Fiction

November 2018

A Drenched Texture

Like so many writers, I turned to this paltry profession precisely because I couldn’t handle the other, more demanding dimensions of life. As a demographic, writers struggle with what others regard as ‘reality’, and we are thereby driven to provide our own fictional supplements to the oppressive regimes of the real. For this reason, I’m generally disinclined towards anyone with a talent for fiction who is also a winner in other, realer ways. If a man is tall, handsome, and a deft hand at reality television – I ask what business he has wading into the nervous territory of writers, who have only their power to generate alternative realities to tranquilise their abnormal eccentricities.

Mrs Osmond by John Banville

The Ghostwriters of Henry James

Tales from a Master’s Notebook is an appreciation of James’s creative imagination. I mean, it is an appreciation in the strong sense in which James used that word, to denote not a languid state of passive admiration, but an active process of interpretation and production, both critical and creative, whereby the maximum value of a situation could be discovered and set forth. Appreciation in this sense is central to James’s conception of art. ‘My report of people’s experience – my report as a “story-teller” – is essentially my appreciation of it’, James wrote in the Preface to The Princess Casamassima, ‘and there is no “interest” for me in what my hero, my heroine or any one else does save through that admirable process.’

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

October 2018

The Everlasting Sunday by Robert Lukins

Found by Trouble

The authors share a lyrical sensibility and a finely-tuned sense of how the fantastical and the mundane, the hopeful and the brutal, are woven together in the stories which define our communities.

Crudo by Olivia Laing

Some Devoted Act of Seeing:
Crudo by Olivia Laing

In Crudo, Laing’s most recent book and her debut novel, the ground has shifted again. She is still an outsider – this is, for Laing, the natural position for an artist – but her point of view – an auto-fictional eye, principally narrated in the third person, who borrows from the life and work of Kathy Acker – is directed towards the inner life and the picture theatre of the mind.

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Our Root Problem: The Overstory by Richard Powers

‘Words before words’: in opposition to several hundred years of humanist ideology, Powers’ twelfth novel insists, from its very first page, on meaning as something other than, and more than, the projection of culture upon nature’s blank screen. Trees, we will later be told, are ‘making significance, making meaning, as easily as they make sugar and wood from nothing, from air, and sun, and rain’. Indeed, Powers strives throughout to suggest how the would-be-autonomous sphere of human meaning depends upon those deeper orders that it has, in the modern era, gone to such pains to dismiss.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

A Family of Disguises

'This preoccupation with the secret histories woven through the pages of official histories is signalled by the novel’s unattributed epigraph, ‘most of the great battles are fought in the creases of topographical maps’. It’s an extension of Ondaatje’s larger preoccupation with the question of how we understand and imagine ourselves into being, or more specifically, the ways in which that process is always provisional, subject to change and able to be shed, sometimes more than once. As Olive Lawrence tells Nathaniel and Rachel, ‘your own story is just one, and perhaps not the important one. The self is not the principal thing’.'