I recently made the mistake of sharing a complimentary email from a reader with one of the funnier bastards in my larger-than-life clan. He read it, snorted and accused my correspondent of “just blowing wind up your arse”.
Well, pardon my billowing skirts, but is there anyone out there who is immune to the unexpected thrill of walking over an air grate?
Yes, it makes us blush, wondering what we may have inadvertently revealed. But don’t try to tell me that a well-placed jet of air doesn’t feel good. Particularly when it comes unexpected, in the midst of a long, hot, dry spell.
Novel writing can be such a tortuous exercise in delayed gratification. Sometimes years of silence separate writer and reader, and when that silence is finally broken, it might be thrilling, disappointing or even shattering for the lonely worker of words.
The wonderful YA author Michael Gerard Bauer recently posted some tongue-in-cheek advice on facebook, quoting no less a source than John Steinbeck: “Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.”
Hear hear. The risk in giving unqualified praise is that it opens one up to some unpleasant accusations. But I’m in the mood to throw caution to the wind and ask the following authors to step over the air grate.
Firstly, Melina Marchetta. Having privately gushed over Finnikin of the Rock, I am happy to blow wind up her skirt publicly. One jet each for the well-rounded characters (especially the diabolical Evanjalin), the fiendishly good dialogue and an all-round rollicking good read.
Ditto, Alison Goodman with The Two Pearls of Wisdom. A standout amongst the dragonesque fantasy series that have become popular in recent years. I devoured it in a weekend, back glued to the couch, legs propped in the air.
And finally, Sonya Hartnett, famously dubbed ‘the greatest Australian novelist of her generation’ (though Tim Winton might dispute the claim, being only seven or eight years older).
Her latest offering, Butterfly, wraps the reader so convincingly in the prickly skin of a fourteen-year-old that it is impossible not to feel for her in shuddering detail. Hartnett is no less convincing in the viewpoints of the child’s charismatic and enigmatic brothers and the self-deluding and adulterous housewife next door. A masterful rendering with a disturbing ending that may well elude younger readers.
I’m a fan of all three writers and am happy declaring my colours. There are enough fine books in this world to keep me busy; I’ll save my breath for them and let silence serve as comment on lesser offerings.