Weekend Round-Up 2007 #40

The Age

It's poetry time of year in "The Age" this week with Lyn McCredden, associate professor of literary studies at Deakin University, reviewing the two major annual Australian poetry collections: The Best Australian Poetry 2007 edited by John Tranter (University of Queensland Press) and The Best Australian Poems 2007 edited by Peter Rose (Black Inc): "The editors of these two valuable anthologies are unapologetic cultural champions of poetry and Australian literary culture generally. John Tranter and Peter Rose, both fine poets and critics, are more than qualified to present their personal choices from the best poetry published in journals and newspapers this year, and their anthologies are extremely interesting and quite different from each other...Only one poem (S.K. Kelen's entrancing 'Dance') appears in both, though there are 17 poets who overlap. Tranter's is the briefer, pithier collection, with 40 poems; Rose's contains 66...Poetry is the great cultural form -- language at its most inquisitorial, self-questioning and sensuous -- but it is also poetry that points to the limits of poetry...Poets may claim to be little gods, their vigour in their heads, but in a multitude of ways their art brings them to acknowledge the littleness of their divinity, the bounds of their art. This dance of limits is what poetry pre-eminently achieves."

Any novel by Christopher Koch is a major literary event in this country, though Michael Williams doesn't think his latest, The Memory Room, quite hits the heights that it might have: "Few Australian novelists have been so attuned to the nuances of Australians abroad in Asia, or would be so well placed to chronicle the shortcomings of public service and the limits of those twin concerns of the spy novel: idealism and compromise...Fans of Koch's earlier work won't be disappointed, but somehow The Memory Room never quite amounts to anything much. It just doesn't find the author hitting the high notes that he's previously shown himself capable of, contenting itself with a mediation on a group of characters who never fully come alive...The Memory Room glitters in the sun, even if the junction at which these characters meet, the depiction of the local wrongs that drive them together and apart, feels largely empty."

The Australian

Jack Hibberd looks at the other major Australian fiction release in recent times, Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller: "On the evidence of Landscape of Farewell, Alex Miller is a sombre and sober author whose prose interlocks adroitly with his lugubrious thematic concerns. Not for him the sceptical fabrications and comic diversities of modernism or the antic relativities of postmodernism. Alex is no smart alec...Landscape of Farewell is laced and interlarded with flashbacks, dreams, prescient Jungian premonitions and binary selves, some of which knit past with present, place with place."

Last year Will Elliott won the ABC Fiction Award for The Pilo Family Circus. This year it was Luck in the Greater West by Damian McDonald which is reviewed by Justine Ettler: "Set in Sydney's western suburbs, this is realist entertainment at its most gritty, featuring characters who range from the vaguely unappealing (drug dealers and pregnant teens) to the outright detestable: hate-filled, Lebanese Muslim gang rapists...Curiously, Andrew Hutchinson's debut novel Rohypnol, which depicts young male perpetrators of date rape, won last year's Victorian Premier's Literary Awards prize for an unpublished manuscript by an emerging Victorian writer. It's quite a coincidence that two young male Australian authors are making their names by writing contentious novels depicting the rape of women by men...In McDonald's case, there is a moral to the story that suggests artistic integrity: when it comes to immigration, assimilation is the best policy." Which implies that Hutchinson's doesn't.

The Sydney Morning Herald

I've said in the past that the annual "Best Australian Essays" from Black Inc is the best type of summer reading: short pieces by a number of different authors on a number of different topics; if you don't like one piece, chances are you'll like the next, and you may just discover a new, fresh voice. This year's edition, 2007, is edited for the second time by Drusilla Modjeska, and Andrew Reimer seems to feel the same way about it as I do: "For her second go at editing this annual anthology, Drusilla Modjeska has assembled 27 essays that make for varied and absorbing reading. As one would expect, many of the familiar names are here...One of the most attractive features of this collection is Modjeska's careful, one might say cunning, arrangement of these contributions. Reading anthologies from cover to cover can be a disconcerting experience -- changing gears, so to speak, every 10 pages or so. By contrast, many of the essays in this volume are grouped in ways that establish telling connections and echoes and also provide illuminating disjunctions at times."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 27, 2007 9:47 PM.

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