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December 2021, no. 438

December 2021

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Book of the Week

Biography

Leaping into Waterfalls: The enigmatic Gillian Mears by Bernadette Brennan

In 2011, Bernadette Brennan convened a symposium on ‘Narrative and Healing’ at the University of Sydney, an opportunity for specialists in medicine and bereavement to meet writers with comparable interests. Helen Garner, for example, spoke about Joe Cinque’s Consolation. The day included an audiovisual piece about death as a kind of homecoming, with reference to the prodigal son, and exquisite photographs, including a picture of an elderly Irishman wheeling a bicycle with a coffin balanced on the seat and handlebars: austere and moving, a vision of austere and careful final transportation. Since 2011, Bernadette Brennan has written two literary biographies: A Writing Life: Helen Garner and her work (2017); and the wonderfully titled Leaping into Waterfalls: The enigmatic Gillian Mears. As with the Symposium, each biography is a genuine enquiry, a gathering of unexpected elements, and an invitation to later conversation. Brennan writes of Leaping into Waterfalls as an extension of a conversation she had with Mears in 2012. The Mears biography is certain to be a talking point for years to come.

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From the Archive

May 1982, no. 40

The Gift of the Gab by Barry Dickins

This book is the best thing that’s happened to me since J.D. Salinger covered his typewriter, or went to Mars or whatever it was that happened to him. It’s a book to put in your satchel and take everywhere, so that in times of stress, you can take it out, read a chapter and feel your heart lift. In fact, it’s really too good for me to write about, but I don’t suppose the editor would be amused by a silent tribute.

From the Archive

January-February 2015, no. 368

Geoffrey Blainey reviews 'Dick Hamer' by Tim Colebatch

Rupert (‘Dick’) Hamer proved to be one of Australia’s most innovative premiers. One sign of his unusual prestige is that this history of his life and times has perhaps been publicly praised more by Labor leaders than by his own Liberal colleagues.

Hamer’s family background was in the church, law, business, and politics. His paternal grandfather was the minister of the wealthy Independent Church (now called St Michael’s) on Collins Street, where he was distinguished for his highbrow sermons and the astonishingly high salary he received. Hamer was born in 1916 and was formally christened Rupert after a relative who had died at Gallipoli the previous year. He was a studious boarder at Geelong Grammar, eventually winning first class honours in three languages – Latin, French, and Ancient Greek. A school friend described him as never ‘fussed or flustered’. Those qualities remained with him. He could come home to suburban Canterbury after a turbulent week in parliament and sleep like a rock, then dig happily in the garden next morning.

From the Archive

April 1994, no. 159

Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture by John Carroll

When Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth appeared in Britain, British feminists asked, ‘where has Naomi Wolf been for the last 20 years?’ The same question might well be asked of John Carroll. His assessment of humanism seems imperiously oblivious to structuralist and poststructuralist critiques of the humanist edifice.

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