Gwen by Goldie Goldbloom

Gwen by Gwen

Gwen by Gwen

(2017) It is difficult to see, from reproductions of Gwen John’s paintings, why her lumpy daubs are thought by many to be better than the skillful if dull portraits painted by her brother, Augustus John.  Goldbloom is at pains in Gwen, her novelised version of Gwen John’s life, to say that it was so, that even Augustus knew it.  Nor is it easy to understand, at this distance, just why women found those lumpy bawds Augustus and the sculptor Auguste Rodin to be utterly irresistible, but again, apparently they did – or at least the artistic ones like Gwen and Dorelia (the mistress…

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Lincoln in the Bardo

"Why, some asked, was a child riding a pony about in the pouring rain, without a coat?"

"Why, some asked, was a child riding a pony about in the pouring rain, without a coat?"

(by George Saunders). Saunders’ first novel, a heroic retelling of the death and laying to rest of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie, chops and hops, like a play or the flea on a dead man’s nose, commented on by a Greek chorus of the dead and the living. Contrived though it is (the voices include the obligatory offended-against homosexual, mulatto slave and illiterate), Saunders gathers all together in a tender and mellifluous rotting pyre, at the centre of which Lincoln (handsome, homely, noble, ignoble, guilty, arrogant) burns, while others fly and roil like sparks around him. The enveloping Images of horror and grief are well-leavened by reflections on the beauty of the…

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The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five

Venus and Mars....It's been said.

Venus and Mars....It's been said.

(by Doris Lessing)         The first book in Lessing‘s Canopus in Argos: Archives series, Shikasta, is unimpressive upon reading, but impresses upon reflection. Lessing puts a thoughtful and intriguing spin on our understanding of humankind’s origins. The second volume, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five is unimpressive upon reading and almost impossible to reflect upon with interest. The bellicose inhabitants of Zone Five are unsophisticated, ‘masculine’ and heavy. The arty inhabitants of Zone Four are loving in an all-inclusive creepy way, ‘feminine’ and smug. So let’s marry the dopey queen of Zone Four to the blustering king of Zone Five and see what happens. Galadriel sets about doing…

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Resurrection by Count Leo Tolstoy

Federation Square book sale 2016.  Image courtesy of Nick-D.

Federation Square book sale 2016. Image courtesy of Nick-D.

When in Melbourne, we of TVC attend the Saturday morning book sale at Federation Square.  There, in the dank central court, eccentric sellers of very good used books sell classics and books which have just appeared in the shops.  Amid these booksellers who know their stuff and their customers, lurk a few grim self-published authors who sell nothing and look on sadly while pretending to work on their next badly-illustrated but politically-correct slim volume for children. One of the sellers of very good books is a handsome, red-haired Russian woman of whom we at TVC are terrified. (Let us call this stern and tenacious…

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“I am monarch of all I survey”

February 2, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Fiction, HISTORY, Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE |
(Selkirk on his island c/- Hopea114y)

(Selkirk on his island c/- Hopea114y)

February 2nd (1709) – Regretful beachcomber Alexander Selkirk is rescued. Selkirk’s sojourn inspired Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, regarded as the first genuine English novel, and the following poem by William Cowper: Alexander Selkirk during his Solitary Abode in the Island of Juan Fernandez I am monarch of all I survey; My right there is none to dispute; From the centre all round to the sea I am lord of the fowl and the brute. O Solitude! where are the charms That sages have seen in thy face? Better dwell in the midst of alarms Than reign in this horrible place.   I…

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