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April 2018

Wakuwal-Dream by Peter Botsman

What Stands to Reason: Isabelle Stengers and Peter Botsman

'Reading Another Science is Possible and Wakuwal in succession, I am struck by the thought that Stengers and Botsman have written the same treatise in different languages, and from different places in the human psyche. They issue the same call for a tectonic shift in the cognitive landscape.'

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The SRB is an initiative of The Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University

March 2018

Imre Kertész
Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse

Odd Fish:
Frank Moorhouse’s Cold Light

I have returned to Cold Light, the third novel in the Edith Trilogy by Frank Moorhouse, time and time again.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman
Fingertip of the Tongue by Sarah Rice book cover

Textures of Language and Thought: Sarah Rice

Sarah Rice’s poems both advocate a poetry that is attuned to the heart, the body, and the spirit, along with the brain, and embody this poetics in richly metaphorical, euphonious, descriptive, and synaesthetic language.

Sheila Pham
Bronwyn Oliver

A Grand Completeness:
Bronwyn Oliver: Strange Things

ink is as scrupulous, in her way, as her subject was. By which I mean she is able, most of the time, to avoid comment. She doesn’t editorialise. The significance of events in Oliver’s life is allowed to emerge from contemporary testimony, perhaps, or from narrative juxtaposition, or simply because of the baleful grandeur of Oliver’s commitment to her work and the sometimes alarming consequences of her dedication.

The Museum of Words by Georgia Blain

The Speed of Life: Georgia Blain’s The Museum of Words

Blain was able to write only under the most stringent circumstances. In the morning, assisted by meditation, steroids and two strong coffees, she could carve out an hour, and later a mere 45 minutes, to find and assemble the appropriate words. As she edits the previous day’s work, she is ‘dismayed to see how convoluted and strained’ her expression becomes near the end of the hour. After that, nothing makes much sense: ‘It is like the cotton in the branches of the cottonwood trees … Each spring this cotton forms, floating away on the breeze, wafting, insubstantial, and always so maddeningly out of reach.’

Literary Criticism A Concise Political History by Joseph North

So Far, So Left?: Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History by Joseph North

I think it would be a mistake to read Literary Criticism as simply another history of twentieth-century criticism. The tendentious and programmatic shaving down of local complexities allows North to sharpen his polemic into manifesto-like poignancy. One of the peculiarities of the manifesto is that it presumes the existence of something it is actually engaged in creating. This, I think, accounts for the odd yet telling choice to name a book after a practice that in its own account has been off the disciplinary map for at least the last few decades.

February 2018

The Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta

Long Looks and Serious Games: on Deborah Levy, Siri Hustvedt and Dana Spiotta

'A Woman Looking At Men Looking at Women is the work of an artist who has spent decades grappling with the way the self is made and remade, in an admiringly non-narcissistic manner. The writer looks inwards and outwards, engaging with surfaces, not always convinced by what she sees; sometimes we find her looking sideways or underneath.'

After Kathy Acker a biography by Chris Kraus

Discarding Congeniality:
lessons from the life of Kathy Acker

'Kraus’s oeuvre has been dedicated to the writing of unlikeable women; challenging congeniality as the bedrock of femininity and exploring the uncomfortable and often humorous situations generated by ambitious, creative women when they cast off congeniality and conventional sexuality. That Acker was a difficult, competitive and transient friend, peer, collaborator and lover makes her an ideal subject for Kraus to continue her work of intervening in conversations about women writers, what the avant-garde is and where it is located.' 

Mirror Sydney by Vanessa Berry book cover

Eccentric Guides:
Vanessa Berry’s Mirror Sydney

Mirror Sydney appeals to the notion that people live inside worlds of their own making. This suggests both a certain comprehensiveness or completeness and a limitation: the globe is known in form but so are its borders. However, this is also a world post-globalisation: the great exhibitions of the colonial project have become abandoned variety stores and theme parks, the pathos of which comes from quaintness or the strange, instead of authority or splendour.

The Last Man in Europe by Dennis Glover book cover

The Prompt of the Real

Glover uses the historical record to unpack the mythology that still surrounds the composition of Nineteen Eighty-Four, that is, Orwell’s heroic struggle against terminal illness to complete his magnum opus. Glover’s art lies in the careful curation of his researches, and in the fleshing out of their significance. Where the facts are unknown, Glover extrapolates from Orwell’s essays and diaries, a device that might jar but for the fact, observed by Glover in his author’s note, that ‘many contemporaries commented on Orwell’s habit of rehearsing the contents of his forthcoming writings in discussions with friends and colleagues’.

Shaping the fractured self book cover crop

Turnings and Over-turnings in Glebe

Since I did not grow up here, and arrived knowing no-one, Glebe was both without memory and emphatically real. The new resident seeks not only the stories of a place, but also its genii loci and forms of unconcealment. Something small becomes the proclamation of larger matters, and historical consciousness prompts random and puzzled affections. There’s a passageway here that reminds me of John Berger’s notion of ‘the shape of a pocket’. For Berger this term refers to hidden-away communities and small spaces of cultural resistance, but it also to the effects of painting in its ritual role as affirmation.

Glebe by flickr user Kate Ausburn
Spiral Staircase Collected poems by Hirato Renkichi

The Imagination of a New Era:
new translations of Japanese modernism

'Sawako Nakayasu’s 2015 translation of The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa and Sho Sugita’s 2017 translation of Spiral Staircase: Collected Poems of Hirato Renkichi each introduce an English-speaking audience to a key figure in Japanese modernism. Hirato Renkichi, born in 1893 in Osaka, has been hailed as Japan’s first futurist poet; Chika Sagawa, born in 1911 in a village on the northern island of Hokkaido, its first female modernist.'