Weekend Round-Up 2006 #22

The Age:

Peter Singer's latest book, The Ethics of What We Eat, which he wrote with Jim Mason, is reviewed by Katerine Wilson. If you know anything about Singer you're probably aware of the stance he takes, though it does seem as though he has mellowed a bit over the years. In this book the authors's "solutions are market-driven: buy in-season, sustainable and humane products from trustworthy retailers. This can be supported from almost any ideological position. As they point out, the slow food, fair trade, and conscious consumer movements, along with the rise in farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture, are as much about preserving local cultures and environments as they are about addressing health, gourmet sensibilities and global inequality. All have grown from grassroots movements into confident industries." Change is slow, but it is happening.

The major fiction review is by James Ley of Venero Armanno's Candle Life, a book I'm currently reading. Ley finds that "Structurally it is untidy, and at times it teeters on the brink of incoherence, but it is nevertheless a complex work whose untidiness is, to some extent, deliberate." he expands on this point during his review and concludes that the "novel is a rough beast in some respects, but it is also a good example of the way an interestingly flawed novel is often more compelling and more illuminating than a work that is polished and tidy but takes no risks." Which I'll take to be positive.

Short notices are given to: The Corner of Your Eye by Kate Lyons who is "a talented writer who exhibits a controlled recklessness well suited to the disturbing internal contradictions of her protagonist"; Joan of Arc by Lili Wilkinson who "never condescends to her young readers but her history is accessible and interesting"; and Specky Magee and a Legend in the Making by Felice Arena and Garry Lyon, the fifth in the Specky Magee series of books for youger readers.

The Australian:

George Megalogenis is disappointed with Australian Heartlands by Brendan Gleeson, finding that there "is a common failing in nonfiction, here and in the US. Too many authors from the Left and Right are united by an excess of passion and an absence of humour...In this book, Gleeson's prose veers between valuable information and analysis about Australia's cities, sneering caricatures of his pet hates and the occasional attempt at poetry. Reality and lifestyle television is renamed 'free-to-airhead' TV." The book appears to be a discussion of current political issues in Australia, and "Australian Heartlands makes a serious contribution to the debate we have to have about the role of government. There is a good book crying to get out here; it's a pity Gleeson was caught in the polemicist's trap of playing the straw man, not the issue."

After Peter Craven's review of the novel last week - he was very disappointed - Helen Elliott tackles Landscape with Animals by "Cameron S. Redfern", and she has a very different view of the book. Where Craven seemed to concentrate on the bedroom movements, Elliott looks at the mechanics of the plot and the interaction of the characters; of the predatory nature of the chase, the pursuit and the capitulation. "At some level this reads like one long howl of retrospective pain. Nothing much happens except a forensic description of their mutual addiction to sex with one another. Scenes unfold like a static series of Georgia O'Keefe paintings. Their doom is in the imbalance from the start. She sees in him everything opposite to her, a man who will complement and complete her. He perhaps doesn't even like her." And she finds that "Despite the instinctive sensuousness of Redfern's writing, there is nothing erotic or pornographic here; the only stiffening will be in the resolve not to become like this couple. Redfern is inventive and the sex changes, but oh, how it bores! (A short story would have been brilliant.) But, then, that's obsession. Obsession grinds down to dreariness in the end. Perhaps this should be required reading for those contemplating an affair. Or even a technical manual for the sexually timid." Which sort of comes to the same conclusion as Craven, but from a different direction.

Kate Lyons's first novel, The Water Underneath, was shortlisted for the 1999 Australian/Vogel Award, so it seems like a bit of a wait for her second novel, The Corner of Your Eye. Still, Patricia Anderson thinks that readers "will be delighted with this second offering." And "Lyons delineates [her] characters, whose lives are so abbreviated and pointless, with great skill. Her terse, unsentimental style is perfectly pitched to her subject matter."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 29, 2006 9:00 PM.

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