Weekend Round-Up 2006 #46

A tad later than normal due to a surfeit of Christmas functions.

The Age

The paper is running a bit behind in linking to its reviews on the website.

Juliette Hughes looks at two recent novels by two of Australia's best-selling writers: Sylvia by Bryce Courtenay, and The Valley by Di Morrissey. Both feature historical settings, but about there the comparisons end. "Morrissey's novel is a warm, well-rounded story about searching for one's forebears...The Valley is a long, juicy page-turner, a generational saga that flows resistlessly - Morrissey's fluency makes reading easy - and she links sound historical reseach with a compassionate, timeless view of people.

"Sylvia is a different matter altogether, and presents problems...Courtenay can write well and has deserved his popularity: he has given the world one excellent novel, some very good potboilers and some reasonable reads...But now Courtenay has produced Sylvia, a book that is so mystifying bad that the main thought you come away with after struggling through it is 'Why'?"

Delia Falconer "approached this year's Best Australian Essays with a heavy heart." But the 2006 edition, edited by Drusilla Modjeska, wins her over in the end. The collection "begins slowly; its mix of serious and light is choppy - but it creeps up on you. The best pieces make this one of the better collectons in the series." I said it last year, as I recall: this is the best type of summer reading, a number of different authors writing at different lengths on different topics. Hard to see how anybody can get bored with it.

Short notices are given to: Crocodile: Evolution's Greatest Survivor by Lynne Kelly, who is "never short of dramatic material in this lively account of the crocodile's evolution and natural history"; Ghosts in the Helmet Trees by Rory Steele, "Steele is an energetic and sensuous writer and he weaves the two strands of his narrative together with considerable skill"; Paper Nautilus by Nicholas Jose: "There are occasional missed notes...but Jose's thoughtfulness and economy of language provide significant compensation for these shortcomings"; Not Quite Ripe by Debra Byrne: "the simplicuity and sincerity with which Byrne writes takes you beyond prurience, so you find yourself desperately barracking for her"; Pleasure: An Almanac for the Heart by Nikki Gemmell, shose "mundane advice on everyday matters in a chatty tone sits awkwardly with her unfulfilled aspiration, expressed through more lyrical notes, to existential, romantic and sexual transcendence"; The Secret Familiar by Catherine Jinks who shows a "mastery of research" and a "mastery of characterisation"; Continent of Curiosities by Danielle Clode, who "structures her book around 11 specimens - from kangaroos to crustaceans - and links them to a variety of issues such as European discovery of Australia, evolution, creationism, climate change, exploration and discovery."

The Australian

My paper copy of "The Australian's" book pages was chucked out to the recycling before I had much of a chance to get to it this week. Put it down to over-zealous house-cleaning in the silly season.

The major Australian review is of two collections of Australian poetry: The Best Australian Poetry 2006 edited by Judith Beveridge from the University of Queensland Press, and The Best Australian Poems edited by Dorthy Porter, from Black Inc. The reviewer makes some broad statements earlier on in the piece about these two books: "To my mind [the poems here] measure up in about the same proportion of the poems that come in this newspaper's mailbag: about one in five is worth publishing (space permitting), about one in 20 is really good. It's all a complex matter of judgment, taste and contingency." As you might expect there is quite a bit of duplication of contents in the two volumes though the UQP has 99 pages of peoms and the Black Inc 202 pages. Hill is impressed by both volumes and recommends that you "Get both. Give them away and buy two more as a thankyou to these publishers, now in their fourth year of honouring the wealth of Australian poetry."

The Sydney-Morning Herald

I would suggest that if you were underwhelmed by Australia's progression in the 2006 Football World Cup, then you're not going to find Australia United by Tony Wilson of much interest. As Michael Vistonay puts it "what made Germany 2006 so memorable was the fact, not just the feeling, that the whole world was there. The vast numbers of travelling fans generated a sense of universal kinship, aided by fabulous organisation, boosted by the success of the host country and annointed by perfect weather."

Margaret Simmons thinks that The War on Democracy: Conservative Opinion in the Australian Press edited by Niall Lucy and Steve Mickler is marred by "self-conscious prose".

Matthew Lamb is intrigued by Luca Anata by Martin Edmond wondering what kind of book it actually is. "It is being promoted as part memoir, history and travel book but not as fiction. A remarkable omission, as the spectre of fiction pervades these pages."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 12, 2006 5:06 PM.

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