Fiction

June 2017

Seventh Function of Language cover

Semiologists Beware

'It would be wrong to regard Binet’s novel as not much more than a sophisticated and hugely entertaining send-up. He sees, certainly, the absurd aspects of semiotics and the other ‘sciences’ his characters profess. But he also registers their allure and fascination. The clue to discovering what that allure and fascination might be has to do with the particular source of his preoccupations. When Theory crossed the English Channel, the Atlantic and then travelled to the Antipodes, it left behind its French playfulness.'

Lincoln in the Bardo cover
Blue Skies by Helen Hodgman book cover

The Harsh Light of Day

'It is common for Tasmanian literature to be softlit with the kinds of autumnal colours that are so flattering to sandstone convict ruins, a contrast to the red dust and white gums of much mainland Australian writing. Helen Hodgman turns up the intensity, creating a glare under which she examines human desperation and ugliness. It is usual, in writing about Tasmania, for dawns and dusks to proliferate. Instead, Hodgman gives us broad daylight—precisely, a never-ending three o’clock.'

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The SRB is an initiative of The Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University

May 2017

Cloud Cuckoo Land Pastoral

'In place of the dystopian world of post-Soviet Moscow in Dog Boy, Hornung’s new novel land us in a cloud cuckoo land pastoral. Of course, pastorals, no matter how Arcadian, always have their darker sides. This is no exception. The Last Garden begins with a murder-suicide.'

The Restorer by Michael Sala book cover

Swaying Ground

'The Restorer is dramatically immersive, thematically confronting and — despite its flaws — moving. Like The Last Thread, it is in large part about difficult reckonings with family histories, and the challenge of wresting back control of a precariously positioned life. Sala highlights what I take to be a core moral of the story insistently, but perhaps good advice is worth repeating. For most readers, the skilful characterisation will outweigh all instances of heavy-handedness. I only hope that in future treatments of similar themes the vile men are friendly-seeming white collar workers who patronise the arts. I hear they exist. After all, what use is a topical novel unless its readers are made to feel uncomfortably close to—and complicit in—the issue it addresses?'