Beneath everything that’s been going on – finding a way of paying the bills, covering the cracks that have been appearing in the walls, the death of a divisive UK matriarch, the barrage of daily emails, dodging kangaroos – there’s been a simmering story: how is I’m Ready Now faring in the rapidly shrinking world of literary reviews?
For an excellent but sobering analysis of the current book-review situation in Australia have a read of ‘Parallel Fates’ by Sybil Nolan and Matthew Ricketson, which was recently published in the new and much-needed Sydney Review of Books. I’m just eternally grateful that I’m Ready Now, a story about two difficult people making difficult decisions, a novella by a regional writer and published by an independent press, has managed to be reviewed at all, first in BMA Magazine, then Whispering Gums, and now The Canberra Times.
As ‘Parallel Fates’ makes clear, book reviews are extraordinarily important: they provide a thoughtful, dispassionate and contextual critique of a writer’s work; they offer advice and feedback to a publisher; and they help connect books with readers. Without book reviews, especially the articulate, erudite and fearless kind, there can be no viable literary culture – writing is as much about response and contribution as it is about creation. They can also help to toughen writers, who are, no doubt, innately sensitive souls, and they help to educate readers, encouraging the broadening of interests. The book pages, however, particularly those in the mainstream press, appear to be dwindling.
But what of the review in The Canberra Times – is it any good?
Well, it does have this to say:
Writing novellas might seem a little anachronistic or studied, a bit like playing the harp, say, reading Henry James, or listening to LPs. In Featherstone’s hands, though, the novella form becomes an opportunity for concise, intense, concentrated emotion. For him, 156 pages are plenty to introduce plot twists, to give characters depth and feeling, to juxtapose emotions, and to colour his settings with textured, intriguing detail (Mark Thomas)
Which is very generous and resulted in the drinking of wine. Lots of wine. Far too much. And a hangover the size of a bastard country.
In other I’m Ready Now news, Blemish Books has produced a podcast of me reading a short (3-minute) extract, there’s an interview I did with ArtSound FM, and if you’re in a book club you may be interested in the reading notes that have recently been made available and the associated discount offer. So the good ship I’m Ready Now, skippered by the tireless Blemish folk, keeps sailing despite some challenging seas, and here’s hoping that the wind remains in the sails for a little while longer.
As always, thanks to everyone who’s said a kind and supportive word – I appreciate it very much.