Weekend Round-Up 2007 #23

The Age

I'm not sure what's happening with "The Age" website these days. Over the past couple of weeks book reviews have taken most of the next week to appear and this week we seem to be back to normal. Maybe it's the weather..

Thuy On comes to similar conclusions as other reviewers of Matt Rubinstein's A Little Rain on Thursday, namely that it promises a lot but gets a bit lost along the way. "There's no doubting Rubinstein's love of and facility for the written word and the book's convincing plea for all the languages of the world to be kept alive for posterity's sake. Often the metaphors and similes are beautifully evocative: Jack [the main character] pores over the 'peaks and troughs of ink', the letters on the brittle vellum are like 'tiny sculptures'.

"However, there are also dense passages full of arcane crypto-religious references and earnest semantic dissections that wouldn't seem out of place in a linguistics textbook. The novel becomes bogged down in its own erudition and becomes an unwieldy and heavy-going read, with the narrative becoming as vague and tangential as Jack's wandering mind."

Judith Armstrong also seems to have trouble with Antoni Jach's novel Napoleon's Double. It's an historical novel, of a type that seems to be causing critics and commentators, essayists and some novelists lots of concern of late. The question appears to be: is it history or is it fiction? I tend to answer this by asking if it's a novel or not. That seems to settle things for me, though not necessarily for Armstrong. "On whichever side of the debate readers align themselves, they may fairly correctly interpret the argument to be about the murky borderland between two clearly defined territories. But those who read this new book by Antoni Jach - and one hopes they are many - will encounter a slightly different generic puzzle. Although categorised as a novel, it doesn't feel like one." Neither did Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes, but if the author thinks it's a novel then I take it to be one. Surely novels can be anything these days, even poems if they want to be. Still, Armstrong does end on a higher note: "Readers who relish a discursive, original, faux-naif ramble through the undersides of history should enjoy it greatly."

The Australian

Up the snow, I think.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on July 10, 2007 9:29 PM.

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