Scoop Review of Books

Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year and all that…

The Scoop Review of Books is taking a break until mid January. Happy summer reading and please feel free to send in reviews of any good books you read over the summer break.

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Happy New Year.

Comics and Evolution

SRB Picks of the Week (a very occasional series)

Joe Sacco’s latest book, Footnotes in Gaza, is attracting some very positive reviews, none more so than this one by Patrick Cockburn in the New York Times.

Sacco pioneered comic art as journalism in his book Palestine and then continued to develop the genre in his books on Sarajevo.

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Forming the Words

Amy Brown talks with Damien Wilkins about his latest novel, Somebody Loves Us All, and his year writing it in Menton, France.

Paddy Thompson, a successful speech therapist with a newspaper column, ‘Speech Marks’, is troubled by two silences. One is the absence of a phone call; Tony Gorzo, whose son Paddy cured several years earlier, usually leaves a message in response to ‘Speech Marks’. The other is Sam Covenay, a 14-year-old who refuses to speak and resists Paddy’s methods. On top of these minor discouragements, Paddy’s wife, manager of a language school, is constantly working in preparation for an inspection, so provides little consolation. Paddy’s new recreation, cycling, is not the stress-reliever he’d imagined it to be either, as each competitive ride with his colleague Lant becomes a metaphor for their sometimes exhausting friendship. Most distressing, though, is Paddy’s mother, Teresa, who wakes up one morning with a French accent. Teresa’s (now Thérèse’s) illness, Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS), compels Paddy to communicate with his family more honestly and precisely than ever before.

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SRB Christmas Musings

By Jeremy Rose

What’s an atheist to make of Christmas? I’ve been thinking that it could be re-named International Day Against the Death Penalty. After all if there was no crucifiction there would’ve been no Crusades, no Inquisition and no annual orgy of consumerism. As good an argument against making martyrs of political activists as I’ve ever heard. (Ironically, the Chinese Government chose Christmas Day 2009 to lock up one of the country’s leading human rights activists in the hope the world’s media wouldn’t notice.)

On the other hand there would be no Caganers (the wonderful Catalan Christmas Crappers pictured above) or Caga Tios (the equally weird and wonderful Catalan shit logs.)

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Abroad 2009

By C K Stead (Re-published with the kind permission of the author and the New Zealand Book Council’s Booknotes)

C K Stead (right) and Vincent O’Sullivan on their honeymoon © Mary Gaudin
C K Stead (right) and Vincent O’Sullivan on their honeymoon © Mary Gaudin

I was in the UK in May of this year, mainly to launch the Carcanet edition of my Collected Poems 1951–2006. A mini-tour had been organised by the publisher, the first reading to the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. I had not been in the Lake District for almost half a century, and it revived fond memories of my time as a post-graduate student in the UK . I read with a young South African poet, Katharine Kilalea, in the church where Wordsworth and his wife are buried, the reading followed by the usual interchange with an audience and then a dinner at the hotel. In the new, beautifully designed (grey stone, merging into the landscape) Research Library, books annotated by Wordsworth and Coleridge had been brought out for me. The hotel was lovely, the landscape wet and redolent of Romantic literature, and Dove Cottage just as I remembered it, with even the ‘port’ (small suitcase) on display, inside the lid of which Wordsworth had written his name, not leaving space for the final letter, which he had added above with a caret-mark.

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