University of Queensland Press

Following the success of her first novel, Claire Zorn displays her remarkable talent again in The Protected. Although the books are vastly different (The Sky So Heavy [2013] is a futuristic survival thriller, while The Protected is a coming-of-age story coloured by grief), thematically they have many similarities. Zorn is adept at exploring the challenges and complexities of growing up, and the fallibility of adults.

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1953 by Geoff Page

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March 2013, no. 349

Geoff Page’s 1953 is set in the town of Eurandangee, which, we learn, is about 650 kilometres north-west of Sydney ...

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A good novel can use personal drama to humanise history. A small story becomes powerful because of the ideas it represents, and the political, removed from the realm of theory and made concrete, has a tangible impact that can foster empathy and understanding. When done poorly, as it is here, the reverse occurs and the large concepts are reduced, lessened into triviality by the hollowness of the tale.

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The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer is a novel that manages to be absolutely itself, with a wholly idiosyncratic voice, while at the same time acting as a veritable echo chamber of earlier writers. The first page, with its lofty insistence about what ‘should not surprise the world’ in the behaviour of a young woman with the surname Ward, immediately calls to mind Mansfield Park, and the Austen echo is redoubled by the fact that her first name is Marianne. However, Preston’s narrator proceeds to address her readers with a confidence she might have learned from Anthony Trollope, while elsewhere providing information in bulleted lists, a trick Laurence Sterne would probably have found useful had he been writing a couple of centuries later.

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This volume contains all the poems that Rosemary Dobson wants to preserve. They represent a substantial portion of her output, which seems right for a poet who began with a degree of quiet confidence and poise that belied her youth. From the earliest, published when she was in her twenties ...

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Even at the age of eighty-four it appears that our censors of old possessed a moral clarity that no longer exists. Censorship was carried out by the state as a force of moral purpose, protecting the population from the consequences of reading banned literature: to wit, moral decline and subversion, particularly among the powerless. This was pertinent to children whose innocence entailed a lack of knowledge of moral turpitude and who were seen as particularly vulnerable.

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Frontier Justice by Andy Lamey & Contesting Citizenship by Anne McNevin

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April 2012, no. 340

Australian advocates of a harsh line against asylum seekers arriving by boat often base their arguments on a concern for the protection of human life. Unless we deter boat people, so the reasoning goes, ever greater numbers will set out on the dangerous voyage from Indonesia, and more and more lives will be lost at sea. This may sound like a novel position, but, as Andy Lamey makes clear in Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do about It, the argument is well worn. In the early 1990s, Presidents Bush Sr and Clinton used similar justifications to defend a policy of intercepting boats from Haiti and returning them directly to Port au Prince, without making any assessment as to whether those on board might have claims to protection from Haiti’s dictatorial régime.

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About a third of the way into Simon Cleary’s Closer to Stone, all of the preceding distinctively phrased metaphors and similes, all of the fragrant, lucid imagery – along with some that is rather less than lucid: how, exactly, does one pick up a drink and take a ‘deep sip’? – begin to meld into a compelling whole. Narrator Bas Adams, scouring the immense unknown of the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria for his brother Jack, who has been absent without notice from duty as a United Nations peacekeeping soldier, has come across the woman who last saw him alive. Sophia, a strong-willed, self-sufficient American schoolteacher, informs Bas that Jack had been undergoing a process of recuperation, though not from any physical ailment: ‘his need,’ she says, ‘was like a wound [...] he was dying inside, and he had the courage to choose another life.’

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Although it has been almost half a century since 1968, a year readily mythologised in Australian poetry, the so-called Generation of ’68 are still the most talked-about contemporary poets. There have been few attempts to define the next generations of poets. Forty-three years is a long definition of what might be deemed ‘contemporary’.

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Jaya Savige’s first book, latecomers (2005), was an impressive début and won the New South Wales Kenneth Slessor Award for Poetry in 2006. Surface to Air is a more varied, equally impressive, volume. Savige meditates on the poet Tasso’s oak tree (inspired by Peter Porter’s ‘Tasso’s Oak’), a survivor of Hiroshima, the Big Brother television show, and, as this book’s epigraph by W.S. Merwin might predict, the loss of an uncontaminated natural world, or Eden: ‘kneel by the sky-blue bic that nests / in the shallow bowels of an albatross carcass’ (‘Recycling Night’).

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