This is from a sobering review of seminal Irish historian R.F. Foster's new book by Colm Toibin, in Bookforum:
It is possible that the money has created full employment, and this has, indeed, made a difference: Irish people can do their suffering at home. But on some level that even a historian as subtle and ingenious as Foster cannot measure, Ireland may have remained the same. We cannot ask historians to open windows in our souls.
And a brief if stimulating discussion of prizes for Australian writing about women can be found this week at Pavlov's Cat, along with a reprint of Kerryn Goldsworthy's Sydney Morning Herald review of Michelle de Kretser's The Lost Dog, which is up for the inaugural Barbara Jefferis prize (
still no news on this today, though it was announced yesterday - must have just missed the papers, and the ABC news, by a whisker). Kerryn has the news on the winner too, Rhyll McMaster for Feather Man, though it's not on the ASA website yet.
Both of Kerryn's posts indicate that I must get The Lost Dog read pronto, (well, after Toni Jordan's Addition, which I've just started, anyhow) and that leaving it to one side for most of the year has been an error I will correct as soon as possible:
This book is so engaging and thought-provoking, and its subject matter so substantial, that the reader notices only in passing how funny it is. At one point Tom goes to ask the neighbour Corrigan to keep an eye out for the dog, whereupon the narrator produces a sentence worthy of Patrick White: ‘When the Australian desire to provide assistance meshed with the Australian dread of appearing unmanly, it produced the bluff menace that was Mick Corrigan’s default setting.’
Michelle de Kretser is one of those rare writers whose work balances substance with style. Her writing is very witty, but it also goes deep, informed at every point by a benign and far-reaching intelligence. She is still winning prizes for her 2003 novel The Hamilton Case and she is certain to win a few more for The Lost Dog. Publishers Allen and Unwin have shown their faith in her by publishing this novel as a beautifully-designed hardback.
*To update further, I have some not-so-humble remarks from an earlier date on Feather Man (which I have read) here.