Weekend Round-Up 2007 #19

The Age

["The Age" book review webpages are now available.]

It's been close to twenty-five years between publications of David Malouf's poetry, so any new collection is going to be of more than usual interest. Luke Davies certainly thinks so as he reviews Typewriter Music from UQP: "A certain ease and grace infuse and define Typewriter Music. It is not a poetry of urgency or angst. That seems entirely appropriate, for I suppose what I really mean by that is that ity is not a young man's poetry. Instead, there is the sense of a master craftsman making simple objects...Malouf swings easefully between the eternal and the immediate, between the divine and the painfully human, but the thread that carries through is an embracing acceptance of the world as it is, of the passage of time, and even, at times of the passing of love...Typewriter Music sees a poet at the height of his powers paying attention -- to the world outside, the world within, and to his craft. It is a long time between drinks, yes. But the harvest is a good one, and the wine, though delicate, lingers on the palate." Which is probably about as good a review of Australian poetry, in an Australian mainstream newspaper, that you're ever likely to see. I don't remember Les Murray's last collection receiving that much praise.

Thuy On looks at two new Australian novels by first-time novelists, Nights in the Asylum by Carol Lefevre, and The Asking Game by Rose Michael. Both novels involve an "flight" from Sydney into a small town out west, though Lefevre's concerns asylum seekers and women fleeing circumstances, while Michael's novel is set in the year 2024 and involves a shadowy cult. Of Nights: "The lives of these asylum-seekers intertwine in this unlikely oasis, their relationships becoming increasingly tangled and knotty as the outside world threatens to intrude. An omnipresent third-person narrator flits back and forth in time and reveals each character's background, happily informed by Lefevre's crisp, clear prose." And "The Asking Game is a teaser of a novel: it does ask a lot of questions but answers them only ever so slowly, though Michael provides plenty of clues along the way."

The Australian

Aphelion by Emily Ballou is a big, Australian novel by a writer who moved to this country from the US in the early 1990s. It's a touch over 500 pages and Geordie Williamson invokes Flaubert and Madame Bovary in her review of the book. To be fair it's mainly about the birds that fly over Flaubert's heroine as she heads towards her end. "There are also birds in Emily Ballou's second novel: flocks of galahs and cockatoos, rafts of ducks, flights of swallows. But they serve a different purpose from those in Bovary. Instead of letting them fly, the author captures and holds them in a narrative net. There, they are set to work as plot devices, omens, symbols and psychopomps, mediators between the characters' interior states and the external world through which they move. The fancy name for this sort of thing is the anthropomorphic fallacy, and its presence here is part of a larger problem with what is an often beautiful novel, large in scope and ambition, and written in a heightened poetic style that, at its best, ennobles the mundane heartbreaks of its cast."

Kerryn Goldsworthy is back with us this week, after being cruelly truncated a few weeks back, this time with a review of Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster. "This novel is essentially a Bildungsroman, in which a young person grows up and learns about the ways of the world, but here it's enlivened by a genuine mystery, a slender but powerful narrative thread working away deep in the background of the story...That thread is pulled tight at the end, where the hero-turned-villain gets his comeuppance and all the story's chickens come home to roost. It's a masterstroke reminiscent of Jacobean revenge tragedy at its nastiest and most relentless...Feather Man is not a pleasant or reassuring book, but it's written with great confidence and lyrical intensity, and most Australian readers will recognise in its pages something of their own time and place."

Bernard Lane also attempts to tackle Malouf's new poetry collection Typewriter Music, quoting much more heavily from the book than the review in "The Age". "Angels, an attic room in a northern winter, subtropical salt on the flesh and breath that's poured, across continents and time, into a lover's mouth; these are signatures of David Malouf's poetry, instantly recognisable proofs of him at work although it has been 26 years since he last published a slim volume." Unfortunately the review only skirts around the edges of the volume, not coming to grips with it completely. Maybe the pre-defined length is this review's shortcoming.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Andrew Reimer on Typewriter Music by David Malouf: "Malouf's diction rarely departs from the cadences of ordinary speech - civilised and urbane speech, it is true, but speech nevertheless. The tone is by turns gently ironic and melancholy. Once or twice darker notes are sounded, yet even the intimations of mortality that cast their shadows over several of these poems are restrained, generally understated."

Sue Turnbull on The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham: "The Night Ferry is a big and complex crime novel. It is certainly an entertainment though it is hardly just that. It takes us deep into a set of humanitarian concerns by making us care about the characters involved. It is also deeply moving."

Kate Holden on The Scandal of the Season by Sophie Gee: "Gee's novel is an artful depiction of a high moment in British aristocratic artificiality, when not only corruption and heavy costumes were the order of the day but also high-stakes financial speculation, religious subterfuge and a degree of bitchiness that would turn hair as white as a powdered wig; when everyone in society had something to show and something to hide."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on June 4, 2007 10:35 PM.

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