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ABR Arts

Book of the Week

Hazzard and Harrower: The letters

Hazzard and Harrower: The letters edited by Brigitta Olubas and Susan Wyndham

‘Everyone allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female.’ So said Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. Even allowing for Regency hyperbole, there is some truth in the sally. We think of the inimitable letters of Emily Dickinson, who once wrote to a succinct correspondent: ‘It were dearer had you protracted it, but the Sparrow must not propound his crumb.’ In 2001, Gregory Kratzmann edited A Steady Stream of Correspondence: Selected Letters of Gwen Harwood, 1943-1995. Anyone who ever received a letter or postcard from Harwood – surely our finest letter writer – knows what an event that was. She was nonpareil: witty, astringent, frank, irrepressible. Now we have this welcome collection of letters written by Elizabeth Harrower and Shirley Hazzard (unalphabetised on the cover, in a possible concession to the expatriate Hazzard’s international fame).




From the Archive

September 2012, no. 344

Fighting to the Finish: The Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1968–1975 by Ashley Ekins, with Ian McNeill

Fighting to the Finish does not get off to a good start; its title is overstated. The First Australian Task Force (1ATF), trimmed down in 1970 from three to two battalions, withdrew from the Vietnam War by December 1971. The small remaining advisory group withdrew in December 1972. Fighting finished in April 1975, when more than 180 battalions of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) swarmed around Saigon, causing it to fall. It hardly seems sensible to declare that the Australian Army fought to the finish over two years before the end of the war.

From the Archive

February 2012, no. 338

A Common Loss by Kirsten Tranter

It begins with a car accident. Five friends are returning to college after a night of drinking. The driver, Cameron, hits a deer and overturns the vehicle. When the police and ambulance arrive, Dylan, who has drunk the least, claims to have been at the wheel. The others – Elliot, who narrates the story, Tallis, Brian, and especially Cameron – let him assume responsibility. It is, more or less, what Dylan does, what his role in the group is: a mediator, a defuser of tension, a solver of problems. Ten years later, shortly after he is killed in a traffic accident, the details of that night, and other similar instances of Dylan’s particular kind of timely assistance, will resurface as the four gather for their annual reunion in Las Vegas.

From the Archive

May 1986, no. 80

The Amorous Cannibal by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

As artists get older, they are supposed to mature, and commentators begin to look for the demarcations of their three periods, a nice bequest from Beethoven. One vitiating side effect of this is to misplace freshness in their art. Judging the vital middle period works, and bowing before the sublimity of the late, the critic bestows a nostalgic glance over his shoulder to the early output – ah, what freshness, what morning glory there! It may be true of Beethoven, but the experience of most of us lesser creatures is more often the opposite. We start a bit grey and elderly: only later, after much experience, do we throw off ponderousness, embrace wit and light-spiritedness and appear verdant for the public gaze. I hope Chris Wallace-Crabbe will not object to my including him in this (to me) honourable company: those who write, after thirty years on the job, with twice the élan they had at the beginning.