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Feigel has gathered together a half-dozen writers – Graham Greene, Henry Green (the pen-name of Henry Yorke), Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macauley, Rosamund Lehmann, and the little-known Hilda Spiel – and traced their lives, loves and works through the first shattering attacks in 1940-41 to the lull, and then the resumption in 1944, as the pilotless V-1 and V-2 attacks began.
In the year that I first became ill, I recognised the physicality of Teresa’s hunger, and I carried it with me for years, although the rest of For Love Alone did not stir me – I was nineteen, and probably too callow, too cold and self-obsessed to fully understand it. But in the last two years, I started hearing so many writers talk again about Christina Stead.
Macris uses his full quiver of unorthodox techniques to pierce any familiar sense of reality, just as he introduces a range of linguistic ephemera – emails, journalese, advertising claptrap – to remind the reader that words can’t be trusted, especially in the novel, the most mendacious of art forms.
In the Memorial Room is both literally and figuratively posthumous. It centres around themes of creativity, being a writer, and a writer’s posthumous memorialisation. Frame wrote the novel in 1973, but did not allow its publication during her lifetime.
Wark’s two books work sequentially, although they also loop around the same figures and concepts. They could be treated as histories of the Situationist milieu and its aftermaths, but to do so would miss entirely what makes them such compelling and, at times, hilarious reading.
The publication of The Letters of William Gaddis is significant because it presents the first direct and unveiled access to this ‘reclusive’ author. For those of us who know and love Gaddis’s work, however, there is something discomfiting about such personal revelations.
The Crane Wife begins with a moment pitched somewhere between comedy and wonder. In the small hours of the morning, 48-year-old George Duncan is woken unexpectedly. It is a sound that has awoken him – an ‘unearthly sound … a mournful shatter of frozen midnight falling to earth to pierce his heart and lodge there forever, never to move, never to melt’ – but George, being who he is, assumes it is his bladder.
With The Woman Upstairs, her fifth book, Messud narrows her range, concentrating on a devastated woman recounting a critical event in her life. Nora is an elementary school teacher living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who experiences a ‘Lucy Jordan moment’ when she realises at the age of 37 that her life, like that of the ballad’s heroine, looks small and any hope for change is not for her.
Memory, imagination, dreaming, invention and protean makings: such preoccupations are at the heart of Lisa Gorton’s new poetry collection, Hotel Hyperion. This relatively short and condensed book returns again and again… to related tropes and imagery: weather, mirrors, rooms, crystals, hauntings and strange effects of light.
It seems to me that Lucashenko writes both with and against the perception that authentic Aboriginality is derived from the maintenance of land-based cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.
One of the strange contradictions of fiction is that immense beauty can often be found in writing about grief and loss. The things we often choose to look away from or avoid in everyday life can, in the hands of a novelist like Ashley Hay, become rich terrain.
When Fallada handed the final draft of Little Man, What Now? to Rowohlt in early 1932 there were eight and half million people unemployed in Germany. By 1933, a staggering 40 per cent of the population was registered as out of work.
The novella konkretion contains the promise of a novel, a dramatic monologue, poem(s) and the ghosts of several lives. It is a matryoshka doll of refracting voices with Meinhof’s story nestled at its core.
If I were selecting a Modern Australian Poetry XI, Wearney, like his near-namesake in another kind of XI, would be one of the automatic choices. To my mind (and ear), he is one of the best formal poets writing in Australia today.
Anne Carson is among that small number of contemporary writers who have achieved the unthinkable: she has produced poetry that has made the bestseller lists. Since the success of Autobiography of Red (1998), all of her books have sold big…
There is an irony here. In the attempt to render the writer omnipresent yet invisible every character becomes a version of the writer. But then Belomor is not a piece of naturalistic prose. It is a highly crafted artifice that signals its structural underpinnings and its philosophical preoccupations from the beginning.
Much of what I read in the field of criticism these days is not purely literary criticism… but essays which are also fictions, perhaps referring to literary works in passing, in order to reference, interrogate and explore culture: its fashions, its trends, its past and future.
In 1997, the Booker Prize shortlist included a work by an Australian woman for the first time. Literary Australia was chuffed, but also surprised. Who was this Madeleine St John, published by Fourth Estate?
The Blue Hills poems are so palpably about place that one needs to try to ‘place’ their author before going any farther. If the English language poetry of (almost exactly) the last one hundred years falls into two broad groups – the Non-Poundian and the Post-Poundian – then Duggan belongs to the latter.
In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon… forensically examines families in which children turn out to be not what their parents had fondly expected. The title is a twist on the proverb, ‘The apple never falls far from the tree’. His question is: But what happens when they do?
Somerton Man is one of Adelaide’s great cold cases. The place is built of such true crime stories. On the surface, these narratives tell us, Adelaide is a charmingly ordered, picture-book city. But step carelessly and you could fall through a hole into a parallel world of violence, murder and intrigue.
We could describe it as a memoir, given that Kulka’s own boyhood experiences in Auschwitz are at its centre. But the term memoir barely seems adequate to the introspective, often poetic, sometimes hallucinatory moments that it captures.
Australia’s Asia offers counter-narratives to the received Australian narrative of Asia, dominated by the implementation, impact and slow dismantling of the White Australia policy.
Have Australians overcome the cultural cringe and learned, as Phillips hoped they would, ‘the art of being unselfconsciously ourselves’? I am less sanguine about rumours of cringe’s demise…I think an example of how the cringe currently operates can be found by examining an increasingly marginal – if symbolically important – cultural form: the single-author short story collection.
Now, we have a new novel with the bizarre title (for Coetzee anyway) of The Childhood of Jesus. It comes with a cover of a young child in sunglasses and dress-up cloak and is like nothing on earth, and not much else in the history of literature.
J.C. Kannemeyer describes ‘What is a Classic?’ as ‘one of the most important lectures of [Coetzee’s] career’. It is certainly one in which a number of key themes intersect. As Kannemeyer observes, it is especially striking for the way Coetzee relates Eliot’s ideas to his own experience…
During my formative years, when I was still a baffled undergraduate, this was a magical name amongst the friends I counted as readers, and even to older acquaintances a generation removed from our contemporary gods but not so dismissive of the notion of greatness as to not bend at the knee to the prowess of a novelist in the highest flight.
Leaving home, returning home, catching trains and ferries, watching the weather from the window of a hospital or hotel room, renewal and self-betrayal: these are the starting places of Gray’s poetry.
Murray Bail’s two most recent novels, The Pages and The Voyage, have a repentant air about them, an acknowledgement of limitation and failure, which is all the more striking when set against the encyclopedic ambition characteristic of his earlier novels.
Among my collection of Alice Munro’s books, the two most prized are the ones that she autographed for me on a visit to Adelaide in March 1979. One was my copy of her first book of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades (1968). The other was the Women’s Press reprint of Lives of Girls and Women (1971), which my students and I were reading as part of a class on women’s writing.
Hobbyist doggerel and Booty Calls: Ben Etherington on Quadrant, government subsidies, and the Books of the Year. Plus a response from Jennifer Maiden.