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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

The Boys who Stole the Funeral

Les Murray

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To purchase The Boys who Stole the Funeral

Title: The Boys who Stole the Funeral
Author: Les Murray
Genre: Novel in verse
Written: 1980
Length: 71 pages
Availability: The Boys who Stole the Funeral - US
The Boys who Stole the Funeral - UK
  • A Novel Sequence

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Our Assessment:

A- : a strong, varied novel sequence

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New England Rev. . Summer/1993 Peter Filkins
Parnassus . 1993 Thomas M. Disch
Poetry A- 6/1992 William Logan
World Lit. Today . Winter/1991 Manly Johnson

  From the Reviews:
  • "In its tendency to find the combination of its tale in a moment of visionary afflatus rather than in dramatic action, Boys is representative of the trepidation most poets have when confronting the rival aesthetic of the novel. The trade off, however, is considerable, for a poet's gifts can heighten the otherwise humdrum parts of the story." - Thomas M. Disch, Parnassus

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A novel sequence, Les Murray's The Boys who Stole the Funeral is a story told in the form of 140 sonnets. Varying the form of the sonnets with regard to metre and rhyme Murray has created an impressive long poem, very different from his later Fredy Neptune (see our review).
       It begins as the story of Kevin Stace Forbutt and Cameron Reeby who kidnap the body of their friend Clarence Dunn in order to give him a proper burial in the outback where he came from. Their mission is a success of sorts, though the consequences are greater than they expected, and the reactions to their undertaking are also varied. The police also finally find the two, leading to a tragic showdown.
       Murray uses the sonnet form to good effect: it is a superior craftsman who is at work here. (Against this Vikram Seth's novel in sonnets, The Golden Gate, for example, seems laughably amateurish.) There is also a message behind the poem, as it veers into the visionary and moral -- which might not appeal to all.
       Well worth reading, it is a powerful story, powerfully related, by a man in complete control of the language. Recommended.

       Petty complaint du jour: in our Farrar Straus Giroux edition (1991) sonnet 11 includes the line: "it was after the ulrike meinhoff memorial lecture". It should, of course, be ulrike meinhof -- one "f", not two. Maybe as a terrorist Ulrike doesn't deserve much respect, but surely readers of this work do.
       So we wonder once again: does anybody edit these books ? Are there still any editors or copy editors or proofreaders left in the publishing industry ? Does no one give a damn about this sort of thing any longer ?

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Les Murray: Other works by Les Murray under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry at the complete review
  • See Index of Australian literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Australian poet Les Murray was born in 1938. He has written numerous poetry collections, as well as two novels in verse.

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