Claire Keegan’s Foster

In expressing his admiration for [Claire Keegan’s] Foster, Richard Ford praised it as “a highwire act of uncommon narrative virtuosity.” It is exactly that. Poised delicately between the dual perils of wordlessness and verbose excess, the novella treads lightly along a tightrope towards disclosure of its central secret, as an understanding — an almost instinctual sympathy — develops between this man who declines to speak at length and the girl who narrates their story with an abundance of words. The result is a delicately articulated account of the aftermath of an unspeakable trauma in a dialect confined by inexperience and incomprehension. The balancing act, as Keegan performs it, is deft and assured without being audacious, a quiet attempt to give voice to painfully hidden memories without disturbing the silence that has settled upon them, and most impressive of all is that it culminates in the utterance of a single word — the last, perfect word of the book — which distils, into only two syllables, more meaning than could be conveyed as powerfully in a page-long soliloquy.

My review of Claire Keegan’s Foster is online at Killings, the Kill Your Darlings blog.

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The Late Great Patrick White

In the 1960s and 1970s one figure commanded the [Australian] literary landscape, and ruled the artistic life of Sydney like an (intermittently) benign despot. Nobel Prize winner, patrician activist, host of legendary proportions, he was famed for his savagery as well as his generosity, his intolerance of fools and charlatans, his immense warmth and his uncompromising intelligence.

James Bradley, ‘Me and Patrick White’

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a panel discussion at the Wheeler Centre entitled “The Late Great Patrick White.” It was the first in the Centre’s series of discussions about the lives and works of Australian writers who are no longer with us. I can only hope that the others turn out to be as fulfilling as this one because it was a fantastic event: impassioned, intelligent, often very funny. Happily, there’s no need to recount the discussion in detail now that the Centre has uploaded video, but I do want to add a few general remarks on White and the event participants and to point towards what I think were some of the night’s most valuable moments. Continue reading The Late Great Patrick White