April 2017

A Change in the Lighting by Amy Witting book cover

A Reckoning

‘In capturing Ella, Witting captures how any of us might look or think at our worst, holding ourselves up against any available measure in a desperate effort to find some argument for, some defence of who we are or what we’ve done.’

Paul Auster 4321 book cover

Piling It On For Posterity

'Auster’s attempt to borrow from the chronology and geography of his own life to create a masterful multi-noded bildungsroman is an interesting idea, but 4321 is ultimately far too long-winded and sententious for that idea to properly work.'

The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink book cover

Legal Fiction

'The key distinction between The Woman on the Stairs and Schlink’s earlier fiction is that the past acted on those characters in ways that were hidden to them, but drawn out through the narrative. Here, an unspoken past acts on the protagonist and the narrative asks us to believe that his conversion to a man of empathy occurs without any direct confrontation with his personal and national history.'

No Way But This by Jeff Sparrow book cover

What Ghosts We Might Rise

In writing No Way But This Sparrow seeks to reanimate not only the ghost of Paul Robeson but those of his family, friends and comrades. In other words, this book has an avowedly political goal. It revives Robeson as a model of integrity and bravery – someone who, despite the precarity of his social position, risked his life and career for the ideas of workers’ rights, black liberation, anti-colonialism and international socialism.

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett book cover

No Need Of A Story

For as much as this is a book about the way we skirt around the truth, avoiding the secrets and failures, the ordinariness, with which we might be confronted should we approach truth directly, Pond is also about the way we read'

The Free Mind Essays and Poems in Honour of Barry Spurr

Campus Conservative

'Despite all the scandal, this book will be a great contribution to many different levels of thinking and fields of research. I would like to stress the significant contributions on the predicament of the humanities in the universities today. The ‘Barry Spurr incident’ showed how sensitive we still are about the humanities and how precarious and fragile still remains their civilising role in modern society.'

Staying with the Trouble Making Kin in the Chthulucene by Donna Haraway book cover
Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing book cover

Two Lives

'If, for much of our lives, we regard our parents as indispensable to ourselves, defined and understood by their relationship to us – whether loving or fractious, distant or close – then this last work is Lessing’s gift to hers: a belated acknowledgement of Alfred and Emily as individuals, separate from her and from one another. She offers them a world without the war; without each other; perhaps most intriguingly, without their daughter – and by extension, without their author.'

March 2017

Extinctions by Josephine Wilson book cover

Monster or Mohican

'John Mohegan’s tragedy is that all of his family and his tribe have died. The tragedy of Frankenstein’s monster is that he never had either to begin with. These two tropes of Romantic agony lie at the heart of Josephine Wilson’s Extinctions, a novel about Australia’s Stolen Generation, but also about migration, gender, and the deep traumas of family life.'

Aboriginal Art and Australian Society Hope and Disenchantment by Laura Fisher book cover

Sheer Pleasure

'This is not a study of Aboriginal art but of the way that Aboriginal art has been written and spoken about, mostly in Australia, since the 1970s. Fisher’s object is not only ‘art criticism’, as that phrase is usually understood, but also policy discourse in which Aboriginal art is understood to be a means to an end.'

The Populist Explosion by John B. Judis Book Cover

Bad Hombres

'Why did people vote for Trump? That is the question we should be asking ourselves, and it’s one that’s given extra urgency by the fact that his ascendency is not an isolated case, but the most spectacular instance of a more general phenomenon. In Europe, a veritable basket of deplorables is now angling for the votes of the disaffected. If liberals and leftwingers are serious about wresting momentum from them, they will have to understand their appeal.'

Thermometer sculpture
Showpony Sheriff - Man on horse-back beside tree with ocean waves crashing on rocks in the background
Contemporary Australian Poetry Book Cover

A Storehouse of Poems

'If Contemporary Australian Poetry with its size and inclusiveness is the defining work of the poetry of this period it raises the question of how successfully it meets the requirements of this task. Its making (like that of any other anthology) poses a lot of problems. Editors of general anthologies have to make two fairly tricky judgements: whom to include and omit, and how many poems one poet is represented by in comparison to another. Since, judging by the editors’ introduction, the impetus behind this anthology is as much celebrative as it is forensic, it seems that the answer to the first question is: As many as possible, since a celebration of richness necessarily involves including as many poets as possible.'

Burning as Land Management

February 2017

Southern Conversations:
J.M Coetzee in Buenos Aires

'I suspect what Coetzee means by the ‘real south’ will come more clearly into focus when counterposed with its opposite, ‘the mythic South’. This mythic South is an ‘imagined geography’ constructed through metropolitan discourse, like the Orient in the work of Edward Said. It is the locus onto which the North projects its fantasies, the North’s Other.'

Macintosh Classic 2. Photo by Danamania https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Danamania

Writing on the Precipice

'For writers and artists these challenges are particularly acute. Not only must we confront the inhuman scale of the transformation that is taking place around us, its temporal, physical and moral enormity, we must find ways of making sense of its complexity and interconnectedness. '

Quelccaya Glacier located in southern Peru in the Cordillera Vilcanota.
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose Book Cover

The Mischievous Artistry
of Heather Rose

'Rose might be reckoned to have fashioned a body of work intensely linked in themes, preoccupations and techniques. The mention of a few will introduce a longer look at Rose’s fictional world: mutilation, metamorphosis, accidental deaths, artists working ardently in various mediums, the remote shores and landscapes of Tasmania, the impingement of a benign spirit realm on the daily lives of some of her characters, people ostracised or outcast from whatever need, fault or compulsion.' 

The Vanquished Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923 by Robert Gerwarth Book Cover

The Long First World War

'The recent victory of nationalist parties in Hungary and Poland, with their anti-immigrant rhetoric, has emboldened the likeminded in their western neighbours; they eagerly await coming elections while entreating Australia’s hardline refugee policy. They have already set the agenda with Brexit and in the United States, where rightwing populism prevails. Liberal and leftist pundits are plundering European history for analogies to understand these developments, invoking the German template in particular. Is Trump a fascist, indeed a Nazi? Or, if not, at least some (or many) of his supporters? Reading The Vanquished suggests that excessive attention is paid to Hitler and the 1930s, the politics of which were over-determined by the Great Depression. To understand the fragility of parliamentary regimes and the authoritarian appeal, we need to return to the origin of the interwar conflicts in the years covered by this book.'

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf book cover

Wild Things

'It doesn't matter that Wulf's The Invention of Nature is a bit breathless in keeping up with its dazzling hero, and a bit coy about his relationships, because above all the book is intelligent, an optimistic history, well researched, well written, and an ecological cri de coeur.'

Crimes of the father by Tom Keneally Cover

Children of the Church

'A continued exploration of how mortal weakness, religious ideals and institutional tyrannies are enmeshed has constituted the core of Tom Keneally's art over a long career.'

Desert Writing Stories from country Edited by Terri-ann White book cover

Centre of the Story

'Desert Writing brings to readers stories of desert communities and the individuals who form part of them that are not often featured in literature or media. Train lines have been built, and airports made but the places aren’t any closer; these are remote places – far away from Australia’s heavily populated coastal cities, far from major centres; and far from the imagination of the mainstream population. This distance is what makes these places so interesting, their pasts and futures significant.'