McPhee Gribble

Before you start this novel, take a big, deep breath. Aljaz Cosini – riverguide, ex-footballer, drifter – is drowning, and we’re going along for the ride. There he is, stuck fast beneath the surface of Tasmania’s Franklin River, hopelessly wedged between rocks, his one free arm waving grotesquely to the unlikely band of adventurers who have paid for his services. The irony isn’t lost on him. Not much is lost on him at all. It seems his whole life, from his miraculous birth (struggling to break free from the restrictive sac of amniotic fluid) to his final humiliation on the river, has been leading inevitably to this moment. And now the river carries not only his own past but the pasts of all those who have gone before him like a great tide of stories washing over him, pushing him down, forcing more and more water into his lungs. Stories, stories, stories. A world and a land and even a river full of the damn slippery things.

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John Nieuwenhuizen reviews 'Cosmo Cosmolino' by Helen Garner

John Nieuwenhuizen
Monday, 23 November 2020

The inner-suburban dinginess of Cosmo Cosmolino could place Helen Gamer within an honourable tradition stretching at least from Dickens (Charles) to Dickins (Barry). It is a tradition that, observing the mundane and the domestic (not to be confused with each other), has produced works of pathos and wit, of great emotional intensity and sparkling humour. It is a tradition within which great writers have managed to invest dull lives, mean-spirited characters, and tawdry events with charm and universal significance, with an appeal reaching beyond the local and the specific. It is also a tradition within which great novelists ensure that their readers’ sympathy and curiosity are aroused to the extent that they will keep turning the pages well beyond bedtime and care about what comes next.

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Susan Lever reviews 'Men On Women' by Kevin Childs

Susan Lever
Friday, 20 November 2020

Reading Kevin Child’s book, Men on Women, creates the irresistible temptation to answer on behalf of the women. I can imagine them offering the following kind of replies to their sons and lovers.

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Marion Campbell’s first book is an ambitious work in which large themes are explored through the consciousness of a complex character, Rita Finnerty, a twenty-five-year-old Australian artist living in France. The writing is richly dense with images, symbolic clues, psychological insight poetic and painterly language, time layered with memory and even stories within the story.

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In the title story of Kerryn Goldsworthy’s impressive first collection, a man and a woman are travelling inland from the city towards the point where main roads give way to obscure tracks. Their relationship is failing, though they have yet to admit this to each other.

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These two very different novels by women provide a wealth of suggestive information about the women’s history being reclaimed and re-established by Australian feminists. They also happen to be intrinsically good novels, accomplished and charming in contrasting ways. Add Cambridge’s The Three Miss Kings, reprinted in the Virago Modem Classics series, was first serialised in 1883 in The Australasian, published in novel form in 1891, and soon became one of Cambridge’s most popular novels. It draws upon the familiar form of the romance, but it also, in its translation into an Australian setting, illuminates an idiosyncratic colonial grafting onto that form.

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Susan Ryan reviews 'I am a Boat' by Sally Morrison

Susan Ryan
Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Collections of new Australian short stories by a single author have become a regular feature of Australian literary publishing in recent years. They are a welcome addition to the range of new writing available to the reading public. Collections that have unity of style, are thematically coherent and present a linked set of perceptions from the one creative source offer the reader much more than a light or fragmentary experience. Instead of the sustained characterisation of the novel, they can achieve a dazzling variety of episodes and mood. Robert Drewe’s Body Surfers and Helen Garner’s Postcards from Surfers are outstanding examples of how good the best collections of stories can be. It was a great delight to pick up I am a Boat by Sally Morrison and find that, although it is only her second book, in style, originality and literary quality, Morrison is fast approaching the Drewe and Garner class.

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Dinny O’Hearn reviews 'Velvet Waters' by Gerald Murnane

Dinny O’Hearn
Friday, 07 February 2020

I have walked long and often with this writer man, travelled with him on trains, listened to him give exact references on the Melways map, noted him noting his whereabouts and those places about and abutting his whereabouts, and I am still uncertain why his work interests me so much, unless it be that the geography of the imagination is the first and the last landscape of grasslands to be explored and that the inland of an island such as ours will always be an ambiguous place which may display a real sea and a centre or mirages of either.

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Lucy Frost reviews 'Milk' by Beverley Farmer

Lucy Frost
Friday, 07 February 2020

Greek and English, the Greek father and Australian mother, the child in the middle who looks at one object and sees different creatures – no catch-phrase like ‘culture conflict’ says much about what is happening in Ismini’s life at this moment. The story does, however, in the strong, unblinkered prose of Beverley Farmer as she writes with unfaltering sensitivity about Greece, about Australians in Greece and Greeks in Australia, and, painfully, about couples and the families who mix their cultures with their love and hate.

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David English reviews 'Minimum of Two' by Tim Winton

David English
Friday, 20 December 2019

A little puce head slipped out, followed by a rush of blood and water. Jerra saw it splash onto the gynaecologist’s white boots. Across Rachel’s chest the little body lay tethered for a moment while smocks and masks pressed hard up against Rachel’s wound. He saw a needle sink in. Someone cut the cord. Blood, grey smears of vernix. The child’s eyes were open. Jerra felt them upon him. From the little gaping mouth, pink froth issued. They snatched him up.

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