Weekend Round-Up 2008 #8

The Age

Katherine Ellinghaus looks at Spinning the Dream: Assimilation in Australia 1950-1970 by Anna Haebich, and Drawing the Gobal Colour Line: White Men's Countries and the Question of Racial Equality by Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds: "The arrival of [these two books] could not be more timely. As Australia moves into a 'post-apology' era of race relations, there is new impetus for Australians to understand our past and our national myths. By examining our history of immigration and assimilation policies, these two books uncover the pervasiveness of those myths - the imaginary idea of 'white Australia' - throughout the 20th century and to the present day."

Emily Maguire suggests reading A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Tolz twice to get the full effect: "Packed with plots, sub-plots, sub-sub-plots, tangents, flashbacks, diversions, philosophical wanderings and pectacular set pieces, this enormous debut novel from Australian Steve Toltz is in many ways a perfect example of what British critic James Wood calls 'hysterical realism'. Wood's term is supposed to be a criticism, but I use it here descriptively. A Fraction of the Whole is, as Wood would say, a 'perpetual motion machine', but it's one fuelled by brilliant ideas and driven by an original, bracing and very funny voice."

Births, Deaths, Marriages: True Tales by Georgia Blain refuses to simply her life in this memoir says Brenda Niall: "Blain's other is Anne Deveson, writer, broadcaster, commentator on public affairs. Deveson's marriage to ABC radio presenter and interviewer Ellis Blain made their household unusual in the 1960s. Two careers under one roof, with three children, were not easily balanced...As an evocation of Australian society from the 1960s and '70s to the present, Blain's memoir is acute and finely detailed. Part of its interest comes from its being slightly off-centre, as the perspective of a daughter who could not easily accept or enjoy the freedom her feminist mother exemplified."

The Hunnas (the Hunters and Collectors to non-believers) were one of the great Australian rock bands in the 80s and 90s, and now frontman Mark Seymour has written Thirteen Tonne Theory a memoir of his life on the road. Chris Johnston finds it pretty well balanced: "This is an unusual and compelling rock book and I'm sitting here thinking about how the author -- a ousehold name yet still barely acknowledged -- came to write it and what he hoped to achieve. And also how it captures his band in an unexpected but vivid way; how it's not biographical, autobiographical or necessarily chronological or even factual. It's more a series of insider's impressions adding up to not just the story of this band but an insight into all bands, their struggles and dreams...The book is also very funny. Seymour's gift is to select and then skilfully write of certain situations the band found itself in so there can be no mistaking the absurdity of rock'n'roll."

The Australian

According to Stephen Mills, Journeys by Don Watson "...makes a compelling case that in the US religion -- specifically, evangelical Christianity -- is 'in the front lines of just about everything': football teams, judicial appointments, rodeos, elections, combat forces in Iraq, radio talkback, and the White House."

The Sydney Morning Herald

Nicola Walker is seduced by The Dressmaker's Daughter by Kate Llewellyn: "In a former autobiographical work -- there are at least six -- Kate Llewellyn noted that 'my life is simply the paddock I plough when I write. I do it, because it is held in common with the lives of other women in this place and this time.' Read the results of all that ploughing, as I did, rapidly, one after the other, and it's hard not to feel squeamish at being privy to these banal, often painfully frank details of a life. And yet, like a quality television soap (think The Sullivans), Llewellyn's poised series of memoirs are addictive."

Sarah Holland-Batt revels in David Malouf's new poetry collection, Revolving Days.

David Malouf, in common with Montale, is a poet who draws vital energy from his totemic places. In prose, he has written frequently and eloquently of his childhood home; and if you have ever spent time in a weatherboard Queenslander, where the house and garden exchange air like breath through lattice, windows and stilts, the resonance in Malouf's poetry is unmistakeable.

Even in his earliest work, his characteristic stance is one where mind and landscape merge with a sublime lightness of touch. From the strict indoor tableaux of his debut Interiors to the roving coastlines and suburban sprawl of Bicycle And Other Poems, there is a sense that Malouf is awake not only to the minutiae of his surroundings but also to the way they always colour and transform the imagination."

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 19, 2008 9:06 PM.

2008 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction Longlist was the previous entry in this blog.

Reviews of Australian Books #79 is the next entry in this blog.

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