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writing of readerly reviews of writings

Tag: :Opshop:

Review: Agnès Desarthe’s “Five Photos of My Wife”

agnes desarthe five photos of my wifeElderly widower Max Opass commissions a portrait of his dead wife Telma – in fact, he commissions four in the end, and meets five very diverse artists of the Thirteenth Arrondissement along the way. A lovely novel, poised and subtle. Calm and impacting, but with tact. Well recommended.

Where it came from: Mega-opshop-books
Time and manner of reading:
A few days of bed and workroom reads
Where it went: D
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that: Mitch Albom’s pop-spiritual The Five People You Meet in Heaven – but thank goodness, this one was actually worth reading
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers looking for good stuff
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: Larissa Lai’s “When Fox is a Thousand”

larissa lai when fox is a thousandHypnotic and provoking. Lai takes Chinese folktales about Foxes (mystical tricksters), blends them with historical accounts of women poets, and leads those stories into the lives of a group of queer Chinese Canadian young women in contemporary Vancouver. It’s a highly sophisticated diaspora novel, questioning identity, race, sexuality and gender in classic 90s fashion, but with genuine and innovative flair. I found the 20-somethings’ dramas a little wearing – thank god for age — but that would be the author successfully reaching her intended audience. A really interesting book, worth chasing down.

Where it came from: Mega opshop book section
Time and manner of reading:
Pre- and post-yoga reads
Where it went: Keeper Shelf
Best line of the book: “She was crying with new eyes made of brown glass, beautiful and smooth as polished wood, so perfect that she almost believed she had her own eyes back” (p.193)
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:
Seekers of something curious & modern & gender- and genre-bending
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: Patrícia Melo’s “In Praise of Lies”

patricia melo in praise of lies

WARNING: Cover dysphoria!

This book was crap. Another in yesterday’s foreign authors acquisition, I was looking for a bit of witty crime fluff, plus it had an awesome cover (mine was a review copy; image couldn’t be found online so you could also share the pleasure, sorry). None of the good traits above. Uninteresting crimes with snakes and guns, badly written, intolerably idiot characters, jumbled in some sort of guru-writer plot. I only finished it because I hoped it may eventually make sense, and that perhaps it was in Brazilian cultural style that I may slowly come to understand. Nope. It was a crap book. The End.

Where it came from: Huge opshop with great book section
Time and manner of reading:
Bed and armchair 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; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Maria-Antònia Oliver’s “Antipodes”

maria-antonia oliver antipodesAmong my day’s “foreign authors” haul, I was hoping this would be light but good. I was right in that it was light, but the calibre of (I suspect, both) the writing and the translation from the Catalan left too much to be desired. Crime thriller, female detective from the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, in Australia on a “holiday” – Melbourne, even though the cover image is of Sydney – of course immediately dragged into crime involving hotel heiress and eventually sex trafficking. It was interesting to read a Catalan analysis of Australians in the late 1980s, even though an edit with reference to an accurate map of Melbourne (the #19 “streetcar” doesn’t go to Toorak, etc etc) would have made it a little more credible. And a view of German-tourist-riddled Mallorca by a native was also interesting, but really, the crime was transparent, the writing was pretty poor, the violence and sexual predation was largely excessive, I wouldn’t recommend it for anything more than novelty reading value. Although the bad-tempered detective did crack an international woman-smuggling ring, so I suppose that’s something to be thankful for.

Where it came from: Huge opshop with great book section
Time and manner of reading:
Evening armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: “They started the proceedings for the two parallel trials, an international one for trafficking in women – the papers kept calling it white slave trade, as if it weren’t equally criminal to deal in yellow or black women.” (p.202)
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: Kirsty Gunn’s “Featherstone”

kirsty gunn featherstoneFor the last 90pp or so, I had an increasingly dubious/concerned/horrified look on my face as it became apparent that the violent rape of a teenage girl by a man known to her (no apologies for spoiler alert) was being used as an event catalysing faith, love, redemption, hope, and all things nice for the whole damned town. Sure, Gunn’s writing was gorgeous, dreamlike, rich, descriptive – I loved her writing – but what the hell was this?! It’s just not okay, and I wish (among other things) I hadn’t started my day with this.

Where it came from: Local opshop
Time and manner of reading:
Bed and bath reads
Where it went: Under internal discussion — result: into the recycling, the modern version of bookburning
Best line of the book: All richly, wonderfully written
Reminds me of/that: Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood
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; Collapse by Jared Diamond