Archive

So much activity outside
where sunlight spills across the snow
like cream –

... (read more)

Gordon Kerry’s New Classical Music is a valuable addition to the small body of literature about Australian composers. The author sets out by placing his project in the context of several important earlier books on the subject, notably Roger Covell’s Australia’s Music: Themes of a New Society (1967) and the Frank Calloway–David Tunley collection of essays, Australian Composition in the Twentieth Century (1978). Kerry’s project is rather different from either of these, however; where Covell was consciously writing history (and perhaps deliberately shaping it at the same time), and where Calloway and Tunley commissioned independent articles on major composers, Kerry attempts something much more elusive – a more or less synchronic survey of the entire field in the last thirty years.

... (read more)

      Rain bubble-wrapping the windows. Rain
falling as though someone ran a blade down the spines
   of fish setting those tiny backbones free. Rain
            with its squinting glance, rain

... (read more)

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

by
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.

... (read more)

Disco Boy by Dominic Knight

by
June 2009, no. 312

Dominic Knight’s début novel chronicles a life on hold. Its narrator, Paul Johnson, is a twenty-five-year-old law graduate from Sydney University. Single and living off his parents, he detests his job as a mobile DJ, yet also loathes the prospect of working in a legal firm like his friend, Nige, whose life ‘is a corporate T-shirt saying “work hard, play hard”’. Paul’s comic struggles to overcome indecision and inertia shape the narrative, and the inner-city culture of Sydney’s young professionals provide its backdrop.

... (read more)

Along with regular features, this bumper edition of the Poets’ Union journal, Five Bells, includes the proceedings of festival discussions in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth: sixteen strongly argued, well-crafted papers by some of Australia’s best poets, variously considering the state of Australian poetry now. For all the individual interest of these papers, this collection’s strength lies in the way they set up parallels and contradictions, working together like a long, amiable argument.

... (read more)

‘A large part of the beauty of a picture,’ Matisse famously decreed, ‘arises from the struggle which an artist wages with his limited medium.’ Struggle is the dominant motif in Murray Bail’s study of Scottish-born painter Ian Fairweather, first essayed in 1981, now refashioned, updated, and handsomely repackaged.

... (read more)

The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol. 1: 1929–1940 edited by Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck

by
June 2009, no. 312

The play that made Samuel Beckett famous, Waiting for Godot (1953), must be the most unlikely box-office success in theatre history. Its upending of dramatic expectations – its bathetic preferencing of repetition over development, tedium over excitement – is an act of aesthetic brutalism as outrageous in its way as Marcel Duchamp’s ‘readymades’ four decades earlier. Yet its depiction of two grubby tramps waiting interminably for someone who never shows up has become a definitive representation of humankind’s state of metaphysical suspension. Life is a conceptual joke: we wait for an explanation that will never be given, beholden to someone or something that, if it is not nothing, might as well be nothing.

... (read more)

Since her début in 1971, Pam Brown has been a consistently intelligent and engaging presence in Australian poetry, if too often under-represented in those reputation-establishers, the anthologies. One pragmatic reason for this may lie in a further element of consistency, the formal structure of her poems. Poems that spin their way down the page, resolutely short-lined, or ones that fragment lines and thought into zigzag patterns across the breadth of the page, are faithful to the characteristics of the New Australian Poetry celebrated in John Tranter’s 1979 anthology of that title. They are characteristics that Brown has honed finely over the years. They are also, from the point of view of anthologists and, more powerfully, their publishers, wilfully heedless of that most brutal constraint, the number of pages available for any given anthology.

... (read more)

Ransom by David Malouf

by
May 2009, no. 311

In David Malouf’s second and perhaps most celebrated novel, An Imaginary Life (1978), of which this new novella is so reminiscent, the Roman poet Ovid is exiled to a primitive village named Tomis. Ovid, ‘called Naso because of the nose’, has been banished due to his unspoken affronts. In Tomis, Ovid, doomed and apart, senses that he must acquire in simplicity a new kind of wisdom:

... (read more)