Tag Archives: Madeleine St John

Self Flagellation

In the dark old days of Mao’s China, erring party disciples would, if they were exceptionally lucky, be made to write self-criticisms.  In these documents, the straying member of the flock would abase themselves, detail their crimes against the collective and swear to be a better and truer comrade in the future.  For all I know, this sort of thing still goes on.

In the short life of this blog, I find I have urinated copiously from the lofty internet heights on Robert Frost, Inga Clendinnen, Nick Hornby, Francis Collins, Emma Beare, Don DeLillo, Ron Rash, Madeleine St John, Andrew Porter, Bret Easton Ellis, Margaret Atwood, Norman McGreevy, Michael Leunig, Colleen McCullough, J D Salinger (the day after he died), Bryce Courtenay and Tim Winton.  Well over twenty per cent of my posts, in other words, have been more or less slavering attacks.

The tables must turn, however.  In the interests of fairness, I’m going to have a go at me.  Ladies and gentlemen, the scorpion is about to sting himself.  Let the Mao-style self-criticism begin.  I direct this not to Mao, but to George Orwell, whose Politics and the English Language is and shall always be my final guide to writing.  The idea of taking up a totalitarian epistolary notion and directing it at Orwell is grievously inappropriate, but I can’t resist. Continue reading


Imperfect Paradise

Pinning down some novels in a review is like trying to catch a dust-mote with a pair of tweezers.  So insubstantial are they, so given to sudden minnowish movements that one despairs of the task at hand.

A Stairway to Paradise, by Madeleine St John is just such a novel.  Let the title pass – nothing is to be gained from snarling at it.  This book raises to an art form the task of converting local habitations and names into airy nothings, and it hardly needs saying that in so doing it’s doing things exactly the wrong way around. Continue reading