No 243 - August 2002
Permanent URI for this collection
'Dearest Munx': The Love Letters of Christina Stead by Margaret Harris; Neal Blewett on Bob Carr's Thoughtlines; Tony Birch on Stan Grant's The Tears of Strangers; Peter Bishop's 'Author! Author!'; John Hirst on Rosemary Neill's White Out
1 - 6 of 38
ItemTwenty Years On, July Bestsellers, September Highlights.(Australian Book Review, 2002-08)This items contains miscellaneous items including July 2002 bestsellers.
ItemMixed Results in the South Seas. "Quiros", by John Toohey. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-08)John Toohey’s "Quiros" is set during the seventeenth-century search for the Great South Land. Toohey negotiates the pitfalls of his genre with mixed success. The situation he explores is intriguing: men grouped in a confined place on a dangerous voyage to an uncertain destination. He sets up the various psychological dramas in a promising fashion, and gives his story the immediacy of a first-person narrator. However, various interesting possibilities are not fully explored. Perhaps the problem is a sense of uncertainty about the novel’s precise generic location, whether it is primarily a psychological drama or an adventure tale.
ItemThe Importance of Being Edited. "Szabad", by Alan Duff and "Featherstone", by Kirsty Gunn. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-08)Kirsty Gunn’s "Featherstone" is a writerly book, with a style and tone carefully attuned to letting a mystery tale unfold very differently in different lives over the course of a single weekend. It is complex and intimate in its descriptions, and shows wonderful cunning in hingeing the story on an ‘event’ that may or may not have happened. "Szabad", on the other hand, tells a monochromatic and brutal story that is not complex, is intimate only about the adolescent narrator, and is almost painfully journalistic.
ItemMissing the Zeitgeist. "Alanna", by Alan Saunders. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-08)As a satire of the pretension, gullibility and downright silliness of contemporary Australian cultural politics, "Alanna" is highly diverting entertainment. But its textual ‘playfulness’ is, frankly, a bit passé. Good satire posits, either overtly or covertly, an alternative ethical system. I couldn’t detect one here; ultimately, the novel runs the risk of being viewed as just as vacuous as the world it scrutinises and represents. The gung-ho theorist Karl opines at one point that ‘the free play of intertextual multivocalities effectively de-centres the discursive practice through which polymorphous identity is mediated’. This is the hideous jargon of an artistic environment that has lost its intellectual as well as aesthetic way. Pity is, it’s the kind of language that a novel such as "Alanna" encourages as well as lampoons.
ItemThe Purposefulness of the Creatures. "Confessing a Murder", by Nicholas Drayson. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-08)"Confessing a Murder" is written in the narrator’s old age. It is the journal of a man who is now the sole inhabitant of a small island somewhere in the Java Sea. He addresses a diary to Charles Darwin, whom he calls ‘Bobby’ and for whom he still holds something like romantic feelings. One of the delights of "Confessing a Murder" is its detailed descriptions of an imagined environment. It includes a lizard with uncanny powers of disguise, frogs that breed by seeming to digest their partners, crabs that work together to fell trees and so on. In this case, the angel is in the detail. Drayson elaborates his world with such small, delicate strokes that its existence becomes not just credible but seductive. You start wanting to go there. But it remains an enchanted island, off limits.
ItemThe Trouble with Banality. "Hardly Beach Weather", by Bernard Cohen. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-08)Of all the talked-about new voices in Australian fiction of the early 1990s, Bernard Cohen’s is one of relatively few that has been regularly heard since. A decade after "Tourism", he’s back with his fourth book and the improbable but apt position of writer-in-residence at Sir John Soane’s Museum in Bloomsbury. Despite the London residence, it’s such American postmodernists as Donald Barthelme or Robert Coover who seem to have influenced Cohen’s writing, which nevertheless is in a distinctly Australian vernacular mode. There is the same interest in the fragment, the narrative shard, and, conversely, a lack of concern about wholeness and traditional completion and, frequently, a preoccupation with fables and archetypal story forms.