& the World of Murray Whelan

Book reviewing

Mon 31 Mar 2014

I’m currently reading my way through a couple of novels for review purposes

Lost for Words by Edward St Aubyn was sent to me by The Saturday Paper. It’s a broad comic farce set in the British literary world. It revolves around competition for the prestigous Elysian Prize (standing in, I assume, for the Booker). I’m not familiar with St Aubyn’s previous books but couldn’t resist the opportunity to review a book by an author with a name that looks like it is pronounced Store Bin. (I may be wrong on this point, but it does sound posh and the posh have their own way of speaking English)

The Saturday Paper’s policy is to publish its book reviews pseudonymously. The editor thinks this is a good idea. He is 25 years old. This is what he looks like. The idea is that not publishing reviewers’ names will free up writers to have a red hot go at each other’s work. Apparently Australian writer’s can’t be trusted to not engage in flagrant log rolling whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Personally, I like the idea. It means I can take a cursory glance at a book, toss off a half-baked impression and collect my fee. Money for old rope, as they say.

They even sent me a book by an English writer, which utterly defeats their own purpose.

Lovers of second rate hackery should keep their eye out for my nom-de-samedi – Pepe Verboten.

While on the topic of pseudonomysm, I’m also reviewing The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black. Black is really John Banville, the distinguished Irish writer and heavy-hitter in the literary world – heir to Proust and so forth. As well as ‘proper’ novels, he writes crime fiction under the name Benjamin Black.

The Black Eyed Blonde is billed as a Philip Marlowe novel. In other words, it is an attempt to write in the style of Raymond Chandler.

Numerous attempts have been made to ape Chandler’s style since his death in 1959, including authorised efforts by Robert B. Parker, Sara Paretsky and Robert Crais. Banviille’s effort is siimilarly authorised and it will be interesting to read the efforts of a writer given to disparaging crime fiction (including his own) as second rate. The review will be in The Age, under my own name.

It’s not really a review, but I’ve been asked to write an essay on Peter Temple’s Truth for Reading Australia which is producing teaching materials for secondary school teachers as a way of encouraging them to introduce more books by Australian writers to their students. This is a great idea and I’m looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with Temple’s oeuvre (that’s the sort of word John Banville would use, so he must be rubbing off)