Weekend Round-Up 2006 #5

The major piece in "The Age" this weekend is a profile, by Frances Atkinson, of Marion Halligan as she awaits the publication of her new book, The Apricot Colonel, in February. Her best line: "I don't think that getting published at a young age is necessarily a good thing. Authors have probably been thinking about their first book since they were teenagers, then suddenly they have to write a second book but they've haven't lived enough." With which I'd agree. Then again, I'm just a grumpy old bastard, so what do I know?

"The Age" leads off its Australian reviews this week with coverage of two collections of poetry: Friendly Fire by Jennifer Maiden, and Rattus Rattus: New and Selected Poems by Peter Rose. This is not a common occurrence and it makes a pleasant change, not that the review appears on the website. The reviewer, David McCooey, stakes his reviewing territory right up front: "Although marginal to our public culture, poets are routinely presented as shamans, bards and prophets. But such nostalgia merely confirms the poet's marginal status. In the light (or dark) or John Howard's sedition laws, we need poets attuned to the contemporary, to the urgency of our times." And other writers as well.

But he's talking about poetry collections here so we should let him get on with it. "Maiden is not afraid to theorise and in essay mode she is often epigrammatic...Her originality is partly in the deft way she combines the lyric mode with satire, verse essay, diary, and occasional verse. Her 'parallel' poems are tours de force that illustrate hidden connections between apparently divergent topics." He is also impressed with Rose: "In contrast, Peter Rose is a master of obliquity...[he] is also a brilliant stylist, and like the American poet, Elizabeth Bishop, he knows how to use adjectives. But his glittering surfaces aren't merely 'stylistic'." Which leads me to believe that I'd have to read the collections to figure out what he's on about; and his review does pique my interest, as he concludes: "Rose and Maiden are both acute observers of what it is like to navigate one's private life through the murky currents of the public world." 'Murky' is one way of putting it. I'd tend to be a little more scathing.

Stephanie Dowrick has written a self-help book titled Choosing Happiness: Life & Soul Essentials which is reviewed by Claire Scobie: "Ultimately it is Dowrick's honesty, that she is a 'patchy optimist still subject to self-doubts', combined with her huge heart, that lifts Choosing Happiness above others. This modern bible for the soul, teaching how to live an ordinary life with 'a more-than-ordinary awareness', should sit alongside our dictionaries and encyclopedias." But not for me I fear.

And in "The Sunday Age", Mike Shuttleworth of the Centre for Youth Literature (based at the State Library of Victoria), profiles Scott Westerfield. Scott is a semi-transplanted Texan living in Sydney. He and his partner, Justine Larbalestier, divide their time between Australia and New York, which seems a pretty reasonable way to spend a life.

In "The Australian", J.M. Coetzee discusses the trials and tribulations of literary translation. He seems generally pleased with the results so far, though a few amusing anecdotes are thrown in to lighten the tone. The essay is reprinted from the latest issue of Meanjin. I know I'm being churlish, but it would be nice if the paper could commission such articles on its own.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 30, 2006 8:57 PM.

Poem: The Literary Hero by Ironbark (G. Herbert Gibson) - Part 1 was the previous entry in this blog.

2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize is the next entry in this blog.

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