Project: Critic Watch
On critics, criticism and critical culture. Everyone loves it until they’re on it.
The Living and the Undead
‘Though few would associate one with the other, the ‘Bard of Bunyah’ and the writer once renowned for being the country’s first Aboriginal novelist lived remarkably parallel literary lives. They were born three months apart in 1938; they both lost parents early in life and endured difficult childhoods in rural towns; they led somewhat peripatetic existences in their early twenties before publishing their first books to modest acclaim in 1965; they rose in reputation through the 1970s and 80s (Murray much more quickly than Mudrooroo) and by the 1990s had become singular presences in Australian literature; they had life and career defining moments in 1996 that brought on the final phase of their literary careers. Last year, they died four months apart. In all, Murray spent 42 more days on this earth than Mudrooroo.’
The Poet Tasters
No one believes that most Australian poetry volumes are a couple of edits or a tempered excess away from being a perfect version of themselves, but this is what, en masse, the reviews tell us. A biddable reader will have the impression that all debutants are ones to watch; that, three volumes in, all poets have consolidated their style; and that after five or more volumes they are accomplished and take their place in the nation’s poetic story. The quantum of praise does not add up.
The Real Deal: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
How do we understand the critical response to Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites? In order to distinguish authentic aesthetic judgements amongst the reviews it will help to consider the way the advance for Burial Rites fits into the logic of trade book publishing.
Road to omission
How do you review the ‘experimental novel’? Critic Watch turns its gaze to the reviews of Anthony Macris’ Great Western Highway: A Love Story (Capital, Volume One, Part Two). With a response from Jeffrey Poacher.
All That I Am
by Anna Funder