writereaderly

writing of readerly reviews of writings

Month: July, 2013

Review: David Foster’s “The Glade Within the Grove”

david foster glade within the groveA resolutely erudite and blokey paean to … I’m not sure what. Dreams? Godhead? Masculinity? Nature? Home-grown construction methods in a forest? Intentional hippy communities? Foster’s learned postie narrator constructs a novel in dialogue and diatribe that tells of the foundation of the Eunungarah commune on the far south coast of NSW. The men are champion blokes or intellectual wooses. The women are largely available for shagging, breeding and misguided renegade philosophy. The style is dense, prolix; the structure complex and requires a considerable number of pages to get a handle on; it’s ambitious and evidently the author relished his swooping melodramatic history; I finished it out of curiosity rather than actual enjoyment.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
Bed, armchair, café and sunny verandah reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Men’s men after an ego massage
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton; Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

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Review: Fiona Watt’s “That’s Not My Monster…”

fiona watt that's not my monsterA board book with bits of bumpy, fluffy, roughy patches to play with, bound together by increasingly cute monster illustrations. Quite good, enjoyable enough to entertain those in the lap and those furnishing the lap.

Where it came from: The E Family bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Guesthouse lap read to small SOE
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Small ones who go gaga for touchy feely books
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Glade Within the Grove by David Foster; The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton; Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Review: Nevil Shute’s “A Town Like Alice”

nevil shute town like aliceContemporaneous with a recent read, Shute’s novel is a world away from Hammett’s Prohibition States and yet not as far as you’d imagine. While it’s set in Malaya during WWII, post-war London, and Gulf country in Australia, it does have its fair share of crime and murder. In summary, I’d call it a post-war colonial economic romance. Jean Paget and Joe Harman meet in terrible circumstances during the Japanese occupation of Malaya in 1942; they each seek out the other post-war; their romance blossoms as does the dot on the map known as Willstown, destined to become “a town like Alice” with the help of Jean’s inheritance. Ta-da. The Malaya sequence actually read like a slightly dull travelogue, and the segue to the Australian romance + economic miracle was a bit slim, plus there was plenty of historical racism (gin, lubra, boong and Abo galore). However, it was a pretty absorbing read, quite informative, and I quite liked it all up.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Beanbag and bookended bed reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “whenever they were not working they were standing in the bar of the hotel drinking hugely at the cold Australian light beer that does no harm to people sweating freely at hard manual work” (p.163)
Who I’d recommend it to:
Historically curious readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley

Review: James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans”

james fenimore cooper last of the mohicansOnly read because it was on KAM’s list; however, when I took it up again after a 10-day hiatus I was reminded that life is too short to be burdened with weighty waffle. Plot: good whiteys and good Indians fight bad Indians and bad whiteys, and try and recover two kidnapped “gentle ones” (young women) before they are forced into a heathen marriage. I lasted about 200pp because of the historical information (probably dubious, but still better than any already in my mind), but the recent dozen pages of “tracking the baddies” was just too boring. An end to it, I say. Classics need not be tiresome, but they often are.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Beanbag and bed reads, with little fervour to begin with and even less as time went on
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: None of note
Who I’d recommend it to:
Classics peak-baggers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley

Review: Dashiell Hammett’s “Red Harvest”

dashiell hammett red harvestI had hopes that I would enjoy this as much as The Big Sleep, but alas, it was not to be. Unnamed detective comes to corrupt Prohibition town and sets all the hoochmaking gunslingers against each other. They all die, except for him, including the money-hungry femme fatale who provides the only break from the endless assassinations and gunfights. The end. A shame, I was looking forward to high genre entertainment.

Where it came from: UPB
Time and manner of reading:
Beanbag, bed and sunny chair reads
Where it went: Opshop
Best line of the book: None of note
Who I’d recommend it to:
Classics peak-baggers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Review: Annamarie Jagose’s “In Translation”

annamarie jagose in translationI was pretty sure this was a reread, but there was no way I’d resist a novel that involved both dykes and translation. The novel tells, sort of, of New Zealander Helena, her liaison with remote translator Navaz and relationship with Navaz’s partner Lillian, and her dalliance with Japanese Professor Mody. Sort of. It’s also about translation, and living other people’s lives, and has a good dose of gender-queer sexuality finagling. Written in a stately but fine style, it’s not a book you can devour – but then, you want time to appreciate the fine phrasing. Recommended.

Where it came from: The Women’s Library bookshop
Time and manner of reading:
Assorted train, bed, armchair, beanbag reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: Too many to choose from
Who I’d recommend it to:
Wordly (sic) readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Review: bell hooks’ “Belonging: A Culture of Place”

bell hooks belongingbell hooks was recently recommended to me, and this title was the one that most resonated of those available. I wasn’t particularly impressed, however. It is a compilation and republication of essays on Kentucky, Baba (her grandmother), country living, quilting, rural black life, blackness. A few new concepts were added to my thinking, but generally the writing wasn’t more than workwomanlike nor the content novel. I was especially annoyed at this book as a publishing event: it was the least professional book I think I have ever read. The copy-editing reached new levels of shoddiness, with errors on every second page or so (quote marks should not look like “this’ for an entire chapter). Numerous essays frequently overlapped, without adding much in the way of new thought even the first time an idea was sounded out. No references were provided in a purportedly pop-academic publication. Methinks it was a money-grab by Routledge and bh, and that they ought to be ashamed of themselves. Didn’t get to the end of it, unremarkable and unrecommended.

Where it came from: Uni library
Time and manner of reading:
Pre- and post-travel reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “women who were fashioning an aesthetic of being” p.132
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper; In Translation by Annamarie Jagose