Friday, January 07, 2011

summer holiday reading

The Associate: A Novel by John Grisham. A new lawyer caught in a web of lies, deceit and blackmail. An absorbing read, but a lame ending. Grisham paints characters and complexities with artful ease, but seems to have an increasing tendency to moralise, in this case against the practices of contemporary commercial law firms.

Replenishing the Earth by James Belich. Why does so much of the world speak English? Belich explores the rise of the Anglo-world, and the patterns and processes by which Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States were settled. He mixes economic and social history with careful qualitative research, to argue for the priority of “settlerism”, the myths of progress and betterment that generated so much Anglo-expansion. At 560 pages, this was a lengthy read, but immensely stimulating. Belich has lovely turn of phrase and it was a delight to see a New Zealander taking his place as a leading voice in the study of history. It raises for me even more questions about the possibilities of a genuine missiology for and in Australia. How on earth to foster a genuine pioneering conversation when Australia is essentially a setter nation, driven by the pursuit of the “lucky nation”?

Psalm 119 by Heather McRobie explores three young adults seeking a more just 21st century world. One is Jewish, another Moslem, a third French and their search takes them into the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The narrative became less and less absorbing as the artless selfishness of the main characters became clearer. The book mixed in the love poetry of Rumi with various Biblical texts. This includes Samson and Delilah and raised some fresh possibilities regarding the Biblical text. Samson as a suicide bomber?

Playing God by Glenn Colquhoun. Glenn is a New Zealand doctor and writes high quality poems about the practise of medicine. Full of warmth and empathy, they show the human side of doctoring amid car accidents, meningitis and death. God is a recurring dialog partner, including a set of poems with titles like Creation, Communion and Performing Miracles.

Words carefully chosen, edited by Siobhan Harvey. 15 leading New Zealand interviewers interview 15 of New Zealands outstanding writers and poets. Each interview becomes a delightful probing of the patterns by which people create, with some revealing insights into the diversity of the writing craft. Some writers I want to read more of, some I want to read less of. Charlotte Grimshaw in particular comes across as immensely opinionated and strong-willed, quite different to the delightful short stories that she has created in the likes of Opportunity.

Posted by steve at 09:01 AM

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