Reviews of Australian Books #49

Christopher Sorrentino reviews Richard Flanagan's latest novel, The Unknown Terrorist, and is quite taken with it. "You could argue that by populating his novel with puppets, Flanagan demonstrates our susceptibility to the fear that authority encourages, our blindness to the opportunism lurking in that encouragement...[but] Flanagan's strident presentation of a society passively following the marching orders issued by the government and its media accessories can be stunning".

Also in "Bookforum", Richard Locke takes a long look at Cultural Amnesia by Clive James, and finds that it only skims across the surface: "In the end, James's refusal to pay more precise attention to the lives and works of his 107 iconic figures -- most of whom, be they world-historical geniuses or scholars or tyrants or the nearly unknown, do indeed abundantly provoke our interest -- amounts to a dereliction of intellectual duty. For all its admirable, generous curiosity, its comedy, its defense of uncompromised and unfettered cultural variety, and its essentially celebratory energy, Cultural Amnesia conveys the sense not of delight but of frenzy, not Swift's saeva indignatio but slick wit, not learning but polymathy." It strikes me that Locke has missed the point completely. Another example of a critic reviewing what he wanted to receive, rather than what he actually got.

James Bradley reviews Tom Keneally's latest, The Widow and Her Hero, for the "Times Literary Supplement": "An unflinching clarity and moral purpose has long given shape and purpose to Keneally's fiction; it is what lifts it above the narrow territory of the historical novel. Without it, the considerable number of his books which follow history closely would be little more than the faction Schindler's Ark has sometimes been accused of being."

In "The Telegraph", David Robson also has a look at Keneally's novel, and, while he doesn't think it's up to the author's best, he stil thinks it's pretty good: "In terms of its overall effectiveness, The Widow and Her Hero is probably a notch or two below Keneally's very best work. The narrative is neatly constructed, but the scenes in the Far East lack a certain immediacy: you should be shocked by the beheadings, so redolent of modern Iraq, but they do not reverberate through the story as much as perhaps they should. But any new work by this master of moral complexity is a matter for rejoicing. He looks into the heart of the human condition with a piercing intelligence that few can match."

Peter Temple's novel, The Broken Shore, has been released in the US and is tarting to pick up some good reviews there. It's certainly interesting to see a different take on what most of us would consider to be an "Australian" novel. And yet Keir Graff can see similarities to the Australia, as depicted by Temple, and the American West: "Substitute Indians for Aborigines, and land-use issues for land-use issues (Australia has lots of coastline, but waterfront property is waterfront property), and you have a familiarly troubling tale of race and class conflict -- with an even darker crime at the heart of it all. Temple's novel
racked up the awards in Australia, and it's easy to see why: this deeply intelligent thriller starts slowly, builds inexorably, and ends unforgettably."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 3, 2007 11:13 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #58 - Birds of Passage by Brian Castro was the previous entry in this blog.

2007 Ditmar Award Nominations is the next entry in this blog.

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