‘Pick of the Week’
CHESTER Eagle, whose works include Mapping the Paddocks, does not claim to be a professional literary critic. What he offers is the writer’s view, a writer onfellow writers. His selection runs from Henry Handel Richardson to Alexis Wright (a major thread being indigenous writing’s response to colonisation), incorporating Patrick White, Judith Wright, Hal Porter — as well as lesser-known figures such as Barnard Eldershaw. The tone is conversational, the language accessible, the observations astute. His essay, based on two interviews with George Johnston’s brother Jack, who didn’t think much of My Brother Jack, looks at the disjunction between actuality and invention. Another theme, the writer and society, of writers responding to what is important to them and “recording the inner life of their society”, is pertinent to a sales-driven world.
Steven Carroll The Age, Saturday June 19
That old Sydney-Melboume divide! Eagle, a writer hardly known in Sydney, was a joint-winner of The Age Book of the Year award for nonfiction back in 1985 for a work of autobiography. Who today remembers Mapping the Paddocks? Anyway, this is a writer writing about other writers.
It is not high-contemporary literary criticism but rather a chatty, high-end “Book Club discussion” kind of book.
The author acutely aware of the problems of creative writing, looks across a broad spectrum of Australian literature (from Henry Handel Richardson’s Maurice Guest andThe Fortunes of Richard Mahony through Patrick White’s Voss and A Fringe of Leaves to Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus and Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip and, writing in a breezy, conversational manner, offers astute
observations and insights.
Bruce Elder Sydney Morning Herald, 17-18 July 2010
Eagle’s challenge to the shibboleth that great art transcends the political is refreshing; he is ever willing to interrogate the ethics of ‘great books’. …’
Extract from: Christina Hill, Australian Book Review, September 2010