August 2017

Taboo by Kim Scott book cover

Properly Alive: Taboo by Kim Scott

'Taboo is an extraordinary testament to the new energies in Aboriginal storytelling that have emerged since the 1990s, the decade the Mabo decision overturned the legal fiction of terra nullius and recognised Aboriginal land claims in Australian law for the first time. As Scott said in 2012: ‘This is an Aboriginal nation, you know. It’s black country, the continent. Some people are starting to think about: can we graft a contemporary Australian community onto its Indigenous roots?’

Have Been and Are by Brook Emery book cover

An Amazing Shorthand

'Like some austere ancestor, venerated, often denigrated, notoriously difficult and spiky, philosophy has the reputation for being rational and analytic, seeking an entirely objective account of things as they are. Poetry is, for many, the most subjective form of writing, heavily reliant on emotion rather than cool reasoning.'

Genocide A World History by Norman M Naimark book cover

The Crime of Crimes:
Genocide: A World History

'Genocide is distinct from broader terms such as war crimes and crimes against humanity. In Genocide: A World History, Naimark reviews cases of genocide dating to the ancient world, working through the warrior genocides committed by the Crusaders and the Mongols, to the Spanish conquest of the Americas, to what he terms the ‘settler’ genocides that occurred in North America, Africa and Australia.' 

A Writing Life cover

Love and Rhetoric: A Writing Life

'I had the sensation of ‘growing up’ as a result of reading Brennan’s book. This statement expects no flabbergasted reaction. Many of us know that books have tracked our lives – and with Garner, it is from inner-city, communal living in Monkey Grip, to families in The Children’s Bach, to the enigma of the spiritual in Cosmo Cosmolino, to death in The Spare Room.'

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty book cover

Elvis and Jane Austen in Monterey:
Big Little Lies

'Madeline Martha Mackenzie, the central character in Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel Big Little Lies  thinks of Pirriwee, the fictional suburb on Sydney’s northern beaches where she lives, and where the action of the novel takes place, as a "country village". This is a signpost to Jane Austen’s oft-quoted statement "Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on."' 

Grand Hotel Abyss by Stuart Jeffries book cover

Politics Without Gasoline:
Grand Hotel Abyss

''Stuart Jeffries’ group biography, Grand Hotel Abyss tells the story of the Frankfurt School, its central figures, and their most significant affiliates. The collective accomplishment of these thinkers, it shows, was to develop a critical theory with which to apprehend what it means to live and think through an historical period during which the left would achieve fewer and fewer victories.' '

Keep up with the SRB

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter

Please leave this field empty.

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

July 2017

Bright Air Black

Medea Redux

'Vann’s Medea is complex, but she isn’t unique. She joins a long tradition of depicting Medea as a wild barbarian princess. Medea is always a double outsider, a woman and a foreigner. Sometimes, as with the suffragettes, her position as a representative of the female gender is stressed and Medea becomes the spokeswoman for all women. Elsewhere, including in Bright Air Black, greater emphasis is placed on her alien status.'

Lyrebirds
Winnie Dunn
Rattling Spears A History of Indigenous Australian Art by Ian McLean

The Shimmer of Light

'Martin Edmonds on a new history of Indigenous Australian art 'Nothing is simple in this philosophical arena, where rattling spears and tjurunga contend with sextants and theodolites; cans of spray paint with the sepia tones of old colonial photographs. The question is how to make a future. If the Dreaming was always about eternity poured into time, the problem the Enlightenment brought with it—along with its Cartesian accoutrements—was how to protect eternity from time.' '

Beren and Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien book cover
They Cannot Take The Sky cover

The Greatest Crime

They Cannot Take the Sky gathers thirty-five stories of men and women who have experienced Australia’s detention regime. Some are now living in Australia and others remain locked up. Each oral history, told to one of the book’s editors, transcribed and translated, bears witness to the resilience of the human spirit and to its fragility. Together these stories are a condemnation of the border policies that have permitted the long-term incarceration and criminalisation of refugees and asylum seekers.

A Review of a Review

Sneja Gunew responds to Simon Patton.

An uncertain grace by Krissy Kneen book cover

A Fluctuating Charm

'An Uncertain Grace is a strange, daring and clever novel and Kneen’s openness to connections that many other novelists never dream of making is exhilarating. Her characters wreck themselves with sex and science as they seek ways to live with extinctions, inundations and pollution – and yet Kneen is able to salvage optimism from the wreckage. '

Fragments by Antigone Kefala book cover

In Short Measures

'The title Fragments refers to more than just the extent of the poems; it also hints at broken-ness, loss, the passage of time that takes us out of life. This is confirmed by the themes Kefala tackles in this collection, most of them pitched in a minor key.'

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy book cover

Love Gets Slanted

'The novel is a genre in the making, this much we know; it is a crucible for metaphysics as well as history; but its heart, its soul lies in itself and in its capacity to undercut monological points of view. Sadly the undercutting is missing in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and the ideological celebration, the activist impulse, is all one-sided. There is no acknowledgement of a nation desperately trying to hold itself together.'

June 2017

Miles Franklin
Anthony Macris
The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet

Semiologists Beware

'It would be wrong to regard Binet’s novel as not much more than a sophisticated and hugely entertaining send-up. He sees, certainly, the absurd aspects of semiotics and the other ‘sciences’ his characters profess. But he also registers their allure and fascination. The clue to discovering what that allure and fascination might be has to do with the particular source of his preoccupations. When Theory crossed the English Channel, the Atlantic and then travelled to the Antipodes, it left behind its French playfulness.'

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders book cover

John Clarke: A Postscript

'Who will be our national conscience now?'

Ghostspeaking by Peter-Boyle book cover

A Kaleidoscope of Experience

'In this new work,  Peter Boyle looks away from the centres of Anglophone poetry that so often form the tradition with which Australian poets place themselves in conversation, and instead seeks alternate points of correspondence. The eleven ‘fictive’ poets that he conjures for his reader here are poets that are exist in ‘translation’, from non-existent bodies of work in Spanish and French... The twelfth voice that stitches them together, that of the ‘translator’ we may as well call Peter Boyle, is equally fictive, equally real.'

Blue Skies by Helen Hodgman book cover

The Harsh Light of Day

'It is common for Tasmanian literature to be softlit with the kinds of autumnal colours that are so flattering to sandstone convict ruins, a contrast to the red dust and white gums of much mainland Australian writing. Helen Hodgman turns up the intensity, creating a glare under which she examines human desperation and ugliness. It is usual, in writing about Tasmania, for dawns and dusks to proliferate. Instead, Hodgman gives us broad daylight—precisely, a never-ending three o’clock.'