Simon & Schuster, 29l pp, $29.95 hb
I must acknowledge that in his second novel Rod Usher, author of the widely praised Man of Marbles, tells a good story. And he tells it competently, with some verve. The high points are nicely judged and well-spaced. The characters are drawn with firm lines. The setting – the countryside around the Condamine – is well integrated into a narrative which moves to a striking climax. The novel should enjoy some success and may well become quite popular.
Why not, then, be content with that? Popular literature occupies, and deserves to occupy, an honourable place within any culture worthy of the name. Fiction that aims to entertain is frequently able to render its readers alert to issues, possibilities, experiences and ways of looking at the world from which they may otherwise be excluded by prejudice and ignorance. Yet I cannot leave it merely at that because of several aspects of Florid States which contributed to my sense of dismay as I followed the strategies of this carefully contrived novel.