Friday, January 27, 2012
Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.
Who (or what) is being protected? Ford Parade, Lindisfarne. January 2012.
Two books this week, with one departure of the norm and another collection of short stories from an unknown German.
The first is Tasmanian Tiger Ed Cowan’s In The Firing Line. Essentially the diary of the Australian domestic cricket season as seen through a player [then] on the periphery of the international game, Cowan struck lucky to decide on this endeavour the year that Tasmania won its second Shield title.
While these books are often dry affairs, Cowan is both brutally honest in his assessment of himself, his cricket and the impact of his chosen career path on his loved ones. Moreover, he offers great insight with some considered and oft-unspoken views on the state of State cricket in Australia and the future of the game. I was particularly drawn to his observation on the effect of Twenty20 on both the domestic and international game.
His frank and portrait of life as one of the invisible ‘not quite top-rung’ cricketers is a poignant one. Of course, the happy ending of a Shield victory and subsequent surprise call up to the Test team doesn’t hurt! The book was not ghost written and it’s refreshing to read an honest sporting account by someone in the moment that reads so well. There’s no doubt that Cowan is a thinker. If you’re a cricket fan (especially if you’re a fan with doubts about where the game is headed), you’ll find this a great read. Highly recommended.
Second up is a collection of short stories by German literary sensation Judith Herman, The Summer House, Later is subtitled A book about the moment before happiness. This collection of melancholy, quietly-spoken mediations is a varied lot. For the most part, not much happens.
Characters drink (tea, coffee, vodka), smoke (cigarettes, pot, hash), go out, stay in, get together, break up. If there is one discernible thread it is the almost intangible air of discontent.
There is great craft at work here, but I must admit that I think that Herman’s style might be better suited to a longer form. She has a great skill at capturing the ordinariness modern life (particularly its tedium and loneliness) and manages to hint that there is always something more is stirring beneath the surface. The problem with the short form is that for all of the set up and building of characters, nothing happens. There is no climax, no dénouement or hope of resolution.
Ultimately – for this reader at least – it makes for dissatisfying reading. Recommended only to the keen.