Sunday, January 13, 2008

Elliot Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity

I have just discovered my third great Australian novel (after Tim Winton's Dirt Music and Gregory Roberts' Shantaram, arguably the "War and Peace" of our times!): Elliot Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity. And he, too, like the second of these three, comes from Victoria, and not only Victoria, but disturbingly close to home, the inner south-east suburbs of Melbourne, so when he talks about these streets and stuff, I know to what he refers! He writes as I would write, if I could. He writes about things I would like to write about, both global and intensely personal. Like Peter Hoeg, Hendrik Ibsen and Gustave Flaubert ("Madame Bovary, c'est moi!"), although a man, he can describe also the inner subjectivity of women as if one of them. And, yes, he has created characters everyone can relate to, even if the characters themselves vacillate between seeing themselves as Hamlet, or the guy in Kafka's The Trial. Interesting, that he once practised as a barrister himself (hence his intimate acquaintance with the inner workings of the law and court procedure); the law itself also qualifies as a 'literary' career, according to old CES employment posters. He describes people all along the socioeconomic and demagraphic continuum with the uncanny and richly 19thC eye of a Dickens, with Dickens' sense of outrage at social inequities, especially those brought out by the apocalypse of 'globalisation' and so-called 'economic rationalism'. I found it strange that he has no apparent links to psychology or psychiatry himself, but perhaps his own acuity prevents him holding out much hope for the efficacy of any glib 'talking cure' for the things that really trouble us. I heard he got nominated for the Miles Franklin award. I hope he gets it. No one deserves it more!


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