Lives on Fire
UQP, $14.95 pb
Connoisseurs of lapidary prose and the fine art of understated narrative are unlikely to enjoy this risky passionate novel. Nor will they enthuse over sentences such as, ‘The agony was so extreme I was numb with it, as if I had fallen into a vat of molten steel and could not immediately feel the enormity of the burn’, or, ‘Flooded with embarrassment, desire, delight, I thought stupidly, no wonder men go so wild over women, no wonder they dream continually of being lapped in that heavenly softness as they go about the hard world.’ However, Rosie Scott has made her own priorities clear in a 1991 essay called ‘Come and see the blood in the streets’. She expresses her admiration here for what she defines as a broadly ‘political’ tradition of writers from Dickens and Lorca to Alice Walker and Patricia Grace; and comments such as the following also provide a useful introduction to her own latest novel:
There is a luminescence in their writing which is almost overwrought sometimes, but which informs every line and produces brilliant language ... to read that sort of writing feeds a hunger I have for literary extremes, unashamed commitment, courage, an instantly recognisable and burning relevance.