Tom Keneally Watch #6

Reviews of Searching for Schindler

Elaine Feinstein in "The Times": "This is not a sentimental book. Keneally has to accept that Schindler came into Poland in the first place largely to make money. It was an ambition soon jeopardised by his horror at the brutality he is Poldek who is the star of this memoir. Ingenious and fearless, he knows exactly how to flatter men with a sense of importance, and women of all ages with their beauty."
Ed King in "The Sunday Times": "Though much here is quite familiar, this is such a fascinating story, surrounded by so many enigmas that it is well worth another visit."
Anne Applebaum on "American Enterprise Institute": "Descriptions of the process by which novelists come to create their works are invariably far less interesting than the works themselves. And that, unfortunately, also proves to be the case with Schindler's Ark, the book which became the movie, Schindler's List, and which has now inspired the memoir, Searching for Schindler. In this not entirely necessary work of non-fiction, the Australian novelist, Thomas Keneally, recounts, in breathless detail, the amazing coincidence (an encounter in a Beverly Hills leather-goods shop) which led him to the Schindler story; the travels around the world (to Israel, Poland, Germany) during which he put together the manuscript; the various legal and publishing squabbles which preceded the book's publication; and, of course, the serendipitous set of circumstances which led the director, Steven Spielberg, to make the film which made Keneally famous."
Don Oldenburg in "USA Today": "Keneally engages the reader with tales about himself as well. He writes about becoming a novelist, his creative anxieties that fueled the writing process, his experiences with publishers and the toll writing the book took on him and his family."
Claire Allfree in "Metrolife": "Oddly for such a story, this book is only intermittently fascinating: Keneally's companionable tone rambles; the history of the Polish ghettos has been told before; while too much personal detail is given at the expense of real insight into the novel's artistic and ethical challenges."
Doug Childers in "Searching for Schindler is a memoir with a narrow focus, and it doesn't attempt to achieve the emotional depth of Schindler's List. Instead, Keneally offers an enjoyably languid, loosely structured account of how a book -- one of Keneally's 40-some publications -- came to be written and filmed."
Michael Harris in the "Los Angeles Times": "Searching for Schindler is really two books. One is Keneally's own story, which might be subtitled 'Working-Class Boy From the Outback Makes Good'. It describes how he began his novelistic career at a time when Australians still felt culturally inferior to England and Europe. Used to keeping his expectations low, suspicious of glamour and pretense, Keneally tried not to be overwhelmed when good fortune -- the Man Booker, a big Hollywood contract, lucrative lecture tours, a chance to hobnob with Bill and Hillary Clinton at the movie's premiere -- descended on him like a ton of gold ingots...The second book, the story of Schindler's List, is a bit of a hodgepodge. Keneally explains once again the roles his various interviewees played in history, but the original novel is a much clearer reference. He relays a few movie-star anecdotes, speculates no more successfully than the rest of us on how 'High Europe' could have been capable of genocide and grumps that, despite the film's success, he remains 'fundamentally unimpressed by cinema as compared to writing.'"
Julia Pascal in "The Independent": "Keneally could have shared a disturbing voyage into the ethics of profiting from so much horror. Instead, he gives a tedious description of his journeys, banal domestic details and moments of homespun philosophy. His style is sometimes clumsy, often superficial and occasionally cliché-ridden. Keneally admits his lack of experience of the European Jewish world and of Holocaust history when he first meets Poldek. This book shows how little progress has been made. Keneally writes of the Jews as 'a race'. If he had read the Nuremberg Laws he would know that this is how Hitler saw the Jews and that such categorisation led to the Final Solution."
"The New York Times" has made the first chapter of the book available.

Review of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

"The Devil Drives" weblog: "In the novel, Jimmie Blacksmith hopes to earn respect by following the ambitions of the white man. Instead he endures repeated insults and degradations. Finally, he snaps...Where does the responsibility for these crimes lie? What is the place of Indigenous peoples in (post-)colonial societies and how should they live? These questions resonate across time, cultures, and societies. This is a great book."


Keneally organised a meeting between a class of students and Steven Spielberg, the director of Schindler's List.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 15, 2008 8:55 AM.

Poem: "Thou Shalt Write" by Horace Halloran was the previous entry in this blog.

2008 ACT Book of the Year Award is the next entry in this blog.

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