James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Sigh, not even James Joyce can consistently pull of a simile. That aside, the opening is one of the most vivid sensory experiences one can have in literature, and as the intellect develops to stifle just such experiences, emotion and cognition step in to share the burden so that knowledge does not completely suffocate the prose or truth (as Aldous Huxley would say).

C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington (teehee): The History of Underclothes.

The Cunningtons have a great sense of humour, and their early to mid selection of media to help illustrate the underclothing (both in literary and visual forms) in invariably amusing ways. The social analysis they apply to underwear is steeped in stereotype in the best way possible. Unfortunately they are not so self-aware to stop before they were born---drawing the line at, presumably, their adolescence. To make matters worse (as is often the case with histories of this nature) the latter eras become little more shopping catalogue reproductions.  As enjoyable as a cultural or linguistic history as it is one of underwear.

Margaret Balderson: When Jays Fly to Barbmo.

Australian writers are generally excellent at depicting the natural world, regardless of its context or location, and such cultural traits are put to excellent use here, using contrast between the Norwegian seasons to excellent literal (sensory) and metaphorical (emotional) use. The consistent rhythm of the seasons, and the practicalities that are thus required to survive in such an environment give great context to the Nazi invasion; making its upheaval seem all the more simultaneously powerful and meaningless. The painful, wonderful longing and conflicted sense of place that some of mixed ethnicity authenticity might feel is very well realised, too. Naturally it suffers from the same inconsistencies that one can expect from the vast majority of Australian literature, but see above: even James Joyce doesn't know a good simile from a bad one. So nobody's perfect, you snob.

Oh, and it's a total librarian's book (see Bastion for a gaming equivalent, as a critics' artist output is also stereotypically applicable). No, the greatness of books is not that I could empathise with the main characters ethnic plight, but the fact that it contained what I am currently disagreeing with. Oh, and the Oxford Press should be ashamed. One of the worst typeset books I've ever read; there was even a lone word on a new page from the preceding paragraph. And typos were everywhere: presumably not the manuscript's fault. Harvard forever!

Evelyn Waugh: The Loved One.

The first half is utter, irredeemable tripe. Clearly he is a talented user of language, but a very poor artist. His articles must be something to behold, but his stories (well, this one at least) are completely devoid of setting, character, characters or narrative. There are a lot of nicely strung together words which form pleasant, somewhat symmetrical shapes on the page and are pleasant on one's tongue, but are ultimately meaningless, shallow and without any sense of tangibility. The second half of the book is not so bad: by then the only three characters of the story have taken on some genuine form, probably only through sheer repetition. Hugely disappointing and dull.

Allison Morgan: Bright-Eye.

Apparently I have developed reading stamina, a requirement according to the back of the book. Very well written, and illustrated. But what about the poor old dog? That cunt better take her to see the duck.

Naomi Lewis: The Magic Doll and Other Short Stories.

Not written (she retold a fairy tale and translated Hans Christian Anderson, though), but compiled by Naomi Lewis (and illustrated by Harold Jones who draws in colour; so it's probably not a good idea to PRINT THE FUCKING PICTURES IN BLACK AND WHITE!). An excellent compilation, though as one might expect from short stories, all but a few stories share the exact same mode of writing: here it is mercifully that of the fairy tale or biblical repetition style. However, the two highlights do not fall into this mode at all. The first is Gertrude's Child by Richard Hughes (of A High Wind in Jamaica fame) which has almost as much feverish power of persuasion as The Wizard of Oz. The second is A Departure by Kenneth Grahame (I need not introduce him, right?) which is pretty much a perfect short story. The language is superb, the structure designed to compliment this length of writing rather than be reluctantly at its mercy, and it's also the only story that is written in an impartial voice which is not that of a young child or an adult presenting something to a child. Not something that this makes it superior to the other stories, but something worth noting nevertheless.

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