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Tag: :Australian Women Writers:

Review: Jesse Blackadder’s “Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica”

jesse blackadder chasing the lightJesse Blackadder’s fictionalised account of the first women to set foot on the Antarctic mainland, fruit of her own journeys there. It’s a competent novel, easy enough to get absorbed by it, the oceangoing scenes are vivid, as is the (anti)whaling panorama. I’m not convinced by it as a “historical” novel, though; I have no sense of either the 1930s or Norwegians in a work entirely peopled by 1930s’ Norwegians, and there was no real distinction of voice between the three female leads. (Who, most disappointingly, got into a catfight partly over a man. Sigh. I’d definitely expect better of a dyke writer than that.) I also couldn’t give a damn about the “who stood where when” shenanigans, which meant the plot’s key tension entirely missed me. Overall, solid and moderately enjoyable but not superlative.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
An exhausted Saturday evening 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; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Anna Dusk’s “In-Human”

anna dusk in-humanI bought this out of curiosity: the supernatural genre has been so flooded with sexualised vampires and werewolves and lang-legged beasties that an Australian vernacular narrative of adolescent girls being werewolves could only be interesting. Plus it had full-colour reproductions of paintings as the fold-out cover. And it was unusual, I can certainly give it that, but I didn’t really like it. Teenaged Tassie shazzas being gross and boganly visceral and getting dazzas to “put yer cock in me” in the playground and playing out their teen romance-controversies and rages by eating people, I just didn’t enjoy it. It was grimy without being beautiful. I’m glad the author’s voice is added to the world, though; I’m sure there’ll be others who are ardent fans.

Where it came from: Mega-opshop-books
Time and manner of reading:
Several days of curious but eyebrow-raised samples
Where it went: Opshop
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts

Review: Merlinda Bobis’ “White Turtle”

merlinda bobis white turtlePurchased because of Bobis’ splendid novel Fish-Hair Woman. I’m not very fond of short stories as a genre – I find them too neat, too writing-school trim to be truly emotive; I also love narrative absorption, which the genre cannot by definition [‘short’] provide. I think this collection is competent enough, interesting in terms of cultural awareness of the Philippines and a Filipina experience in Australia, but I’m not enamoured. If you’re planning to read Bobis, I’d recommend putting your energies into the above novel first.

Where it came from: Mega-opshop-books
Time and manner of reading:
A couple of lie-down reads
Where it went: SJD
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Culturally curious
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts; In-Human by Anna Dusk

Review: Angela Savage’s “Behind the Night Bazaar”

angela savage behind the night bazaarSomehow, as part of the dinner-table conversation with DC and offspring, this ended up in my bag to take home. Third attempt at crime fiction this week, and thank the deity that this one paid off. Australian PI Jayne Keeney visits her Canadian mate Didier in Chiang Mai, only to find her R&R break disrupted by murder most foul. Well-written; solidly political re AIDS, sex work, ex-pats in the “Third” World; culturally sensitive and observant re Thais from what I could tell; a decent unravelling of nasty crime. And even better, straight author and detective engaging with gay culture, AIDS and homophobia in meaningful ways. Fab. Hope I meet the author again at a DC party so I can tell her my thoughts in person.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Armchair and torchlight bed reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Thank god genre fiction can think
Who I’d recommend it to:
Crime readers seeking a bit of political guts
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön; Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8) by Sandy Balfour

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

Review: Deborah Ratliff’s “The Tree”

deborah ratliff the treeAn unremarkable book, telling of an array of characters at Melbourne’s Heritage Trust Somethingorother who all have somethingorother to do with China, with odd ghostly narratives from Chinese dead. Slightly odd, readable, but really pretty average. I wouldn’t bother again.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
Bath and bed reads
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; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Secrets of the Kaula Circle by Elizabeth Sharpe

Review: Lorna Sage’s “Moments of Truth: Twelve Twentieth-Century Women Writers”

lorna sage moments of truthI read this book faster than it deserved and I just couldn’t help myself. Lorna Sage selected these essays on seminal twentieth-century women writers from among her writings; they’d been previously published as introductions, reviews, obituaries. Her subjects: Djuna Barnes, Simone de Beauvoir, Jane Bowles, Christine Brooke-Rose, Angela Carter, Katherine Mansfield, Iris Murdoch, Jean Rhys, Christina Stead, Violet Trefusis, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf. There’s an awful lot of big names there, and Sage does them such shining justice: her nuanced, informed, vastly read reading of these writers’ work – particularly to examine the concept of vocation for a woman writer – is insightful, witty, intimidating. What a joy it must be to be read with such intellectual aplomb. I’d read most of the writers included, and those I’ve missed have just been jotted up the to-read list by several notches. A fabulous book, and I will have to reread it in a few years to see if I can bring more reading and understanding to it. Highly recommended.

Where it came from: Birthday gift from MOD
Time and manner of reading:
A few days of bed, train, café and writers’ centre reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “Reflection here is a kind of pun on thought and mirrors: mirrors flatter our delusions but most of us probably can’t think without them. We know ourselves best as images that are ambiguous, hypothetical, provisional.” (p.215)
Reminds me of/that: How much more – and more wisely – there is to re/read
Who I’d recommend it to:
Literary readers
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Peeling the Onion by Günter Grass