In the Land of Oz

Howard Jacobson, Author
Howard Jacobson. Bloomsbury, $20 (528p) ISBN 978-1-60819-895-5
Reviewed on: 08/12/2013
Release date: 12/10/2013
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-1-4088-2502-0
Open Ebook - 528 pages - 978-1-4088-2510-5
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-0-14-010966-5
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Originally published 25 years ago in the U.K., this travelogue recounts the author’s time in Australia in the mid-1980s. Jacobsen, a 2010 Booker Award winner Jacobson (for The Finkler Question), certainly knows how to turn a phrase. His probing descriptions often capture the splendor of first encounters, as when he describes the Margaret River estuary: “I like the idea of waters meeting, a current having its way against a tide.... If the sea is death then an estuary is a way of dying of peaceably.” As an outsider, Jacobson excels at capturing the idiosyncrasies of life Down Under and astutely delves into the downtrodden yet esteemed place that Aboriginals command among Australia’s white society. Known for his comic writing, Jacobson indeed works best with a light tone. Regrettably here, many gags create the impression of an imperialist poking fun at the colonials for the amusement of those back home. Jacobson, a novelist at heart, likes to control the story and place himself front and center, but is at his best when he steps aside—following his wife on her return home to Perth, or when their would-be safari guide drags them willy-nilly around the Northern Australian bush. It is then that he discovers the real Oz and the work becomes worthy of a writer of Jacobson’s ability. Agent: Jonny Geller, Curtis Brown (Dec.)
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