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Against Labels

June 24, 2010

First it was Lee Child’s rant against ‘literary’ authors on Jennifer Byrne’s show, then the Carey-Courtenay stoush (squabbling dinosaurs, according to Stephen Romei), now the Miles Franklin award to Peter Temple for Truth. A fire is raging in the blogosphere about genre versus literary fiction.

But why the fuss? The debate reflects monolithic thinking similar to ‘the people of Australia want such and such’. The people of Australia are a diverse lot, and so are books. I like authors who write well, regardless of whether their work is labelled as literary fiction, crime, or comic books.

I have not yet read Truth, but The Broken Shore gave me deep pleasure, despite its grim atmosphere and the terrible things that happen. Everything in the book is well-crafted, but for me the highlight is the dialogue. He uses dialogue and the interactions between people to develop their characters and make the reader feel the subterranean emotional currents running between them. Each character has a distinctive voice. The protagonist, Joe Cashin, is the laconic master of the one-line comeback, and despite the grimness there are many very funny moments.

Truth is apparently not quite a sequel – it is set in the same fictional world as the earlier book, but with a different main character. It’s good to know such a treat is in store for me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Claire Wood permalink
    July 7, 2010 8:59 pm

    Hi Bryce,
    In this post-post-modernist world where students of writing examine the writing style of employees of Hallmark cards with the same seriousness as they are required to read the works of Tennessee Williams I think that both Courteney and Carey are screaming into the void.
    Thank you for this review – you’re adding to my reading wish list.


  1. Is Truth Dead? « The Echidna and the Fox

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