Australian Non-Fiction

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.

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

They Cannot Take The Sky cover

The Greatest Crime: They Cannot Take The Sky

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.

Burning as Land Management
Desert Writing Stories from country Edited by Terri-ann White book cover

Centre of the Story: Desert Writing: Stories from Country

'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.'

Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford Cover

First Person Feminism: Fight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford

Feminist books pitched to a broad audience, whatever their contents, inevitably face the same criticism: okay, what are the solutions then? This charge could be levelled at Ford’s book, in which apart from the injunction to ‘fight like a girl’, hearty encouragement to masturbate as often as you desire and to find a good girl gang, does not offer much in way of a roadmap forward. Certainly, it would have been illuminating to read about feminist campaigns that need more attention and support and to introduce readers to some impressive feminist thinkers who deserve a wider audience. Yet this criticism also strikes me as a little beside the point. The authors of feminist blockbusters have always been better at diagnosis than they have at cure and such books are still necessary, including to help prompt the ‘light-bulb’ of recognition that moves feminist identification along.

Grant and I by Robert Foster cover

One Tank Of Gas: Grant & I
by Robert Forster

'There’s the power of glam and androgyny to Forster’s generation, and with it the influence it had on punk and post-punk. There’s the sensuality of experience that lies at the heart of many of Forster’s tales in the book. There’s the setting of the 1970s as a formative period, where music is glimpsed fleetingly on the radio and the ghosts of pre-war life in Brisbane are hovering. And perhaps most tellingly there’s the drama of Forster’s persona, developed over decades of song- and prose writing.'

Bolt Worth Fighting For Cover

Crying Freedom

Conservatives and libertarians: a happy marriage or heading for divorce?

Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing

Art, Life and the Other Thing: Brett Whiteley Biography

A parallel narrative to the rise of Whiteley as an artist is the detailed account of his sexual promiscuity and his growing dependence on alcohol and drugs.

The Media and the Massacre by Sonya Voumard cover

How To Mediate A Massacre? The Media and the Massacre
by Sonya Voumard

'Twenty years have passed since Martin Bryant shot 35 people dead in a single afternoon in Port Arthur, Tasmania. It remains Australia’s worst recorded shooting spree by a single gunman. The qualifiers are necessary because we don’t know everything that happened in Tasmania, let alone the rest of the country, during the long nineteenth century, when white settlers were busy taking the country by force from its original inhabitants. Despite all the violence of Australian history - despite the sedimented layers of brutality at Port Arthur alone, which was once at the heart of our founding carceral nightmare - Bryant’s murders are fringed with a sense of exception. In a country that has managed to forget so much, this is one thing we just can’t shake. Perhaps it has something to do with the way it was mediated. ‘The Port Arthur massacre haunts Australia’ is the way Sonya Voumard aptly puts it in her book, The Media and the Massacre - Port Arthur 1996-2016. For many, the killer’s very name summons up one of the few images of his face that were relentlessly circulated in all forms of media at the time, images that those who were sentient at the time will never be able to quite forget. He is forever blonde, scruffy, blankly staring.'

Journey to Hourseshoe Bend THG Strehlow cover

To Know Is To Live: On Strehlow’s Journey to Horseshoe Bend

The most inspired writing in Journey to Horseshoe Bend is in Strehlow’s narratives of ‘storied land’. Many ancestral stories relating to animals — wallabies, emus, fish, birds, snakes — are lucidly and meaningfully given.

On Happiness: New Ideas for the Twenty-First Century

Not Suffering, Not Melancholy:
On Happiness

Happiness, perhaps more than any other experience, is defined in the negative.

Gallipoli Reckoning

On Anzac Day, Australian culture anticipates what it confirms: the sending of long-range military expeditions to encourage and support wars in which British or American forces are engaged. Just as there is no serious parliamentary debate over decisions to go to war in the political culture, no interest in ‘war powers’ reform, which might minimise that power in the executive as there has been in Britain, there is little if any questioning of these issues in Australian literary culture either. As Chris Roberts elegantly concludes, Bean’s romance of Anzac excuses our Gallipoli failure by turning ‘failure into heroic achievement’ – or, we could say, by functioning to institutionalise ignorance of our imperial history in a romance that hides behind the false and misleading glory that the nation was born at Gallipoli.

The Grand Deception cover

Churchill’s Silver Bullet: The Grand Deception by Tom Curran

‘We all have an idea that the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns did not turn out well. Dealing with that failure has after all helped to shape the Australian identity. It has given us the Anzac tradition, which rests on a story of heroism in defeat. In his new book on Churchill and the Dardanelles campaign, Tom Curran gives us a penetrating new account of the inception and failure of those campaigns, and so takes us into areas Australian historians have tended to overlook.’