Weekend Round-Up 2006 #33

The Age

You'd have to think that a book with a title like Paper Empires: A History of the Book in Australia 1946-2005 would be a rather dry old affair. But this volume, edited by Craig Munro and Robyn Sheahan-Bright, appears to have captivated Margaret Harris - described as professor in English literature at the University of Sydney, and a book tragic. "Yet the book is more than a treasure house of detail. Paper Empires is a gripping read. There are three sections - The Rise of Publishing, Book Business, and Reaching Readers - each with several chapters, and each chapter constituted by brief segments. Within this capacious overview many themes recur in different contexts and a set of narrative strands emerges."

William McInnes is best known as an actor who published a memoir of his father, A Man's Got to Have a Hobby, last year. Now he's published his first novel, and, according to Juliette Hughes, it's quite an amusing read. The trouble with books like this is the supposed content: it tends to put readers off who are just not interested in cricket - though I really can't see how that could possibly be the case. "There is a lot more than cricket going on in Cricket Kings. For one thing, McInnes, previously known for his acting, has that rare and precious talent of making the reader laugh out-loud. He reminds me a little of that old Aussie John O'Grady, but has a lighter, more ironic touch...It's a warm story of a man that most will recognise. For one thing, McInnes places his hero (Chris Andersen, the quiet, kind sort of hero), in a real place and time: Yarraville and now, on any one Saturday. He is a solicitor, a nice one who works for the unions. For Chris, getting a law degree hasn't meant moving across the Yarra and becoming a neocon. Cricket for him is about more than winning, sweet as that may be."

Short notices are given to: Somme Mud: The War Experiences of an Australian Infantryman in France 1916-1919 by E.P.F. Lynch: "Quaint Edwardian phrases aside, Lynch shows remarkable maturity in his ability to capture the banality of terror"; Overland: The New Australian Ugliness edited by Nathan Hollier, which deals with architecture in Australian suburbs, Ian Syson laments the loss of "confidence and bravado" in Australian literature and Lucy Sussex writes about Mary Fortune; Metro by Alasdair Duncan which "is the sort of young-adult fiction that teens and tweens will find instantly familiar because it speaks to them in their own voice, rather than a try-hard imitation of it"; The Messenger by Markus Zusak whihc has been republished for an adult fiction market: "Zusak writes with an unpretentious charm, and this funny and moving book -- with its black humour, narrative assurance and philosophical twist -- is one of those rare novels that will appeal equally to adults and teens"; Surfing Goliath by Michael Hyde whose "inclination to write for children about gangs and their big adventure is on the money"; and Filthy Rat by Simon Illingworth: the story of a whistleblower in the Victorian Police Force.

The Australian

As his new poetry collection, Urban Myths, is published, Rosemary Neill profiles John Trantor. The poet has a sly dig at Les Murray, reveals his battles with depression, laments the curent state of poetry publishing in this country, but also seems pleased at the response that Jacket, an online poetry publishing venture he helps edit, is getting around the world.

And continuing their look at book-people not usually covered by major newspapers, Jodie Minus interviews Robert Ingpen, who is currently providing illustrations for a new set of children's classics: The Jungle Book, Peter Pan and Treasure Island. "To illustrate stories that are familiar to generations and are designed to appeal to new readers, Ingpen employs cinematographic techniques, which are familiar to today's children, while also taking into account the period in which the story was written. His illustrations for Peter Pan and Treasure Island have a 'sort of furry woolliness and a feyness, which gives you a dating without making it look too old-fashioned'."

First novels abound with Kathy Hunt looking at Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland ["His whodunit is a perfectly paced story"], and The Dark Part of Me by Belinda Burns, which the reviewer doesn't seem keen on at all.

Also on the debut side, Natasha Civa reviews The Unexpected Elements of Love by Kate Legge, and The Island of Four Rivers by Christopher Morgan: "Legge is an award-winning political journalist and senior writer for The Australian, so it is no surprise that her prose tends to be straighter, more literal. Her background also breaks through in some timely and spiky narrative references to questions of contemporary conscience, including global warming, reconciliation and the decline of family, social and environmental cohesion...The Island of Four Rivers is an out-of-the-box, lyrical fantasy that beautifully suspends adult disbelief...Despite symmetries of subject matter and a common underlying optimism, these novels (like families) really shouldn't be compared. They're distinctive beasts and promise to attract different camps of followers."

Short notices are given to: The History of Australian Corrections by Sean O'Toole who writes that "Much of the machinery of Australian society and government today has been profoundly shaped by its convict origins"; and More Mere Mortals: Further Historical Maladies and Medical Mysteries of the Rich and Famous by Jim Leavesley: "Moses stuttered...Michelangelo may have suffered Asperger's syndrome", you get the picture.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Gideon Haigh casts his critical eye over the new Shane Warne biography, Spun Out, by Paul Barry, and he doesn't seem too impressed: "It was [regarding the subject's number of sexual conquests] in Spun Out that I felt my scepticism hardening. Not about Warne, incorrigible and foolish as he is, but Barry, a journalist held in high professional esteem. Because in two paragraphs he had perpetrated two of the giveaways of lazy reporting: giving credence to a wild, unsourced innuendo on no evidence other than guesswork, then alleging a conspiracy of silence that he, righteous man, nobly scorned...Spun Out proves a rare hatchet job where the biographer comes off worse than his subject. At least Warne hasn't squandered his talent so utterly as Barry has here." Showing that Gideon Haigh has a talent for producing the unplayable delivery as well.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on August 14, 2006 9:26 PM.

Austalian Books to Film #14 - Looking for Alibrandi was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Bookcovers #25 - Here's Luck by Lennie Lower is the next entry in this blog.

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