Weekend Round-Up #41

Tim Flannery is a biologist, the director of the South Australian Museum and and resident reviewer of Natural History books for "The New York Review of Books". He's also the author of a number of works himself and his latest book, The Weather Makers, is reviewed in "The Weekend Age" by Ian Lowe. Flannery looks at the effects of the changing climate on bio-diversity and ecological systems. This is becoming a very "political" debate of late; and I mean that in the worst possible sense. Small disagreements are blown up out of all proportion and minor errors or omissions are used to debase arguments while ignoring the main points being made. In other words we're fiddling at the edges. The trouble is book reviews have to do this to some extent, and while Lowe has some disgreements and quibbles with parts of Flannery's arguments, he does state: "If you are not yet convinced of the gravity of the problem, or our capacity to solve it, you should buy and read this compelling book."

Given I'm married to a solicitor and just got myself out of jury duty (I'm self-employed and thirty bucks a day doesn't quite cover the mortgage), I was interested to read the review of Malcolm Knox's book Secrets of the Jury Room. "Knox interlaces his own experience of the trial in which he served as juror with a great deal of research into the history of trial by jury as well as a survey of the various studies conducted into the functioning of the system...He has interviewed prosecutors, defence counsel, judges and others with an interest in the system and paints a picture in which their varied observations help set a rich context...His book is a paean to the institution of trial by jury, warts and all, at a time when some unpopular and misunderstood acquittals sometimes produce populist calls to abolish juries."

I have no basic problem with juries and the jury system, and if I'd been a full-time employee in my present company I would have been more than happy to have taken part. I'd better read this book as it might well be the closest I get to the real thing.

Short notices are given to: Tasmanian Devil by David Owen & David Pemberton: "In this engaging biography of the beast, the authors examine the evolution of the devil, its behaviour and ecology, its relationship with Europeans, the many myths surrounding it and the disease that threatens its existence"; Covet by Tara Moss: "...model Tara Moss has clearly read more books than she's written, and she writes a mean brand of pulp thriller to boot"; The Journal of Fletcher Christian by Peter Corris: "Corris furnishes what is known from the historical record with the fruits of his full-blooded imagination. The result is a riveting, and for the most part realistic, retelling of one of the most enigmatic episodes of European seafaring in the Pacific".

Gerald Murnane come to notice, to me, with his 1982 novel The Plains from Norstrilia Press, a small publishing house run by three science fiction fans in Melbourne. He has now published a collection of his essays from the past twenty years, titled Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs. The author is given a major profile in this weekend's "Sydney Morning Herald", in which he reveals: "There will be one more book of stories gathered from the past, with a new title story, Barley Patch, which he is writing now. 'It will be my last book. I don't say that with any sadness or solemnity. I've used up everything off the workshop floor.'"

In his review of Tom Keneally's latest book, The Commonwealth of Thieves, Andrew Reimer is well aware that some historians are going to be a bit miffed by the author's foray into their territory. But, as he puts it, "Above all, as he has demonstrated in book after book, Keneally is a most accomplished storyteller. The Commonwealth of Thieves is filled with vividly evoked personalities and their histories: the austere Phillip; Watkin Tench, that most thoughtful observer of the hell around him; the well-meaning Reverend Richard Johnson; the entrepreneurial Macarthurs; the raffish D'Arcy Wentworth; the Kables and the Ruses, convict families who prospered. And there is, most notably of all perhaps, Bennelong, with his pride, his quick temper, his fondness for women and his curious esteem for Phillip, the leader of the pale ghosts who had appeared so disastrously from nowhere."

Jane Sullivan has a good piece in "The Sunday Age" on editing and the second National Editors Conference that was held in Melbourne over the weekend. The start is a classic:

"Comic writer Kerry Cue once worked with an editor who had a thing about 'at'. You don't walk in the door, she insisted. You walk in at the door. She wanted to add about 500 'ats' to the manuscript. Cue suggested a page of 'ats' at the end would do nicely."

I wonder what you'd do with someone like that. Can you ask for a substitute or do you have to put up with it?

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 17, 2005 8:07 PM.

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