As of this week, Sydney Review of Books has a new Editor. Our small but dedicated editorial team is pleased and excited to welcome Catriona Menzies-Pike, who is stepping into the top job while I move into the role of Contributing Editor. Catriona is highly qualified and brings a great deal of valuable experience to the position. She has a PhD in English from the University of Sydney on modernism and editorial theory and has taught literature, film studies, cultural studies and journalism for many years. She also has wide experience in independent digital media, where she has worked as an editor, journalist and reviewer. She was the Managing Editor of the online news and analysis website New Matilda from 2010–13, and more recently Arts Editor with The Conversation.
These are uncertain times for the arts in Australia, not least for those of us involved with books and writing, but at Sydney Review of Books we remain optimistic and forward looking. The Sydney Review of Books is now well into its third year of existence, and we hope to be around for a long time to come. With our newly appointed Editor, we will be working to consolidate our online presence and to forge a distinctive identity in the Australian literary world. Catriona’s knowledge of the rapidly changing landscapes of digital publishing and hands-on experience with emerging media outlets makes her the perfect person to lead Sydney Review of Books into the future. With Catriona at the helm, Sydney Review of Books will be looking to diversify its content, publish more features and interviews, and foster new critical voices, while retaining its core commitment to long-form essays and criticism.
I was saddened this week to learn of the death of Kat Muscat at the appallingly young age of 24. Kat was part of the vibrant young writers’ scene in Melbourne. She was involved with the Emerging Writers Festival and Express Media, edited Voiceworks magazine, and published her work in journals such as Seizure and the Lifted Brow. On behalf of everyone at the Sydney Review of Books, I would like to extend our condolences to Kat’s family and friends.
This week Sydney Review of Books examines the legacy of arguably the most influential religious figure in twentieth-century Australian history. In ‘The Greatest Churchman’, Peter Craven looks at Brenda Niall’s substantial new biography of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, a man who over the course of his extraordinarily long life ‘meddled with politics like a master magician’. Mannix was complicated and controversial figure, who opposed conscription and was later involved, along with the no less controversial figure of B. A. Santamaria and his ‘Movement’, in the machinations that led to the post-war split in the Australian Labor Party, which kept it out of office for decades. Craven traces the life and times of the Irish-born Mannix, and the evolution of his idiosyncratic political views, commending Niall for her vivid portrait of a charismatic and elusive man:
Mannix suffered insult but did not return injury, though there is no denying that this monk without a monastery was a man of flint and that opposition was his essence. He remarked that Billy Hughes ‘called me a liar and a traitor and a rebel, but I always called him Mr Morris Hughes’. Yet in Mannix’s mouth the currency of courtesy had its sting.
From the Archives this week looks at another aspect of Australian history. In ‘An Epic Forgetting’, Anna Clark examines two recent works that address the issue of frontier violence: Henry Reynold’s Forgotten War (2013) and Nicholas Clements’ The Black War (2014). Reading these books against the backdrop of the attention lavished on the commemoration of Anzac Day, Clark raises the issue of the unwillingness of many Australians to recognise the extent of the violence that accompanied aboriginal dispossession. It is imperative, she argues, that the frontier wars that shaped Australia not only be remembered, but that their lasting significance be understood.