Australian Fiction

‘Everyone I talk to remembers Tirra Lirra by the River as a wonderful book, sometimes even as a life-changing one. But why don’t we hear anything about it today?’ This was a young journalist who ... ... (read more)

The Diamond Anchor by Jennifer Mills & The China Garden by Kristina Olsson

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June 2009, no. 312

It is a common assumption that nothing much happens in small country towns; that they are insular places where people live their entire lives, unchallenged by the outside world. But I never found the towns I lived in to be stagnant: conservative and sometimes small-minded, yes, but never uniformly dull. Individuals and families come and go; people run away or arrive, seeking refuge; people return after years of absence to settle down again.

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If you can say immediately what you think a novel is ‘about’, then the chances are that it may not be a very good novel. Fiction as a genre gives writers and readers imaginative room to move, to work on a vertical axis of layers of meaning as well as along the horizontal forward movement of narrative development ...

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Miss Maude Silver, Miss Jane Marple, where are you, with your splendid and authoritative bosoms, your discreet inquiries, natural reticence, and cunning powers of deduction? Oh, a long way from these sisters in crime.

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To an outside observer of the Australian literary and cultural scene, the Ern Malley hoax is one of those spin-offs in the Australian experience that keep on conjuring up Mark Twain’s famous dictum of the nature of the country’s history: ‘It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies ... 

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Halfway through Matthew Flinders’ Cat, the protagonist admits that, when writing, he finds it ‘almost impossible to leave out what others might think of as superfluous detail. It was, he knew, self-indulgence.’ Is this a moment of self-directed irony on Bryce Courtenay’s part, or a case of the pot calling the kettle black? This novel brims with ‘superfluous detail’, and there is little attempt to curb the flow of information.

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'History always emphasises terminal events,’ Albert Speer observed bitterly to his American interrogators just after the end of the war, according to Antony Beevor in Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (2002). Few events in recent history were more terminal than the Holocaust, it might be urged. Yet the singularity of that ‘terminus’ has been questioned in recent years ... 

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Joan London’s new novel, Gilgamesh, is the story of several generations of travellers, moving between Australia, London, and Europe, as far east as Armenia. As such, it is part of a long and venerable tradition in Australian fiction: a tradition of quest narratives organised around topographical and cultural difference ... 

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A Symposium on the state of Australian Fiction with McKenzie Wark, Katharine England, and James Bradley ... (read more)

My Boyfriend’s Father by Ben Winch & The Man Who Painted Women by John Newton

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July 1996, no. 182

‘When I was eighteen my boyfriend’s father died in jail.’ This is the opening sentence of Ben Winch’s second novel; it is also the conclusion of the novel and, having got that out of the way, we can settle into the details that will tell us why this man died in jail and what his story means for this now eighteen-year-old woman.

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