Weekend Round-Up 2007 #11

The Age

Clive James's book, Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of My Time, is the book of the moment with a major profile of the author last week, and the book being reviewed this week by Richard King, which he says "is not only huge (it would be unputdownable if, at 900 pages, it weren't unpickupable), it is also a remarkable intellectual achievement. It's the book James will be remembered for, if you can be remembered for a book about amnesia." Rather Jamesian in tone. He concludes: "The tears of a clown are a poignant sight and there are more tears than laughs in Cultural Amnesia, haunted as it is by a powerful sense of the depths to which humans can sink. And yet it is also a demonstration of the heights to which the mind can rise when the best that has been thought and said has taken root and begun to flower."

Barry Jones is back reviewing Colonial Ambition: Foundations of Australian Democracy by Peter Cochrane. The book has some limitations: "Colonial Ambition is a dramatic, and largely successful, attempt to tell the story of how democracy developed in NSW, and introduce us to the major players involved - John Dunmore Lang, Charles Cowper, Robert Lowe, Henry Parkes as the proponents, William Charles Wentworth on the other side, and colonial governors George Gipps, Charles Fitzroy and William Denison stuck in the middle. Publication was supported by the Sesquicentenary of Responsible Government in New South Wales Committee. The other colonies receive sparse cover." But generally, "The book is hugely enjoyable, with excellent illustrations, impressive documentation and a near perfect index."

Love Like Water, by Meme McDonald, has been getting some good notices of late so it is a pity that such a small review has been included of what appears to be a very important book.

Just as a last thought on "The Age" this week, consider the extract from Ian McEwan's latest novel On Chesil Beach. I don't have a problem with such extracts, especially if it accompanies a review of the book. But why does the paper only seem to print extracts from non-Australian authors who, basically, don't need the publicity? I would have liked to have seen an extract from Keneally's novel a few weeks back, or Steven Carroll's, or Alexis Wright's late last year. I guess I'll keep waiting.

The Australian

Graeme Blundell, the paper's resident crime reviewer, has a look at Shattered, the new novel by Gabrielle Lord, the latest in her Gemma Lincoln series. "Like Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky, Lord attempts to integrate gender awareness into the resistant form of the hard-boiled novel, exploring feminine consciousness inside a policing system that exists to support male hegemony. And, like Paretsky, she operates at a nice level of rage." Blundell then goes on to conclude that Ross Macdonald "would have loved Lord's work." High praise indeed.

The Sydney Morning Herald

David Messer reviews Wayne McLennan's Tent Boxing, and is pretty impressed by the whole thing: "Wayne McLennan is that rare thing, a person who has lived life to the full and can write. One of the great contradictions about writers is that they must devote so much time to the creation of their works that they inevitably live an existence alienated from the vast majority of humanity." The book was a "New York Times" notable book of 2005 and "Apart from describing a boxing sub-culture, Tent Boxing provides a glimpse into another hidden part of Australia - the lives of Aboriginal people. McLennan doesn't pretend to represent more than brief moments in the lives of certain individuals but even in doing only that, by having lived with them, he gives the reader information seldom found elsewhere. Once again, McLennan gets the balance just right, revealing the sense of community, the humour and the spirituality of his Aboriginal companions, but not shying away from the sadness, depression and violence, nor the alcohol and the drugs...Tent Boxing is subtitled An Australian Story, hinting at another subtext. McLennan is writing about the very recent past but the nomadic boxers and showmen come across as remnants of Australia half a century ago. Having returned to discover if there is still such a thing as an Australian identity, he finds one, but only at the point where it is almost gone."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on April 2, 2007 9:46 PM.

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