Weekend Round-Up #43

In the "Weekend Age" this week Jeff Sparrow looks at Freeing Ali: The Human Face Of The Pacific Solution by Michael Gordon, whose "slim book traces his attempts to visit the offshore detention centre at Nauru, a surreal place rendered so poor by the collapse of the phosphate industry that its Government worries about repo-men seizing the one aeroplane in its fleet." I find it impossible to write about this despicable episode with getting incandescently angry. How our current Prime Minister can think this "Pacific solution" to the "refugee crisis" was a success is beyond me. The important point, as Sparrow puts it is that "when politicians portray people as objects, it's all too likely something inhuman is happening."

As a reader I have a long-term interest in the human race's myths and legends so Dating Aphrodite: Modern Adventures in the Ancient World by Luke Slattery might be the book for me. John Armstrong finds that "Is is hard to imagine a more companionable guide to the myths and heroes, ideas and attitudes of the ancient Greeks and Romans than Luke Slattery. He weaves his elegant discussions of the stories and personalities of the ancient world into the narrative of his own wanderings on classic soil." Which sounds like a good way to introduce the stories - a mixture of "the genres of travel writing and ancient history". And it's good to see that the author doesn't trivialise his subject-matter: "Slattery's work is representative of a movement in modern thought - one that, as yet, has no special name. He is unafraid of being serious. He wants to understand and discuss the great topics of life; but he is generous and easy with his knowledge; he focuses on why ideas matter, how they connect with experience."

Short notices are given to : The Life of George Bass by Miriam Estensen: "In this fine portrait of Bass, Miriam Estensen reveals a man whose great intellect, curiosity and hunger for adventure typified the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment"; By the Seat of My Pants edited by Don George: "Most of the stories have the quality of an extended, fleshed-out and well-told anecdote -- nothing profound but consistently entertaining"; Bumageddon: The Final Pongflict by Andy Griffiths: "...the final book in Andy Griffith's cheeky best-selling trilogy, set in a world where the buttocks are revolting, in more ways than one"; Remarkable Maps edited by John O. E. Clarke: "Considering the breadth and complexity of the subject, John Clarke has chosen a dazzling selection of maps both beautiful and important"; Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis: "Bobis has done a great service to her sisters in Australia - the perjoratively termed Filipino brides. I now have and understanding of what they left behind - their poor homes, their hearts and their fragrant food."

In "The Australian" the big new work of Australian fiction is Prochownik's Dream by Alex Miller. "Underneath the surface story is a thesis: although art and life don't fit together well, it's the attempts to solve that problem, emotional disasters and all, that give rise to art in the first place...The main story-line isn't really the point of the novel. It's what is just out of eyeshot, just out of focus, that is most important."

Matthew Reilly might not be everyone's cup of tea, but we have to admit he's found a literary genre that brings him remarkable success" some two million sales worldwide isn't to be scoffed at. His latest book, Seven Ancient Wonders is reviewed in this weekend's "Sydney Morning Herald". "Popular fiction may not provide the aesthetic pleasure or ambiguous meanings of literary fiction, but the likes of Reilly's Seven Ancient Wonders dispense instant therapy: escapist solutions to our anxieties. Reilly's ironic celebration of Australia at the end of Seven Ancient Wonders will make you laugh out loud. And laughing, Reilly implies, is one way to resist fear."

The "SMH" also reviews: Original Face by Nicholas Jose, "a rich portrayal of Chinese expatriate culture in a fast-paced thriller", and Secrets of the Jury Room by Malcolm Knox, that I commented on last week.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 31, 2005 8:47 AM.

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