Weekend Round-Up #50

The big entry in "The Age" on the weekend was the listing of best books of the year - this time chosen by writers. The books that kept on appearing include: The Secret River by Kate Grenville, The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, and The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers by Delia Falconer.

Clive James has a new collection of essays out titled The Meaning of Recognition: New Essays 2001-2005. And as Peter Craven says: "Clive James is one of the most accomplished essayists alive and on a good day the boy from Kogarah, who went on to shine at the highbrow and popular ends of television, will make you think that reading an essay (or even that near relation, a sustained intellectual article) can still be the kind of joy it was when Cleopatra held the pen or Hazlitt." James appears to have given up fiction, which is probably a good thing as his best work is done in the fields of personal memoir and essays. This looks like a pretty good collection.

Bryce Courtenay is one of Australia's best-selling authors and with his 12th book, Whitethorn, he returns to his native South Africa which he hasn't revisited since his first novel, The Power of One. It's good to see this book being reviewed in "The Age", not because Courtenay needs the publicity, but because there is always too much speculation that review editors don't like his work and omit any mention of it. On the plus, and minus, sides:

The Power of One and Whitethorn illustrate Courtenay's abiding love for the country of his birth. Indeed, reference is made in Whitethorn to Alan Paton's classic novel of heart-sore Africa, Cry, the Beloved Country. Courtenay, however, is no Paton. His writing swells with melodrama and there is little here that is aphoristic or restrained. Instead there are many stories, and stories within stories within stories. This crowded canvas creates a sense of the writer wanting to cover every angle; an anxiety that people may know the shame and the pain of what has been hidden; an anxiety also that people know the richness and beauty and generosity of his country.

Sounds like it will sell in bucket loads.

James Bradley looks at the annual offerings from Blank Inc of The Best Australian Essays 2005 edited by Robert Dessaix, and The Best Australian Stories 2005 edited by Frank Moorhouse. This is a big review of two impoertant collections so I'm at a loss as to why the piece isn't on the website. Of the Essays: "it's also possible that Dessaix's selections are a little too polite for some tastes. There's little anger...but these quibbles aside, much of the material in Dessaix's Essays is at least very good and often better." Perfect summer reading in my view: short and sharp, quaffable or sippable, and allowing for further follow-ups. In the Stories, Moorhouse has followed his 2004 approach of making a public call for submissions. So what we have is a combination of "New Writing" and "Best Of". Maybe Black Inc could opt for two collections, each following their titles rather than attempting to combine the two: "...there seems something deliberately perverse in publishng a collection of this sort and not using it to draw together material that speaks to the depth as well as the breadth of Australian writing, particularly in a year as bountiful as 2005."

I've always been impressed with Martin Flanagan's work as a journalist and now he has co-written a book with his father Arch, titled: The Line: A Man's Experience of the Burma Railway; A Son's Quest to Understand. The war and Arch's life might well be the main topic of this book, but, as Tony Thompson points out, the younger Flanagan may be aiming at something else: "This meditation on his relationship with his father is raw and, at times, painful. There is a deep love and respect that shines from this book and he captures something fundamental about what it is to be a son. This may be the real subject of the book."

Also reviewed: The Wreck of the Batavia & Prosper by Simon Leys.

It's a busy time of year so everything is cut short. The major Australian fiction review in "The Australian" is Liam Davison's look at Summer at Mount Hope by Rosalie Ham: "While it's the social and romantic intrigue that carries the story, it's Ham's wickedly black humour and finely researched social observation that deliver the real joy of the book."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 19, 2005 9:06 AM.

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