Sunday, January 03, 2010

The joy that is Camberwell market...

Today I managed to nab Gertrude Stein's Autobiography of Alice B Toklas which I'm using in the Life Writing course I'm teaching. It's been ages since I read it and clearly my old copy was shed many years ago. It was a bargain for $2.00! Also the gardening biography of Vita Sackville West - with beautiful photos of Sissinghurst and Vita herself. This was a tad more expensive at $5.00. The girly got some shoes and a grab bag of clothes for $5.00. Bargains everywhere.

Yesterday I was on a mystery reading whack - finished Fred Vargas's Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand. Then felt bereft - until The Accountant offered me the latest Peter Temple which I had given him for part of his Christmas present.

I love Fred Vargas's idiosyncratic Adamsberg who works in a zen-kind of way that reminds me a little of the guy in the tower in the film Diva. (Also based on a French thriller). I love the fact that they are set in France, so it's it's like viewing France through a little window.

Peter Temple's work is so completely different - it's Australian through and through. It's Victorian through and through. The laconic cop shorthand, the bush, the race horses, the men who don't talk much, the women left to make up their own lives in the men's absences, the streets and geography. Truth is an ambitious book - more ambitious than The Broken Shore. If you read the transcript of the interview with Ramona Koval, you'll see that he deliberately chose Villani's point of view - and that's what works so well. His struggles, his peeling back of his own home truths, his ambivalences are all held in a tight focus. Failure sits at Villani's elbow. It's never far from his thoughts. Temple's cops are only ever a hair's breadth from some monumental cock-up - in their own lives, in their professional life. Some of the events in Truthlose that sense of being plotted - they appear as random as life. His cops do the hard miles of checking cars, checking security tapes, checking cameras - dogged work. But they also catch something in their peripheral vision and a piece of the puzzle slots into place.

It's good to have the two experiences - Vargas's Adamsberg is more mythic - the characters, Danglard with his numerous children, alcoholism and erudition, Rettancourt, chanelling her energies - these are heroic, fairy tale characters. Then you have Villani, with his sense of failure, the sharp but awkward Dove, enigmatic Dance, the loyal Birkerts. Good stuff.

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