer, which is reviewed by Michael Gordon. The review is a strange mixture of anecdote and history. I would have liked more about whether the book succeeded or not. Still we are left with the statement that "Gorman is well placed to write the Krakouer story because he has an understanding of what it is like for indigenous Australians in country towns and he loves the rhythms of the 'language, moments and myths' of football. He writes about subjects with empathy and insight." Which might be enough.

Romana Koval, presenter of the "Books and Writing" radio program on the ABC, has compiled Tasting Life Twice: Conversations with Remarkable Writers which contains interviews chiefly made during the Edinburgh International Book Festival between 1999 and 2004. Christopher Bantick's asks all the relevant questions in his review of the book, and finds a way into the review via his own interview with one of Koval's subjects, Malcolm Bradbury.

If the interview/profile piece is your bag then you can continue on with Close Up: 28 Lives of Extraordinary Australians by Peter Wilmoth. I will admit to reading these pieces from time to time in newspapers and magazines, usually if their subject has an affect on my life (eg politicians) or if they work in an area of special interest (eg writers). But I'm not big on puff-pieces or blatant publicity stunts. Matthew Ricketson is impressed with Wilmoth's collection which dates back to 1993, not only because of his attention to detail but also because he "has an ability, underestimated by those outside the media, to persuade people to talk. He is an attentive, sympathetic listener, and not afraid to ask hard questions."

So far we've had the biography, the interviews, and the profiles, and to continue the biographical/confessional nature of the books under review here we have Velocity by Mandy Sayer. This is Sayer's second memoir, following Dreamtime Alice, and Michelle Griffin, the reviewer, appears to have enjoyed it with some caveats: "The new memoir is written in the past tense but without any reflection, as if Sayer were afraid to name the empty spaces between the stories...I'm convinced of the gist, if not the details. You're always aware of the writer sifting through her memory stash, selecting and arranging the details for effect."

Short notices are also given to: Lessons I have Learned: Inspirations and Insights from Australia's Greatest Golfer by Peter Thompson, with Steve Perkin - Greg Norman had the name but Thompson had the results, and "what shines through is a generosity of spirit that, sadly these days, one does not associate with elite levels of competitive sport"; Noeline Long-Term Memoir by Noeline Brown: "Certainly there is great gossip and the usual collection of amusing anecdotes in this memoir but for a woman who has made her living making people laugh, there is a sadness in the subtext that is never fully realised nor explained"; Treaty by Sean Brennan, Larissa
Behrendt, Lisa Strelein, and George Williams: the treaty of the title refers to "the much-debated idea of a treaty between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians...[which] can serve the dual purpose of being a meaningful gesture and have a material effect"; and Nine Tenths Below: UTS Writers Anthology: "it's good to see the spirit of experiementation so strong here: there's not much traditional realism nor the kind of thing that has half an eye cocked on prospective commercial publishing."

"The Weekend Australian" reviews Troubled Waters by Ruth Balint, the co-winner, with Nicholas Angel's Drown Them in the Sea, of the 2003 Australian/Vogel award. To the best of my knowledge this is the first non-fiction book to share in the prize and shows that the judges are looking outside the usual boundaries. This work is an "eloquent account of the clash between traditional fishing in the Timor Sea and Australian determination to enforce its claims to maritime sovereignty".

The Long, Slow Death of White Australia by Gwenda Tavan is reviewed by Stephen Matchett who appears to find good and bad in the book, and who gives the impression that his political views don't gell with the author's: "Tavan is a fine historian who marshals her material to present a complex and convincing argument. But her comments on the supposed role of race in the politics of her own age are just another partisan polemic." And what's wrong with that, I ask?

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 20, 2005 11:14 AM.

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