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The SRB in 2018 — Highlights

In 2018 the Sydney Review of Books published over 140 original essays by Australian writers on Australian and international literature, on writing, publishing and our shared culture.

We published long review essays on major works of contemporary Australian literature that were heralded by judges of literary prizes. These included: James Ley on Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come, which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award; Luke Carman on Gerald Murnane’s Border Districts, which won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction; Jeff Sparrow on No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, which won the Victorian Premiers Literary Award and Mark Byron on Blindness and Rage by Brian Castro which won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry.

Our 2018 program was launched with an essay by one of our most celebrated writers. The Still Breathing Author by Gerald Murnane reflects on a life in writing, and has been read and shared widely as Murnane’s books reach new readers in Europe and the United States. SRB essayists journeyed through contemporary Australia literature, and delved into its archive. Jo Langdon contemplated both the early career and recent writing of Merlinda Bobis, Bonny Cassidy returned to the winner of the 1979 Miles Franklin Award, David Ireland’s Woman of the Future and Louis Klee undertook a major survey of Yiddish-Australian literature in his long essay on Pinchas Goldhar and Herz Bergner. Luke Carman wrote about being in the room with Gerald Murnane and Ali Jane Smith plucked Kate Lilley’s Tilt from a shelf full of poetry collections. Kim Cheng Boey wrote about two new collections by Eileen Chong and Martin Duwell took on Sun Music by Judith Beveridge. Shannon Burns surveyed the career of Maria Tumarkin in his review of Axiomatic and Karen Wyld wrote about a new novel  by Melissa Lucashenko.

Craig Munro unpacked the publishing history of Xavier Herbert’s Capricornia and Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda, Frank Bongiorno reviewed Philippa McGuinness’s debut and Charlotte Wood wrote about reading, writing and relatability in the age of social media.  James Ley wrote about The Lebs by Michael Mohammed Ahmad; Sophia Barnes reviewed Ceridwen Dovey’s Garden of the Fugitives and Robert Dixon explored The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones.  Martin Edmond wrote about a new monograph on artist Bronwyn Oliver; Tom Lee reviewed Vanessa Berry’s Mirror Sydney and Michael Farrell discussed Pam Brown’s most recent collection.

A notable addition to our 2018 program was this survey essay on the work of Peter Corris by the distinguished critic Peter Pierce. We were fortunate to count Peter Pierce a contributor to the SRB from our first year of publication, and his death this year was a great loss to Australian literature. Bernadette Brennan recalled the achievement of Georgia Blain in her essay on The Museum of Words,

On the international front, James Jiang weighed up the claims made about literary criticism by Joseph North, James Ley wrote about Marilynne Robinson and Tegan Bennett Daylight tuned into the essays of Brian Dillon. Amanda Tink considered the representative work undertaken by a new anthology of scholarship on literature and disability. Evelyn Juers wrote an essay for the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë and Drusilla Modjeska wrote about new novels about women artists. Vrasidas Karalis contributed a major survey of the work of Nikos Kazantzakis; Anna Poletti wrote about Chris Kraus’s biography of Kathy Acker and Fiona Wright reflected on The Recovering by Leslie Jamison.

In July 2018 Delia Falconer was awarded the Walkley-Pascall Prize for Arts Writing for her superb SRB essay, The Opposite of Glamour. This essay explores the responsibilities of the writer in a lonely age of extinctions:

It is a tragedy for the planet’s wild creatures if they disappear: it is also a tragedy for us.  If we lose all but our most domesticated companions, do we risk becoming something less than the humans we once were? Can we bear to live with just ourselves?

SRB essayists Fiona Wright, Jennifer Mills and David Carlin were shortlisted for the 2018 Woollahra Digital Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

In 2018 we continued to publish striking new literary essays alongside our program of longform reviews. Highlights of our program included: Anwen Crawford on David Wojnarowicz, Ronnie Scott on veganism; Oliver Mol on early fame and Maria Tumarkin on motherhood memoirs. One of our most widely read essays for 2018 was a bibliomemoir by Gabrielle Carey entitled Breaking up with James Joyce, which earned its author a book deal.

In March 2018 we launched a major new series of essays, titled New Nature. Funded by Create NSW, for the core of this project we invited some of the most exciting writers in NSW to test the tropes and conventions of nature writing in 2018. What, we asked them, does it mean to write about nature in a settler nation, in a changing climate. The project gathered the following contributors: Evelyn Araluen, James Bradley, David Carlin, A.J. Carruthers, Jason De Santolo, Ben Denham, Jonathan Dunk, Delia Falconer, Alexis Harley, Sukhmani Khorana, Julie Koh, Astrid Lorange, Jane McCredie, Christie Nieman, Andrew Pippos, Mark Tredinnick, Eve Vincent and Jessica White.

The 2018 recipients of our CA-SRB Emerging Critics Fellowships were Robert D. Wood, Darius Sepheri and Rita Horanyi. The recipients of the fellowships work closely with the SRB editor to develop three essays for publication on the journal. Additional editorial input and mentorship was provided in 2018 by the fellowship judges, Shannon Burns, Ben Etherington and Michelle Cahill.

We published interviews by JM Coetzee with Argentinian writers Pedro Mairal, Samanta Schweblin and Fabian Martinez and another with Maria Dimopoulos and Ariel Magnus. Sandra D’Urso interviewed Sarah Holland-Batt. We made our first foray into podcasting, under the experienced guidance of Fiona Wright. The series Six Degrees from the City showcased the vibrant literary culture of the Western suburbs of Sydney. The audio and transcripts of Wright’s interviews with the following seven writers are featured on the website: Eda Gunaydin, Luke Carman, Walter Mason, Sheila Pham, Lachlan Brown and Oliver Phommavanh.

In partnership with the JM Coetzee Centre at the University of Adelaide, we published a series of essays on literary culture on cultural gatekeeping. These essays were presented at the Provocations Symposium at the JMC Centre in April 2018. The series included new work by Sneja Gunew, Brian Castro, Mark Davies, Jill Jones, Wenche Ommundsen and Michelle Cahill.