The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

The an­nual Aus­tralian Read­ing Hour is this Thurs­day. It’s a day when we are all en­cour­aged to pick up a book and read for 60 min­utes. Of course, if the book is a page-turner, feel free to keep go­ing. More than 100 au­thors are leav­ing their gar­rets to take part in com­mu­nity rea­dathons. There’s a droll YouTube video made for the day in which “book lovers read the best of the in­ter­net”. See­ing crime writer Michael Robotham forced to ask “Are co­conuts mam­mals?” made me laugh. More in­for­ma­tion at read­ Speak­ing of page turn­ers, Tim Win­ton’s new novel has been an­nounced. The Shep­herd’s Hut will be pub­lished next March. It cen­tres on a moth­er­less young man who turns on his vi­o­lent fa­ther, with life-chang­ing re­sults. Pen­guin Ran­dom House bills the novel as “a med­i­ta­tion on mas­culin­ity and power, vi­o­lence and sel­f­re­straint, and on for­give­ness and kind­ness as the ul­ti­mate acts of love”. Con­grat­u­la­tions to Perth writer Josephine Wil­son for win­ning the Miles Franklin Lit­er­ary Award for her sec­ond novel, Ex­tinc­tions. I spoke to her af­ter Thurs­day’s win and the story is on our web­site. Con­grat­u­la­tions too to the other short­listed writers: Emily Maguire ( An Iso­lated In­ci­dent), Ryan O’Neill ( Their Bril­liant Ca­reers), Philip Salom ( Wait­ing) and Mark O’Flynn ( The Last Days of Ava Lang­don). They are not house­hold-name au­thors (yet) but that doesn’t make their nov­els any less bril­liant. John Ash­bery was the world’s most ad­mired liv­ing poet, un­til Mon­day that is, when he died at his home in New York, aged 90. A lot of writers and read­ers have paid trib­ute to him. The poetry edi­tor of The New Yorker, Ir­ish poet Paul Mul­doon, sug­gested Ash­bery’s great­ness was “ac­cepted by both sides of the house: the po­ets some­times per­ceived as fuddy-dud­dies for once fall­ing in with those who are some­times per­ceived as whack jobs”. Now, that is high praise. I also liked Meghan O’Rourke’s piece in on­line magazine Slate. Ash­bery, she noted, wrote his first poem when he was eight. Fur­ther, it “rhymed and made sense”. I don’t know Ash­bery’s work as well as I should, but I think he dropped the rhyming bit. Others say his po­ems do not make sense. They are not nec­es­sar­ily be­ing crit­i­cal. On the rhyme ques­tion, I had planned to share read­ers’ views on this hot topic this week, but then I saw the Bryan Ap­p­le­yard in­ter­view with John le Carre and thought it should go to the head of the queue. So next week will be rhyme time.

The how­ever, should go to Ash­bery him­self, from a 2002 in­ter­view with Amer­i­can poet and critic Dan Sch­nei­der. He was asked how he felt about “for­mal crit­i­cism” of his work. His re­sponse is beau­ti­ful, and I think it has some­thing to of­fer in the rhyme de­bate.

“Crit­i­cism, in gen­eral, has less and less to do with my work. I’m some­times kind of jeal­ous of my work. It keeps get­ting all the attention and I’m not. Af­ter all, I wrote it. I re­ally don’t know what to think when I read crit­i­cism, ei­ther favourable or un­favourable. In most cases, even when it’s sym­pa­thetic and un­der­stand­ing, it’s a sort of par­al­lel ad­ven­ture to the poetry. It never gives me the feel­ing that I’ll know how to do it the next time I sit down to write, which is my prin­ci­pal con­cern.

“I’m not putting down crit­ics, but they don’t help the poetry to get its work done … Very few peo­ple have ever writ­ten a se­ri­ous mixed cri­tique of my poetry. It’s ei­ther dis­missed as non­sense or held up as a work of ge­nius. Few crit­ics have ever ac­cepted it on its own terms and pointed out how I’ve suc­ceeded at cer­tain mo­ments and failed at other mo­ments at what I was set­ting out to do. I will quote one of my favourite lines from Ni­jin­sky’s jour­nal: ‘Crit­i­cism is death.’ He doesn’t elab­o­rate on that state­ment at all.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.