March 2018

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
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.

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

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.'

December 2017


A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey book cover

Carey’s Race: A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey

A Long Way From Home is a novel that seeks to start a conversation about what Australia stands for—who we are as a nation and what stories we want to retell and remember. It is Carey’s attention to the construction of Australian identity that is both the strength and weakness of this novel. For all its clever metaphors and allegorical flourishes, A Long Way From Home sits somewhere between a meaningful novel about Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal identity in Australia and a novel of well-meaning gestures. In writing about the silenced Aboriginal history of this country and appropriating Aboriginal voices and trauma to do so, Carey is wading into an ethically and politically fraught arena.

Fictive Selves: The Life to Come

De Kretser is an ironist without peer in contemporary Australian writing. Her instincts are subversive, her scalpel well-honed. She exposes her characters’ vanities, only to turn our sense of their thoughtlessness and self-regard inside-out so that we might sympathise with their loneliness. Her powers of social observation are as acute as her awareness of the fictions we live by.

The Crazy Games of John Clarke

John Clarke had been in training to write The Tournament his whole life. He was curious about everything. He loved ideas. He was extraordinarily sensitive to language and to effects of style. He was a brilliant mimic and parodist. He had the nerveless approach of the encyclopaedist. And he adored the idiom of sports commentary.

Richard Flanagan First Person cover

The Horror! The Horror!: First Person by Richard Flanagan

At times, when reading this novel, I felt as if I had passed from the realm of colonial romance to that of science fiction, and was learning about a strange society inhabited only by men, in which no women existed except as holographic projections of some masculine need or fear.