Don Anderson

Don Anderson reviews 'Before I Wake' by John Scott

Don Anderson
Friday, 07 February 2020

A masculine reader, one assumes. From that (limited) point of view, John Scott writes the most erotic prose in the country. Linda Jaivin is ham-fisted by comparison. We are talking about a textual sexuality, the kind practised so exquisitely by David Brooks in The House of Balthus. We are talking about a sexuality that may, perhaps, be possible only in language. As Helen Gamer observes in her review of John Hughes film of Scott’s novel What I Have Written: ‘I must state a painful fact; sex in a book is sexier than sex on a screen.’ (The Independent, June 1996). I must state a further painful fact: bodies get in the way. Not of sex; not of lovemaking; but of the erotic. The body trammels the imagination.

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Don Anderson reviews 'I'm Dying Laughing' by Christina Stead

Don Anderson
Friday, 07 February 2020

There has been altogether too much talk recently about literature and bliss, and not enough about sadness. Think of the gloom that descends when you have read all the works of a beloved author, and no fresh fields and pastures new remain. Years ago, I suffered this depression after reading all the works of William Faulkner. There was a brief respite when Flags in the Dust, an ur-version of Sartoris, appeared, but brief it was.

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Just before the publication of her novel Dark Places in 1994, Kate Grenville said that she was thinking about her next book, ‘a heart-warming old-fashioned love story’. Well, The Idea of Perfection – and isn’t that what all love stories are about? – is that love story, though it warms both heart and head, for the bliss it affords is not so much visceral as aesthetic, even architectural.

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'History always emphasises terminal events,’ Albert Speer observed bitterly to his American interrogators just after the end of the war, according to Antony Beevor in Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (2002). Few events in recent history were more terminal than the Holocaust, it might be urged. Yet the singularity of that ‘terminus’ has been questioned in recent years ... 

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Clive James needs no introduction, though he asked Julian Barnes to provide one for Reliable Essays, a selection from three decades of James’s literary journalism made by his publisher, Peter Straus. The Kid from Kogarah is, as The New Yorker once famously observed, ‘a brilliant bunch of guys’ ...

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Don Anderson on John A. Scott's new novel

Don Anderson
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
Don Anderson on John A. Scott's new novel ... (read more)

Don Anderson reviews 'The Following'

Don Anderson
Friday, 27 September 2013

Towards the end of Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift (1975), at the poet Von Humboldt Fleisher’s funeral on an April day in Chicago, Menasha Klinger, one of three mourners, points to a spring flower and asks Charlie Citrine, the novel’s narrator, to identify it. ‘Search me,’ Citrine replies, ‘I’m a city boy myself. They must be crocuses.’ ...

Novels have been appearing in the last decade or so in which one or more of the characters are actual historical figures, often themselves writers, appearing in propria persona, not considerately disguised and renamed, as Horace Skimpole was in Bleak House, for example. Perhaps the most notorious instance in recent years is Virginia Woolf in Mich ...

Don Anderson reviews 'Lost Voices' by Christopher Koch

Don Anderson
Thursday, 29 November 2012

‘There is another world, but it is in this one.’ That is Paul Éluard, channelled by Patrick White as one of four epigraphs to The Solid Mandala (1966), a ‘doubleman’ of a novel avant la lettre.Other quotations appended to this story of Waldo and Arthur Brown are taken from Meister Eckhart (‘It is not outside, it is inside: wholly within’) ...

Don Anderson reviews 'Hergesheimer Hangs In' by Morris Lurie

Don Anderson
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
‘A writer is writing even when he’s not writing, maybe even more then, even if he never writes again.
Got it?
Class dismissed.’
(Morris Lurie, ‘On Not Writing’, in Hergesheimer Hangs In)

In Wild & Woolley: A Publishing Memoir (2011), Michael Wilding recalls: ‘Morris Lurie sent us a collect ...

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