Weekend Round-Up 2006 #8

Azhar Abidi's Passarola Rising is getting some good coverage of late for a first novel. In the "Age" James Ley is pretty impressed in his review of the book: "...it is as pure entertainment that the novel recommends itself. Passarola Rising's narrative is short and punchy and immensely likeable. Abidi writes extremely well, in a clear and direct style that is capable of conveying a beautifully understated sense of lyricism, but that comes alive in the novel's numerous action sequences. Passarola Rising is a strong debut that reveals Abidi to be a novelist of great intelligence and inventiveness." You don't want to talk about formula here but Abidi seems to have struck a chord amongst reviewers, who are looking for the literary novel that is by turns fantastical, adventuresome, thoughtful, and entertaining. Come to think of it, aren't we all?

I remember the disappearance of the Beaumont children well. Forty years ago in Adelaide three young children from the same family went missing from Glenelg Beach and were never heard of again. For many of us it was the end of innocence, the end of a time when parents thought it safe to let their kids walk down the street to the local shop, and the start of a feeling that there was something very dark in the heart of Adelaide. Alan J. Whiticker has now written Searching for the Beaumont Children: Australia's Most Famous Unsolved Mystery which is reviewed by Andrew Rule, who finds it a thrown-together affair: "The book's main virtue is that it doesn't pretend to be something it is not. It is not literature. It's not inspiring journalism. It is to writing what a prefab shed is to architecture - fast and functional, thrown together by busy tradesmen and semi-skilled labourers who leave a few rough edges. It does the job - and the job was to knock up something to catch the anniversary, its only publicity 'hook' given the absence of any new material, insight or literary merit." It doesn't provide us with anything new, it just allows us to "least ignore the false trails".

I can see I'll have to track the reviews of Gail Jones's novel Dreams of Speaking to get a gauge of the shelf-life of a major Australian literary novel. How much notice will it get, and how long will that notice be sustained? I also have to figure out whether the strength and length of the attention is based on publication date as well. I suspect it is to a large extent. This week's entries are Cath Kenneally's review of the novel in "The Weekend Australian" and Aviva Tuffield's profile of the author in "The Sunday Age".

Kenneally doesn't appear as convinced about the novel as all other reviews I've read: "While the family saga is engrossing and beautifully told, the attempted hybridisation of registers is not entirely successful. One feels they would make two good books, but can't quite be forced into one", and "Jones writes with lyrical ease and at the same time strives for academic precision. Now and then, in this novel of exquisite record, the reader feels the need for respite. Choosing the word closer to hand would have also avoided the occasional gaffe (as in 'she too was enjoined in this magic circle'), where the enticement of mellifluous flow leads her astray." That aside, "...Dreams of Speaking is rather a thing of rags and patches, but they're dazzling, sequined ones."

Elsewhere in "The Weekend Australian", Justine Ettler welcomes the publication of two first novels by the University of Western Australia Press: Cusp by Josephine Wilson and A New Map of the Universe by Annabel Smith. "First-novel teething problems aside, what more can you ask of quality fiction? With mainstream publishers so driven by international and economic factors, Australia has never needed small fiction presses more than now. This is because university and other small presses seem to be assuming the role previously played by mainstream publishers. It's not always profitable, admittedly, but someone has to take the risks to nurture the next generation of novelists. Can we have more of this, please?" Too right.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 20, 2006 3:43 PM.

Poem: A Bad Influence by T. the R. (Charles Hayward) was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Literary Monuments #6 - C.J. Dennis is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en