Reviews of Australian Books #33

After the flurry of activity surrounding the Man Booker prize shortlist, and Kate Grenville and M.J. Hyland's appearance on it, it's all James and Hughes at the moment. Martin Gayford reviews Things I Didn't Know by Robert Hughes in the "Telegraph", who finds that "...cantankerous and occasionally inconsequential though Hughes can be, you're always on his side. This is, as you'd expect, a hugely entertaining book."

In the same newspaper, Anthony Quinn also reviews it, noting that "Things I Didn't Know ends in 1970, with Hughes appointed art critic on Time magazine, leaving his later years, presumably, for volume two. If it can match the eloquence and fearlessness of this book, it will be worth waiting for."

And still in the "Telegraph", Nicholas Shakespeare nails Clive James and his new memoir North Face of Soho pretty well: "One problem with a life of humour is that you never really get where you're going to. It is an elaborate tango: one step forward, one back. James knows how to scale the heights of comedy, but not always what to do once he has got there. He can reduce the reader to a state of pants-wetting helplessness, prepared to be led anywhere, only to abandon him a paragraph later, his antennae atwitch for the next perfect gag or aper├žu or 'spellbinder sentence'. His focus is onwards and upwards but seldom downwards. Despite his claims that 'my stuff depends on being presented as a serious argument', he does not take himself seriously enough to remain serious for very long."

Les Murray's latest poetry collection, The Biplane Houses, received a lot of coverage here in Australia when it was published earlier this year, but I didn't really expect it to receive much interest in overseas markets. Now it has been published in the UK, and this week it is reviewed in "The Guardian" by William Wootten. He's impressed: "There's humour here, of course, but Australia's most renowned living poet is very much in earnest about his exploration of how the sensory world shapes understanding and what it might be like to have apprehensions different from our own."

Peter Conrad in "The Observer" may be one of the few reviewers not overwhelmed by Robert Hughes's memoir. He's intrigued by it, to be sure, but "A memoir, however, should be more than an anthology of anecdotes or a digest of rankling grudges. 'Know thyself', the command of the Delphic oracle, is the autobiographer's injunction. That self may be one of the very few things that the polymathic, uproariously eloquent Hughes does not know."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 23, 2006 11:24 AM.

Australian Books to Film #18 - The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch was the previous entry in this blog.

Weekend Round-Up 2006 #39 is the next entry in this blog.

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