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writing of readerly reviews of writings

Tag: ::abandoned::

Review: “Moments of Desire: Sex and Sensuality by Australian Feminist Writers”, edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker

hawthorne, pausacker (ed.) moments of desireI was delighted to relocate this on DC’s bookshelf, possibly hers, possibly mine, but gifted to me now. I’d be on the look-out for some months, wanting to track down Hawthorne’s poem ‘Erotica Alphabetica’ that I’d read and remembered as an undergraduate: it happily stood the test of time. I also enjoyed Rosemary Jones’ prose-poem ‘The Woman in the Moon’ (source of the citation below). Unfortunately, that was about it. I found almost none of the pieces erotic, which is always a risk of “erotic” writing, but worse, I found that they nearly all were too damned cerebral, thinking too damned much, working too damned hard to break down the stereotypes of what constituted the erotic. (Which, fair enough, has been feminism’s modus operandi – making the status quo uncomfortable with itself.) Worse, even, most pieces weren’t actually terribly good, and I eventually got too bored/irritated to keep reading. I will keep it for the sake of those two pieces, however, and it makes a reasonable addition to the feminist / lesbian / women’s / writerly history section of the Keeper Shelf.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf as a gift
Time and manner of reading:
Kaleidoscopic bed reads with a final train frustration
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “She was dream / she was silver / she was tough” (p.66)
Reminds me of/that: Erotica is *terribly* subjective
Who I’d recommend it to:
Historically feministly curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac

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Review: Susan Johnson’s “The Broken Book”

susan johnson the broken book200pp in, and the book was still exactly where it had started: the dual heroines were unsatisfied as women, as wives, as mothers, as writers; their men treated ’em mean and they stuck around; their dream to write the best novel they could seemed utterly unlikely to come to fruition. Bleuch. Uninspiring. Abandoned. The premise was moderately interesting: novel’s heroine Something Orother (already forgotten), based on historical writer Charmian Clift, recounts her own narrative as well as that of her autobiographical character Cressida Morley (also a character in the novels of both Clift and husband George Johnston). There were also sections with some quite lovely writing, but this novel had little else to recommend it.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
One aborted armchair read
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Life on Earth by David Attenborough

Review: Richard Flanagan’s “Gould’s Book of Fish”

richard flanagan gould's book of fishFlanagan’s ornate and arcane narrative, purportedly by a Tasmanian convict fish-artist living in the weird phantasmagoria of Sarah Island prison. It just didn’t work for me, and I tried hard for the sake of his first two novels. Overdone but underinspiring; I was moderately curious to see where the plotting vagaries would lead, but really, it lost me in its complexities and by the last quarter I couldn’t do it the dignity of reading every page. Too much work for too little.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
Assorted increasingly bewildered and disinterested kaleidoscopic reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: [I had some picked out, but was so over the book by the end that I forgot about them]
Reminds me of/that: Peter Carey’s Ned Kelly hoo-ha; also David Foster’s The Glade within the Grove: that same smart-arsey, erudite blokeyness with concomitant tedious complexity
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Stella Miles Franklin by Jill Roe; Life on Earth by David Attenborough

Review: Yoko Ogawa’s “The Housekeeper and the Professor”

yoko ogawa housekeeper + professorContemporary Japanese novel. A housekeeper is to attend to a mathematics professor whose brain damage leaves him an 80-minute span of memory. But it’s so sweet, ‘cos the housekeeper and her son can bond with him over maths problems! Ergh. Initially kind-of-but-not-quite novel (see Reminds me, below), but then just boring to one not enchanted by mathematical elegance. Abandoned not even half-way through. Sigh. I thought I’d make some inroads on the Global Women of Colour Challenge, but not with this title I won’t.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
An increasingly bored armchair read
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World – neither could hold my attention for very long
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Stella Miles Franklin by Jill Roe; Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan; Life on Earth by David Attenborough

Review: Hannah Kent’s “Burial Rites”

hannah kent burial ritesThis novel has the hallmarks of a successful publishing event. Kent is a young woman author (28; they made sure they included a photo of her with hipster glasses on). Her subject matter is both titillating (man-killing murderess awaiting execution) and emotive (but did she really do it?). It’s in an exotic location (Iceland) and has inconvenient accents on most proper nouns. It’s competently written (pure writing-school style, the odd dark but charming image). And I got bored and gave up a little over half way through, despite the hype and strong recommendations from friends. I didn’t care whether Agnes was good or evil, and whose lies led to her death. Nothing else to add.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Bed and armchair reads, fruitlessly awaiting the piquing of my interest
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

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: 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