Don Anderson on John A. Scott's new novel

Don Anderson on John A. Scott's new novel


by John A. Scott

Brandl & Schlesinger, $32.95 pb, 599 pp, 9781921556203

The last words of the endnotes to John A. Scott’s most recent novel – earlier ones have won the Victorian Premier’s prize for fiction and been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award – and thus the last words of this book, if we exclude back-cover plaudits, read: ‘An additional narrative strand, chronicling the history of Surrealist André Breton in Melbourne, 1952, omitted from this version of N for reasons of overall length [emphasis added], appears in Southerly, Vol. 73, No 3, 2013 (“The Naked Writer”).’ As these words appear on page 599 of N, a sesquipedalian opus if ever there was one, it can only be observed, echoing Francisco in the first scene of Hamlet, ‘for this relief much thanks’, for N is already over-long, over-plotted, over-the-top, making excessive demands upon the reader’s generosity and her stamina.

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Don Anderson

Don Anderson is the author/editor of eight books, collections of essays and reviews, and anthologies of prose, largely of texts from the Americas, Australia, and Europe. For fourteen years in the 1980s and 1990s he was a regular literary columnist in the National Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. He was for thirty years a member of the English department at the University of Sydney, where he taught American, Irish, and Australian literature, and literary theory. He was for some years a member of the Advisory Panel of ABR.

Comments (1)

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    Congratulations on a review that may well make the shortlist in the Hatchet Job of the Year awards. Mr Anderson is nothing if not consistent in his scorn for Scott's work: one might wonder why ABR asked him to review this author, and why Anderson submits himself to the pain.
    I myself am in favour of robust reviewing. However, while I hesitate to tell Mr Anderson how to do his job, I'd suggest that he might well take a little time to read Crème de la Phlegm by Angela Bennie. It offers wise advice to reviewers.
    For the record, I found N to be one of the best books I've read this year. But I'm an admirer of contemporary Australian literature...
    Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers
    PS Oops I nearly forgot to give my comment street cred by padding it out with references to how well read I am. I too have read Big Important Books by Proust, and Joyce, and Bolano, assorted Americans... and oh yes, some Australians, Alexis Wright, Christina Stead, Patrick White...

    Saturday, 21 June 2014 09:53 posted by  Lisa Hill

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