A glibly delivered solution
I wrote in the last edition about my distaste for the notion of the ‘pivot’ as a glibly delivered solution to the dilemma of a business (well, Gleebooks, really) needing to respond to Lockdowns. And I’ve never had more responses to anything I’ve written—perhaps I should have been whingeing more, and reviewing or recommending less, over the last decades. To which end, I’d only add that I could fill Gleaner columns right now with misgivings and concerns over how we deal with the (next only?) opening up after Lockdown, courtesy of the Government’s desire to leave policing of mandates in retailers’ hands. Maybe we’ll have clarity, even certainty, and maybe everyone will behave perfectly, and maybe my fears of some anti-vaxxer flexing their ideological muscles at the expense of a bookshop staff member are misguided. But I dearly wish for an opening up that is friendly and uncomplicated and that, of course, gives us the best health outcome. Here’s hoping! Meanwhile, some books that I’ve read and hope that you might too; some just out, some coming very soon:
The Magician by Colm Toibin. The comparisons with Toibin’s beautiful The Master, a fictional biography of Henry James are inevitable. I didn’t find Toibin’s epic and ambitious exploration of the life of Thomas Mann (nicknamed ‘the magician’ by his children) as affecting as the earlier book, but it is a fascinating and brilliant working into the mind of a an acknowledged great novelist.
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen: we’re back in Corrections country in 1971 midwest USA. An engrossing plot and richly developed characters have Franzen at the top of his game. Crossroads is the first of a projected trilogy, the title of which, A key to All Mythologies, is a reference to George Eliot’s masterpiece, Middlemarch, a measure of a great intent, and of what’s in store.
The Winter Road by Kate Holden. Meticulously researched and approached with an admirably open-eyed sensitivity, this is ‘true crime’ writing in the class of Helen Garner or Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man. It is the story of the killing of a government compliance officer by a landowner at Croppa Creek, and it ought to be essential reading for anyone who cares about land in our country, and our responsibilities to it.
Oh William! by the incomparable Elizabeth Strout (late OCT), in which we revisit a deeply reflective Lucy Barton. I need say no more.
And from the large wobbly stack at my bedside, await: Bewilderment by Richard Powers (OCT)—the eagerly awaited next novel from the author of Overstory. 7 1/2 by Christos Tsiolkas (NOV). Scary Monsters by Michelle De Kretser (OCT) looks as deeply engaging and important as anything this wonderful writer has done (see Morgan’s interview with De Kretser opposite). The Way it is Now by Gary Disher. We’re in a beach-shack town an hour or so from Melbourne, and I can’t wait.
There are more, many more, of course. Paradoxically, for me, a year so punctuated by Lockdown, only confirms the old adage, ‘so many books, so little time’—but would we have it any other way?