Weekend Round-Up 2007 #17

The Age

Shane Maloney's return, with his novel Sucked In, has been widely applauded and Ian Syson is another spreading the love. "Shane Maloney is the master of a genre of his own making -- apparatchik lit. Stories from the murky, lurky world of Australian politics (especially inside the Labor Party and union movement) have no better teller in contemporary Australian fiction...His soft-boiled (some might go so far as to suggest eggs benedict) protagonist, Murray Whelan, is already established as a major character in Melbourne's fictional world. Maloney's five previous novels have created a biography and storyscape by which many readers are by now totally (ahem) sucked in." After the "death and destruction and genre-stretching excesses of the previous work, Something Fishy", Syson finds Maloney is back to his best with this one.

The heading atop Lisa Gorton's review of Dorothy Porter's new work, El Dorado, is a strange one: "Dorothy Porter forces a murder mystery into a verse novel, with compelling results." What's with the use of the word "force"? The implication here is that "verse" and "crime" don't mix. If this novel is anything like The Monkey's Mask there is really no forcing evident. The fact that the writer has decided to use a particular form should only be cause for concern if it fails, and that's certainly not what Gorton thinks. "A murder mystery is perhaps the most plot-driven of literary forms. Porter shows its plot can exist for the most part in the gaps between what characters, one after another, say. In this way, the whole work of finding the murderer comes to equal the work of putting different perspectives together, adding up the various things these characters know."

One thing though: don't use Agatha Christie as a comparison point any more. Christie and Porter have nothing in common except they both write in English. It's time for reviewers to acquaint themselves with the genre they are writing about and find newer, more relevant, analogies.

The Australian

Jannete Hospital Turner's latest novel, Orpheus Lost, fits squarely in the new literature of terror according to Stella Clarke. It's a genre that has been gathering exponents over the past few years: Amis, McEwan, Flanagan, Rushdie and Updike among them. "With every urban atrocity and suicide bombing, every extremist travesty of the Islamic faith made public, this literature is reinforced as the magnetic north of alarmed readers." And on this novel specifically she says that it "speaks to us about how, these days, we are engulfed in paranoia. Nobody feels safe. We are precariously perched on the lip of the abyss. This is possibly the richest, most haunting read you will encounter this year."

Evan Whitton's review of Kickback: Inside the Australian Wheat Board Scandal by Caroline Overington is titled "Fools, lies and a flawed investigation", and nary a better title was ever applied to a Royal Commission. The book, on the other hand, delivers the goods: a "compelling narrative" Whitton calls it.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 22, 2007 11:09 AM.

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