Writing NSW

In 2016 the Sydney Review of Books is publishing a series of 16 literary essays rooted in the geography, culture and social life of NSW. Authored by a diverse group of emerging and established NSW authors, Writing NSW maps a set of locations and proposes new formal frontiers for the essay. How, these writers ask, does place constitute culture – and how does culture shape our experiences of the places we live in, write in, and sometimes leave. Anchored in their authors’ experiences of place, the series invites discussion of the significance of locality to both Australian and international literature.

Essays by: Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Vanessa Berry, Luke Carman, Felicity Castagna, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Anwen Crawford, Peter Doyle, Tom Lee, Anthony Macris, Peter Minter, Mark Mordue, Suneeta Peres da Costa, Matt Thompson, Ellen Van Neerven, Alison Whittaker, Ed Wright, and Fiona Wright

We are grateful to Arts NSW for funding to commission and publish this series.
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Lebs and Punchbowl Prison

‘There were 1200 students at Punchbowl Boys High School in 1985. That year a brick was hurled at Mr Stratton’s head and a gradual process of expulsions began so that by the time I arrived at the school in 1998, there were only 299 students left.’

Dial-a-gun Daily Telegraph clipping

A Northern Rivers Romance

'I began to imagine the landscape of Byron Bay, so as to rehearse in advance the pitfalls awaiting. For a setting: the vague image of a beach somewhere: a bright sun and a long curving beach populated by tourists in shorts and thongs, the air stinking of seaweed and sunscreen, a hot burning sensation spread across my cheeks and sand between my toes. High to the right, I saw a limestone lighthouse on a hill, and seagulls rising to a background of clouds. This seemed a suitable conception of a beachside paradiso, one likely to fit some part of the bay’s picture. A memory intervened in this idyll: I remembered what it should not be possible to forget: for a while, at least, I was a married man, and had honeymooned deep in the forests of the riverlands of northern New South Wales, stopping and staying in Byron on the way there.'

Luke Carman portrait


The Suspended Image

'I stood with my face almost touching a wall of glass, a sheer window looking out into an immense depth, a profound, almost unfathomable dark green chasm girded by sandstone precipices and a halo of mist and cloud. It had been raining all afternoon. In the diminishing light the distant wet cliffs looked dark orange, blood red, gold. A motionless wing of pure white cloud floated over the valley floor like an apparition on a billow of air.'

Joanna Logue 'Towards the gloaming' acrylic on paper

The Place of Terrorism in Australia

'I want to live my culture, my way of life within my country. Often this means a humble existence; a freedom that requires constant access to our traditional and natural world, always with an emphasis on family and cultural exchange.'

We are here and we are significant

Long before those postcards of Bondi Beach and Sydney Harbour co-opted our image of Sydney, Parramatta was its watery centre.

Back to Cronulla

‘Cronulla had changed, and the image of it I still carried was one that had set in amber, and had become as kitsch and heavy as a paperweight – not to mention as obsolete.’

Image credit: Rowen Atkinson, some rights reserved (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/). This image has been cropped.

Excavating St Peters

‘This is a typical St Peters scene: unlovely, surreal, resistant to investigation.’

Post-Industrial, Holland Street, St Peters.