Weekend Round-Up #31

Morag Fraser, adjunct professor in the School of Humanities and Social Science at La Trobe University and Miles Franklin award judge, takes a look at Conquest: A New History of the Modern World by David Day, and finds some things to admire and some to criticise. The thrust of the book is summarised fairly succinctly: "Day tackles war from the outset. He takes dispossession, mostly violent dispossession, as his central theme and looks at the history of the modern world as a history of peoples 'supplanted' by others more powerful, more ambitious, more ruthless or, simply, more gifted by fortune or the gods of war at any particular time." Which seems to follow on from a number of Jared Diamond's theories. Fraser's quibbles appear to lie with the broad-sweep of the book rather than the basic conception. With a theme as wide of this sometimes broad sweeps are what is required.

Farah Farouque is not exactly exuberant in her praise of either of Postcode: The Spintering of a Nation by Wayne Swan or Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss. Swan, current Federal Labor front-bencher is criticised early on for being a political insider - and therefore on a mission to further his politcal ends - and for starting his work with some biographical material. On the other hand (or is it the same one?) "Affluenza is a lively read with a punishingly compelling tone - sometimes it feels like indulging in a bout of self-flagellation as it outlines society's excesses; our oversized houses, our ridiculously expensive designer sunglasses and our pets who, in this vision, are inevitably over-indulged." which sounds all right until she concludes that: "It's an idea, however, that's unlikely to overly engage our political literati any time soon." So I came away from this review with no real idea of what she thought of either book.

Short notices are given to: The Somme by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson who "...have put together a painstakingly detailed account of one of the great stuff-ups of modern war...Morbidly compelling"; Noble Sindhu Horses by Lynette Chataway: "This is a novel that sparkles with life and is enriched by an empathic vision that underpins the different cultures it explores"; Leaning Towards Pisa: An Italian Love Story by Sue Howard whose "...sea change is ... organic, something that grew from fertile soil and flowered into a happiness that did not necessarily come at the expense of loved ones"; Death of a Doctor by Sue Williams: the "representation of [Dr John] Harrison, his accusers and his enemies may well be accurate - but the biography would have been stronger, and perhaps even more persuasive, if she had allowed readers to judge for themselves"; Mythform: The Making of Nearamnew at Federation Square by Paul Carter, Nearamnew is "the beautiful artwork consisting of engraved texts set in the paving stones of the Federation Square plaza"; In Your Face by Rochelle Jackson who is "less biographer and more ghost writer, not just quoting long passages of [Billy 'The Texan'] Longley's own words but also frequently adopting his perspective as her own".

The big Australian novel of the moment is Grace by Robert Drewe, and it's interesting that "The Weekend Australian" should review it this week while "The Age" didn't. Maybe Debra Adelaide reads faster than whoever is reviewing the book elsewhere. And you can tell it is an important book because "The Australian" has included the review on its website. Doubly odd. And Adelaide is pretty impressed overall: "Intense in scope and often sensuously detailed, Grace is also grand and sweeping in a way that will seem, to fans of Drewe, inevitably cinematic, with individual films providing compass points for Grace's emotional journey throughout the novel. Scene, incident and mood are all portrayed with fluid economy. At the same time, themes are richly layered, events are altogether intriguing and complex, characters are surprising to the end...Grace is proof that reports of the death of the novel are greatly exaggerated. Indeed, it indicates that there is definitely a future for the novel in this country, a more gracile one." Lavish indeed.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 2, 2005 11:30 AM.

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