Most reviews in Australian newspapers and journals at the moment seem to be written either by academics or by professional journalists whose hearts and minds would probably prefer to be elsewhere. At the moment we lack a strong tradition of literary journalism in which writers can occupy a middle-ground between these two extremes and yet al the same time exploit the best of each world. Les Murray's stint as book reviewer for TheSydney Morning Heraldand occasional essayist is a valuable exception to this general lack, and the fact that Murray is such a fine poet in a country not ovcrsupplied with fine poets makes Peasant Mandarin particularly interesting collection of pieces. Not the least of its virtues is its extreme consistency and coherence. It simply does not suffer from that bittiness. common to collections of reviews, which results from the reviewer's mind being deflected in different directions by the variousness of the books that find their way onto his desk.
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