Thursday, May 19, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I just finished reading Shirley Hazzard’s first novel, The Evening of the Holiday (1966). It’s a short thing, 138 pages in my edition, and a delightful early-summer celebration of climate and place. That is, Hazzard’s real interest is the Tuscan countryside, with quiet villas and old gardens. There’s a startlingly sudden view of an old fresco in a monastery that must be a forerunner of the even more amazing scene in The English Patient. Hazzard doesn’t much bother with characters—purposefully, I think. Two people, an Italian architect and an English/Italian visitor, have an affair. We are not given much about their attraction to one another, or the other aspects of their lives on which the affair must impinge. It ends, as it no doubt must. That’s the point, almost as in Ecclesiastes or Henry James: human matters take place in spaces and times so vast that the wonder is that anyone takes them to heart.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Flanagan's article appeared in The New York Times on Sunday, 1 May. As he has in the past, Flanagan characterizes Australia, and Tasmania in particular, as bearing the all-out assault of European encounter: history as insult, as a fist in the face, as unremitting violence. Like the Tasmanian historian Cassandra Pybus, an early collaborator with whom he later fell out, Flanagan writes from the inside of this ugly dynamic, scratching away at the insulation and detachment that might otherwise offer the false comforts of historicizing.