24 January, 2011

Hiroshima by John Hersey (1946)

Published as an article in The New Yorker in 1946, Hiroshima was one of the first western accounts of atomic obliteration and awoke the American public to the full horror of these weapons. The story follows six survivors of the bomb and graphically describes the death and destruction wrought. The emotionless, clinical style of writing has the effect of removing Hersey from the story, allowing the words of the survivors extra impact. Hiroshima is often cited as an early example of ‘New Journalism’, a more intensive and literary form of reporting. It remains one of the most remarkable and influential pieces of journalism from the 20th century.

05 January, 2011

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (1940)

Yes, it has an unsavoury title but don’t let that put you off this outstanding novel. Only really discovered in the 1960s, The Man Who Loved Children might be the greatest novel ever written about a dysfunctional family – or a family full stop. Stead, an ex-pat Australian, set the novel on the US east coast but it is largely autobiographical. The parents, Sam & Henny are two of the best realised characters I have encountered in literature and Tim Winton is telling a big fat fib if he doesn’t admit that Cloudstreet was largely inspired by this all-too-neglected masterpiece.