Weekend Round-Up 2006 #28

The Age

Maybe, as Kerryn Goldsworthy said in a comment here last week, Australian publishers of fiction are in rest mode, waiting for the Miles Franklin hoopla to die down before they place their new wares before us. Or maybe they're waiting for the winter blues to pass, or spring to appear. Or something. Anyway we are short on the fiction front again. And if you get sick of hearing it, then rest assured that I get sick of writing about it.

In reviewing Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret and Extraordinary Lives by Helen O'Neill, Janine Burke finds a character who "is the sort of grand fibber who belongs in a Peter Carey novel." Unfortunately she comes away a little disappointed: "Perhaps if O'Neill had assessed her rigorously within the context of Australian modernist design, instead of choosing to emphasise her life's sensational aspects, a more accurate picture might have emerged of this curious character."

Short notices are given to: Keywords in Australian Politics by Rodney Smith, Ariadne Vromen and Ian Cook: "This is an excellent reference for clarifying that are often used but whose definition remains hazy"; Quarterly Essay - Voting For Jesus: Christianity and Politics in Australia by Amanda Lohrey: "The great pleasure of this essay is watching Lohrey's fine mind at work as she separates rhetoric from reality, the polemic of patriarchs and preachers from the lived experiences of ordinary people"; Teachers Who Change Lives by Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game: "This thoughtful book side-steps the polemic by taking us into the classroom and bringing alive the learning experience from both the teachers' and the students' perspectives"; Grassdogs by Mark O'Flynn: "What this feral portrait of a stunted life lacks in measured plot development, it makes up for with it imaginative use of language"; and The Waddi Tree by Kerry McGinnis who "has an ear for colloquialisms of the bush and keen eyes when it comes to realising the landscape."

The Australian

Peter Ryan puts Paper Empires: A History of the Book in Australia 1946-2005 edited by Craig Munro and Robyn Sheahan Bright, in context straight off: "This is the third and final volume of a noble enterprise begun years ago: to recount the story of books in Australia from the First Fleet to the present day. Volume one told the then slender but fascinating tale up to 1890; volume two carried it forward to 1946 and the end of World War II; now volume three takes us inside the infinitely more complex book world of the day before yesterday." Which is a worthy ambition. The pity is the "book's general authority is weakened by a long list of inexplicable omissions."

The Sydney Morning Herald

And we get some Australian fiction at last with Michelle Griffin's review of Death of a Whaler by Nerida Newton. "You do not need to read too deeply between the lines to connect the most famous book about whales and Newton's portrait of a dispossessed Byron Bay whaler and his friendship with a troubled hippie called Karma." Which doesn't augur well. And Griffin ends up a tad disappointed: "Newton writes in thoughtful prose. But she is so bald in spelling out her themes of fate and redemption that her slight story sinks beneath the weight of her motifs." This is Newton's second novel. Maybe that explains it.

Also on the menu in the SMH is Amanda Hooten's review of Kate Morton's The Shifting Fog. You might remember this book getting a bit of press coverage a few weeks back. Hooten raises the point that this book reads like something you've read many times before: "Of course, the reality is that many people - me included - absolutely love this stuff, which is why The Shifting Fog will no doubt do very well. Give me a story containing doomed love, a large staff and a wide selection of flapper dresses, and I'm happy. The problem here, however, is that on ground so well covered by such gleamingly gifted writers as Mitford and Waugh, Fitzgerald and Coward, you must be brilliant to be anything at all - and The Shifting Fog is some distance from brilliance...One thing for which Morton is to be commended, however, is her follow-through. She winds up her characters' fates with skill and thoughtfulness; not only her primary characters, but all their descendants. And she gets something else right, too. She recognises that, with novels like this, sometimes what matters is not literary genius."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 10, 2006 8:59 AM.

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