Drusilla Modjeska

I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall when Ta-Nehisi Coates has dinner with James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe – and, as long as I'm out of range, up on the ceiling when Rudyard Kipling joins them.

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Twenty-five years ago, Drusilla Modjeska's Poppy reimagined boldly the possibilities for Australian memoir. Modjeska recounts in her new memoir, Second Half First, how in her inaugural appearance at a writers' festival she was on a panel discussing autobiography with two established British writers, Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion. Poppy ...

The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska

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May 2012, no. 341

Papua New Guinea doesn’t loom large in Australian literature. As Nicholas Jose says, our ‘writers have not much looked in that direction for material or inspiration’. Drusilla Modjeska is thus entering relatively new territory for Australian fiction with an ambitious epic set in PNG. It is also a new venture for her: Poppy (1990), her only previous ‘novel’, won two non-fiction awards. She has said that ‘as neither term seemed right, I opted for both’ – autobiography and fiction.

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Secrets by Drusilla Modjeska, Amanda Lohrey and Robert Dessaix

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November 1997, no. 196

That old rhyme sits unpondered in the memory of every woman or man who grew up to speak English or chant it in the many incantatory rituals of childhood. It is locked in there, partnered with the rhythmic thud of a skipping rope and spirals drawn on your palm to test endurance, in the exquisite torture test that was part primitive ordeal, part initiation into a social community that had its mysteries and its taboos and its transgressions. Children move naturally in this world of internalised rhythms, of things unexplained, of enigma and excitement.

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Sisters by Drusilla Modjeska

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September 1993, no. 154

A few years ago, there was a great song on the radio, a song about remembering riding with an assortment of brothers and sisters in the back seat of the car. I don’t even recall the name of the song, much less the name of the band, but there was a line in the chorus that used to wipe me out: ‘And we all have our daddy’s eyes.’

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Christina Stead can take comfort, if such were to give comfort and if comfort were what she needed, that the publication of a reader of extracts from her work must signify that she is established not only on the reading lists of our universities – a dubious honour she has had for some time – but also, I presume, in our high schools. I cannot imagine who else this sort of book can possibly be aimed at. Perhaps at people who want to appear to have read Christina Stead but do not relish the work of reading her admittedly lengthy novels. In which case they deserve all that they miss. Is the next step towards the heights of literary honour to be, like Dickens, condensed? Our school children, at any rate, deserve better. Christina Stead certainly does.

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Exiles at Home is a fascinating work by a feminist of the 1970s about a group of anti-fascist feminists of the 1920s and 1930s. From it we learn as much about the world view of the author as we do about the politics of its subjects. A serious book, about serious writers, it examines novels for their historical rather than for their literary interest. It offers no real criticism of writing styles, and no comparison with modem feminist authors. Nor is it a book to be read in the hope of rediscovering almost forgotten characters from our literary past.

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