Weekend Round-Up 2007 #38

The Age

It's just my luck that the weekend I'm away from home, "The Age" decides to run reviews of more Australian books that it has for about six months. Mumble, mumble. So, rather than just skip last week's reviews, I've decided to combine two weeks' worth into one. Probably explains why it's so late in the week.

Carmel Bird looks at The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon: "This is a grand novel with the scope of opera. The structure is seductive, shifting confidently from character to character, from one age to another, back and forth as the stories reveal themselves, as the lives move in tandem, cross, head for focal points, rise and fall. The geographical location is the Snowy River town of Dalgety...The "Trout Opera" itself, as performed in 1906, is also a glowing set-piece of very moving prose that sets in motion this vast and magnificently Australian saga of one man's life on the Snowy in the now receding 20th century."

Juliette Hughes finds that Peter Doherty is a great story-teller in A Light History of Hot Air: "Doherty is a vivid raconteur who can tell a story with an amusing twist, as well as ones that are more in the style of a campfire ghost tale. Scary stories abound, yet we are in the safest of hands here, with a Nobel prize-winning scientist guiding us like Virgil through mythical hells ino the light of reason...Peter Doherty has the kind of mind that travels along many different pathways, taking each distraction and diversion as an opportunity to explore."

Peter Pierce is not overly impressed with Blood Kin by Geridwen Dovey: "...the novel seems to be a political commentary, deft and dead-pan, if hardly given to deep insights, no more than the revelation of ruthlessness, expediency, desperation, hunger for power."

Katharine England examines Steven Carroll's The Lovers' Room, which is a revision of his 1994 novel Momoko, and wonders if the whole exercise is just a little too neat: "While non-fiction writers may regularly update and republish their work, it is rare for a novelist to do likewise, so it was intriguing to read that Steven Carroll intended to revise his 1994 novel Momoko...There is always more, however, to Carroll than first meets the eye - as is clear from the fine, reflective, suburban trilogy beginning with The Art of the Engine Driver produced between his two versions of Momoko's story - and the new title, The Lovers' Room, draws attention to a philosophical underpinning that was formerly less clearly articulated."

Any novel release by Alex Miller is going to be a major literary event in Australia as he is a two-time winner of the Miles Franklin Award. His latest, Landscape of Farewell, is reviewed by Lisa Gorton: "Alex Miller's novels combine to an unusual degree realism and inwardness. In fact, you could argue that his novels extend the tradition of English ghost stories: The Woman in White and Wuthering Heights; even The Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. The past haunts Miller's characters and his stories puzzle out the mystery of that haunting. They are strange, extreme novels. Yet, in the ghost story tradition, Miller creates narrators whose detached intelligence holds these fantastical elements in a close and precisely imagined world...Landscape of Farewell gathers up some of the interests that have shaped some of Miller's novels: The Ancestor Game, Journey to the Stone Country and Prochownik's Dream. It teases out how the past makes itself present in the relationship between fathers and sons; it works to define what art takes from people's lives, and what it gives. In some ways, Landscape of Farewell seems to test how these questions might look to an old man."

The Australian

Ex-NSW Premier Bob Carr enjoys Colleen McCullough's Antony and Cleopatra: "McCullough's details of feasts, journeys and battles convince the reader they are walking the quaysides and the forums of Rome's Mediterranean world, crossing
mountains with armies and making deals with client-kings. The sieges are not the trial they became in Fortunes Favourites (1993); the narrative runs strong and the subject remains power throughout. Who will rule? It is the basic question of politics and these works, and the reason McCullough is listed for reading by US Foreign Service officers in training and admired by Henry Kissinger. Much contemporary fiction is rendered trivial by comparison."

Kerryn Goldsworthy is quite taken by Australian Classics: 50 Great Books by Jane Gleeson-White: "Australian Classics is quite an unusual book: it's not an anthology but a thorough readers' guide, a kind of photographic negative of an anthology. In this follow-up to her 2005 Classics: Books for Life, Gleeson-White has chosen an Australian list of 50 great books (although this subheading is immediately problematic, as some of her chosen books are single poems and others are individual short stories) that she thinks will provide this overview...On each of the 50 works chosen, she writes a short, lucid, informative essay, plus 10 extra such essays on various background topics and issues, such as the Ern Malley affair, the Sydney Push and the glory days of The Bulletin in the late 19th century. She provides simple, clearly put plot summaries, biographical information about the authors and interesting scraps of anecdote and information...This kind of thing is surprisingly difficult to write and make interesting -- or, sometimes, even to make coherent -- and it's to her great credit that she has made this book so easy and engaging to read." Looks like the Christmas present for me then.

Liam Davison is very impressed with Matthew Condon's The Trout Opera: "As spectacle it's hard to beat the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. If anyone thought nationalism was spent, the whole singing, dancing, horse-riding performance proved it was alive and kicking...Now the Olympic ceremony has spawned its own novel; not a horse opera, but Matthew Condon's bold and impressive The Trout Opera. Ten years in the making, it is a big ambitious work, equally ardent in its celebration of nationhood but willing also to switch the focus forward to reveal the seamier underbelly of the myth...Condon's spectacle is a marvellous achievement. Epic in scope, it is written out of a deeply felt love for Australia and genuine anxiety for its future. His writing is strong and assured."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on November 14, 2007 9:12 PM.

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