Only a couple of short Australian reviews in "The Age" this week. Lorien Kaye reviews The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction: "Compiled by Melbourne University academics Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver, the anthology works well on several levels: as a solid collection of historical artefacts; as testimony to the way the Australian landscape was narrated in a particular period; and as good entertainment."
As Alan Stephens puts it, "At a time when Australia is entangled in yet another uncertain war of invasion, The Minefield provides a deeply disturbing reflection on our capacity to understand such events, let alone manage them." The book he is talking about is The Minefield: An Australian Tragedy in Vietnam by Greg Lockhart. And he concludes: "The contextual breadth of Lockhart's scholarship makes many of the official histories produced by the Australian War Memorial at great expense to taxpayers seem one-dimensional. Fluent in Vietnamese and French, Lockhart brings a depth of understanding to his work we can only wish other authors, not to mention Menzies, Wilton and Graham, had shared...If you read only one military history this year, make it The Minefield; if you don't read military history, make an exception. This is a story Australians need to know."
Richard King looks at The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction edited by Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver, but finds it hard to think of a Gothic literature being possible in Australia: "Hence the question raised by this anthology. Can we talk of Australian gothic? Was the gothic Australianised in the way it was clearly Americanised by great writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne?..According to the editors of this volume it certainly was, but such evidence as they've marshalled is of uneven value." I think "Gothic" is more a state of mind and can exist anywhere.
Nigel Krauth is impressed with By the Book: A Literary History of Queensland edited by Patrick Buckridge and Belinda McKay, finding that "it shows there is indeed a Queensland literature, recognisable from its themes (and not just its geography) for more than 150 years...Reading this book from cover to cover is like being a tourist on a comprehensive tour of Queensland. There is the torture of the coach trip taking in nearly every bump in the road over which Queensland literature has passed, and also the frustration of not being able to get out and look closely at certain wonderful prospects, glimpsed fleetingly."
ABC reporters have released a batch of books lately, and Sian Powell attempts to come to grips with them: Gogo Mama by Sally Sara, Once Upon a Time in Beirut by Catherine Taylor and The View from the Valley of Hell by Mark Willacy: "An American newspaper editor once said journalism provided the first rough draft of history. These three journalists were there on the blood-soaked ground, providing Australians with a view into history unfolding and, all too often, repeating itself."