heliopausa (heliopausa) wrote,

Disgruntled post, with books

Oh, pooh!  Crummy old Dreamwidth has lost a great chunk of draft post.  Well - so it goes.  I'll be back with a new yearish post in a day or so, but in the meantime, have some thoughts on two books read recently. 

Dark emu, black seed
- Bruce Pascoe.  A compilation of evidence - in particular taken from accounts by European explorers and early settlers in Australia - of Aboriginal settlement on and use of the land, stressing that it meets all the supposed criteria for demonstrating permanence and ownership - including permanent dwellings, agriculture, land management (far beyond firestick farming).  It's very good indeed, bringing out the wilful ignorance (self-deception? plain old lying?) of those who wrote in their diaries of things they later denied having seen, or at any rate drew conclusions unsupported by their own observations.  It's really great stuff - accessible, undeniable, eye-opening, wonderfully useful -  highly recommended.  Caveat, though -- it's not as good as it could have been.  Pascoe fudges facts sometimes e.g. seeming to illustrate Arnhem land housing with a photo of housing on Mer/Murray Island - maybe his source misled him?  But then, he doesn't give his source, just leaves it to be inferred, as he left it to be inferred that the photo was taken in Arnhem land.  I'm not sure how much it's just that he's being deliberately non-academic, and how much he's carried away by his eagerness to make his case, but it's a real defect; sometimes he jumps to very debatable conclusions, and could easily mislead in places.   Which is a pity, and means I recommend with that caveat - I still do highly recommend, though.  
Under Siege - Literary life in London, 1939-1945 - Robert Hewison.  A dollar got me this unlikely-looking book, in a small-town op shop.  I've been really enjoying it - partly because it gives such interesting and specific information - the details of paper usage in publishing before and after rationing, say, or the number of theatre companies which folded under the strain of wartime conditions, or the tug-of-war which saw writers torn between their own creative drive and the demands to produce for the war effort.  Interesting gossip, too, though some of it about writers I've never heard of, and intermittently scraps of poetry, with comments.  Very male-centric, though; there were only three women mentioned (as best I recall) and one of them was Myra Hess - ie women writers get very scant attention.  Dorothy Sayers was mentioned, in the context of having been rejected for inclusion in a government-established body dealing with potential writers' contribution in wartime because she was (said the unknown civil servant advising on nominees) too loquacious and "difficult" - which is, I guess, to be interpreted as "won't sit down and shut up".

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Tags: dreamwidth, reading
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