Tim Winton Watch #2

Reviews of Breath

"The Economist": "Richly Australian, Breath is a classic coming-of-age novel, which is not to pigeonhole the work as small or pat. Thomas Wolfe and James Joyce among many other literary greats have employed the form. Readers who are, like the narrator, adolescent might well enjoy Tim Winton's surf-and-turf tale. But this is also a book for grown-ups...Yet what may most distinguish this coming-of-age fiction is its perfect balance of teenage romanticism and disillusion."

Matthew Condon in "The Courier-Mail": "Breath -- in turns delicate and brutal, beautiful and shocking -- gestures at the very least towards a notion, obvious in its declaration but more plausible with the passage of time and the emergence of each new book, that Winton has steadily created a fictional universe much in the way that William Faulkner mined again and again his imagined Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi...On the evidence of this novel, his books, to this reader, are no longer separate entities, but instalments in a large narrative schema. Breath is a piece of the Winton tapestry that, from the air, might appear recognisable, limited and repetitive in pattern. But if you get down close to the rug and allow yourself to be dizzied by the detail, it's there you understand that Winton is, in effect, writing over and over about all of us, and his very concentration on the parochial gives his work a
universal punch."

Russell Celyn Jones in "The Times": "This is a very good book marred by occasional empty posturing and a poor finish, where everything Winton has set up so well folds into itself. The outward-looking characters become suddenly self-absorbed...But don't let this quibble put you off. As with music, surfing is difficult to
translate into language. On that level, Winton's first novel since the Booker shortlisted Dirt Music is as good as it gets."

Melissa Katsoulis in "The Telegraph" finds "this is a wonderfully uplifting novel. Winton's sensitivity to the effects of the physical environment on a growing mind is acute, and his rapturous love of the sea is a thing to behold. He sings the transformative splendour of the natural world like a true Romantic."

Patrick Ness in "The Guardian": "Like jumping into a cool brook on a hot day, his prose is clear and refreshing, and surprising in its sharpness. Breath lacks some of the sweep of his previous two novels -- there are moments when things feel a little rushed -- but it has the urgent clarity of a story that needed to be told."

Helen Gordon in "The Observer": "Winton is one of contemporary Australia's most acclaimed novelists. Here, he revisits some of his past preoccupations: masculinity, self-discovery through a journey into extremes and, most strikingly, the landscape of Australia: yellow acacias, the peppery smell of the heath, the nip and dash of honey eaters. At his best, Winton writes with an unsentimental lyricism that remains rooted in the Australian vernacular; rough, choked dialogue clashing against passages of great beauty."


I just love the photos of Winton accompanying the reviews and interviews in the
mainstream media. They all have him looking off into the distance - a classic thousand-yard stare - never looking directly at the camera. Odd. I can understand one or two, but all of them?


And as soon as I write the previous paragraph comes this profile in "The Independent". Winton stares at the camera in this
one. Actually he looks like he's trying to bore holes through the camera, the photographer, the webpage and the reader. Looks cold too.

Mark Rubbo, of Readings bookshops, interviews the author.

For better or worse, writers nowadays are quite public figures, you make very few public appearances; I'm sure it's not for want of invitations and I'm sure you have much to contribute -- is this a conscious decision or something you've drifted into?

I don't think it's any secret that I don't much like the public stuff. I find being in front of people a bit well ... corrosive. It doesn't give me anything good. Good luck to writers who like the performative side of things, in a way I probably envy them their ease. But I'm happier on the page. I've done a fair bit of public advocacy in the past decade, mostly environmental work and I don't regret it, but it does create an appetite and an expectation that can't be met. I have to remind people that I write stories. That's my area of expertise. Why should anyone need to hear my sound-bite opinion on every ephemeral political and social issue?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 21, 2008 4:29 PM.

2008 Kathleen Mitchell Award for Young Writers was the previous entry in this blog.

A Classic Year: 13.0 My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en