The first major newspaper review of the book, by Shelley McInnis, was published in the Age and WA Today on Saturday. Positive overall, which was great, albeit a touch condescending (hey, those reviewers gotta think themselves important somehow) and, well, downright odd in its internal contradictions and strange air of not really having understood the book so struggling to find other things to say. The first third was a review of Gangland, my previous book, and there seemed to be an expectation that Land of Plenty should be more of the same. Disappointingly, at no stage did McInnis engage seriously with any of the main arguments or sub-arguments of the book. I was pleased, though, that the book was deemed important, and that the section on feminism won plaudits. My sentences, however, should apparently be shorter, a comment that struck me as a typical case of a reviewer thinking their peccadillos are of universal import.
But the thing that did make me wonder was the idea that the book somehow ‘lacked hope’ and the implication that it should offer pat solutions, like little parcels all wrapped up in a bow. Now, McInnis is a parliamentary secretary, so is perhaps used to seeing the minute and action sheet all in one. But her comment got me thinking. I self-consciously steered away from such prescriptions as I was writing. It would have seemed glib and trite; self-important. And I believe that ideas and facts and narratives of the sort that the book offers, are power in themselves. It’s then up to people to use them.
Or am I wrong, and we live in an age that is indeed therapeutic, where people want pat solutions?