Recently in Reviews by Australians Category

Reviews by Australian: Flannery and Coetzee

The February 15, 2007 edition of "The New York Review of Books features J.M. Coetzee's review of The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer, and Tim Flannery's essay which asks the question "What Is a Tree?", and, in the process, reviews The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter by Colin Tudge, and The Plant-Book: A Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants, Second Edition by D.J. Mabberley. The Flannery piece is not, unfortunately, available on the website.

Reviews by Australians #6

Geraldine Brooks reviews The View from Castle Rock, a new collection of stories by Alice Munro, for "The Washington Post", and sees linkages with her own family history: "My mother's childhood was shaped by a small town named Boorowa in the flat plains west of Australia's Great Dividing Range, and the stories she told of her years there shaped my childhood in its turn. Boorowa and my mother's tales about it were much on my mind as I read Alice Munro's latest collection of stories, The View From Castle Rock...Reading Munro, I often feel like that little girl, my mother, shivering in her dew-drenched nightgown, determinedly searching for an elusive, valuable thing. And that thing is the secret to Munro's prose. There are no pyrotechnics in it, very little poetry. The few similes are apt but not dazzlingly so. There is suspense, but it is contrived without resort to any obvious devices. In short, Munro is the illusionist whose trick can never be exposed. And that is because there is no smoke, there are no mirrors. Munro really does know magic: how to summon the spirits and the emotions that animate our lives?"

Leading into Remembrance Day Nicholas Shakespeare reviews The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 - 9 November 1989 by Frederick Taylor in "The Telegraph". "Few visitors to Berlin in the months following November 9, 1989 will have forgotten the eerie sound that penetrated the nights, of people chipping at concrete. It was like the sound of a nocturnal creature feeding. On a subsequent visit, I walked to the city centre with a West Berliner. Panic seized him when he sought to show where the Wall, which for 28 years had defined his life, had stood. We were in sight of Checkpoint Charlie, but he could not remember. 'It was here, I think. No, no, it was here. Or was it there?'" The wall, along with apartheid in South Africa, was something I thought would remain throughout my lifetime.

Coetzee on Márquez

The Commonwealth Foundation may consider him African, but we here at Matilda have taken him in and are now willing to look on him as Australian, at least for the purposes of having something to post about. J.M. Coetzee reviews Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez in the latest "New York Review of Books".

Reviews by Australians #5

Thomas Keneally (as he seems to be when he writes non-fiction or reviews) takes on The English Dane by Sarah Bakewell in this weekend's "Guardian": "Jorgenson is remembered both as king of Iceland for one heady summer at one end of the globe, and the Viking of Van Diemen's Land at the other, and to an extent he seems a being created by the Earth's zapping north-south electric field. When the Prince of Denmark recently wedded his Tasmanian (Van Diemen's Land) wife, he declared he followed in the earlier Dane, Jorgenson's, footsteps with just as much hope and just as much confidence. The prince did not mention Jorgenson's endlessly zealous, inventive and disordered brilliance."

Keneally is won over by both the story and the style here "...her affection for him adds grace to this wonderful, intelligently told story." This book was also noted in last week's Weekend Round-Up, though only briefly.

Reviews by Australians #4

Clive James reviews Break, Blow, Burn edited by Camille Paglia in the Sunday Book review section of "The New York Times". Although I have some qualms about including James here, given the length of time he's spent overseas, I suspect we can safely claim him as an Australian. No, just kidding.

Reviews by Australians #3

I've been carrying on a bit of an internal debate lately whether or not to include works by J. M. Coetzee on this weblog. Not that I'm attempting to make any judgments on the man, either literary or philospophical - heaven forbid - just that I'm curious if he can now be considered Australian.

For those who aren't in the loop over this, Coetzee is described on the Nobel Prize website as: "John Maxwell Coetzee was born in Cape Town, South Africa, on 9 February 1940, the elder of two children." Since then, the bulk of his work, including his two Booker prize winning novels Life & Times of Michael K. and Disgrace, have had African settings and subjects. And the Nobel prize site lists his nationality as South African. However, it also goes on to state: "In 2002 Coetzee emigrated to Australia. He lives with his partner Dorothy Driver in Adelaide, South Australia, where he holds an honorary position at the University of Adelaide." So, is three years long enough to claim him as one of our own?

Coetzee was shortlisted for the 2004 Miles Franklin Award for his novel Elizabeth Costello which might have provided a hint. But then so was Shirley Hazzard for The Great Fire (which went on to win in 2004), and Matthew Kneale was shortlisted in 2001 for English Passengers, and he is definitely British. On the opposing side, Robert Dessaix includes Coetzee in his The Best Australian Essays 2004 collection, so he obviously thinks so. And Frank Moorhouse includes a story of Coetzee's in The Best Australian Stories 2004, which indicates that he agrees. With a pedigree like that who's to argue?

Which is a long introduction to justify my mentioning that J.M. Coetzee reviews a major new biography of William Faulkner, titled One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner by Jay Parini, in this week's "New York Review of Books".

Reviews by Australians #2

Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, reviews Catastrophe: Risk and Response by Richard A. Posner in "The New York Times". This piece as published after, but probably written before, the tsunami struck South East Asia on December 26, 2004.

Reviews by Australians #1

Tim Flannery, director of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide, reviews Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese in the 6 January 2005 issue of "The London Review of Books". We normally find Flannery reviewing works on natural history of "The New York Review of Books" - where he seems to be their resident expert on the subject - so this will be a change of tack for him. The article is not on the website, unfortunately.

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