The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

mann’s history Across the Seas: Aus­tralia’s Re­sponse to Refugees is an im­por­tant cor­rec­tive to the many myths, in­clud­ing am­ne­siac as­sump­tions about Left-Right at­ti­tudes to mi­grant in­take, that cor­rupt ur­gent po­lit­i­cal de­bate to­day. David Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules: On Tech­nol­ogy, Stu­pid­ity, and the Se­cret Joys of Bu­reau­cracy is both highly en­ter­tain­ing and eye­open­ing: a sharp his­tor­i­cal sur­vey that con­tains many po­lit­i­cal lessons and im­plicit warn­ings for the fu­ture. And Frank Pasquale’s The Black Box So­ci­ety: The Se­cret Al­go­rithms that Con­trol Money and In­for­ma­tion is es­sen­tial read­ing for any­one con­cerned about sur­veil­lance and pri­vacy in our brave new dig­i­tal world. Like ev­ery­one else, I have been buried in Elsa Fer­rante’s Neapoli­tan quar­tet: gripped by its fierce­ness and truth. If you have been put off by the hoopla, get over it: th­ese nov­els are as­ton­ish­ingly good. Closer to home, Char­lotte Wood’s The Nat­u­ral Way of Things is an­other fe­ro­cious ex­plo­ration of fem­i­nin­ity in a tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient novel about girls im­pris­oned and tor­tured for “promis­cu­ity” in a dystopian Aus­tralia, based, sad to say, on grim his­tor­i­cal re­al­ity.


Adam Sis­man’s life of John le Carre is a scin­til­lat­ing, ab­sorb­ing bi­og­ra­phy, as be­fits the life of a writer who had cre­ated leg­ends. Magda Szuban­ski’s Reck­on­ing is a mov­ing and grave ac­count of how a great co­me­dian plumbed the enigma of her fa­ther’s ac­tiv­i­ties as a Pol­ish wartime re­sis­tance hero. Gideon Haigh’s Cer­tain Ad­mis­sions, about the long-ago ra­dio star John Bryan Kerr, ac­cused of mur­der, is a dark, daz­zling re­ca­pit­u­la­tion of the sus­pense and mystery in­her­ent in its sub­ject. Fay Wel­don’s Mis­chief col­lects the sto­ries of a great and lu­mi­nous writer. Anne Car­son’s trans­la­tion of Antigone is a re­minder of the great­ness of both Sopho­cles’s di­alec­ti­cal tragedy and the great con­tem­po­rary poet who’s bring­ing him to life. The sec­ond vol­ume of Charles Moore’s life of Mar­garet Thatcher is part of a con­tin­u­ing mas­ter­piece. David Kil­cullen’s Blood Year, his ac­count of Is­lamic State as a dan­ger­ous, Stal­in­ist state on the rise, is as fine as any Quar­terly Es­say that has ap­peared. Robert Craw­ford’s Young Eliot has fas­ci­nat­ing rev­e­la­tions about the great poet. And Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watch­man, an en­gag­ing first novel, was the must-read scoop of the year that should prob­a­bly not have been pub­lished, given the dam­age it has caused — though it shouldn’t have — to the At­ti­cus Finch brand.

SO­PHIE CUN­NING­HAM, au­thor and ed­i­tor

James Bradley’s Clade is a beau­ti­fully com­posed dis­con­tin­u­ous novel that cap­tures, through a se­ries of re­lated sto­ries, frag­ments of an ex­plod­ing world. Too op­ti­mistic to be called dystopian, too tough to be utopian, Bradley cap­tures an un­der­stand­ing rarely dis­cussed: the apoc­a­lypse won’t

Ger­ald Mur­nane

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