In this age of throwaway digital images it is easy to forget that before the late nineteenth century the only means of conveying a visual image of an object or place was by drawing its likeness. For this reason, well-funded exploratory expeditions often included an artist whose role was to illustrate new and interesting people, landscapes, geological features, anima ...
During the lead-up to the last United States presidential election, I found myself waiting for a train at the Princeton railway station with nothing to read. I picked up a copy of the student newspaper. Much of it was standard Bush bashing, intermingled with unrealistic expectations of what Obama might achieve. But one sentence in an editorial caught my eye: ‘It i ...
Conventional wisdom has it that writing comes second to life. Young American journalist Elif Batuman has a different idea. ‘What if,’ she suggests, ‘instead of moving to New York, living in a garret, self-publishing your poetry and having love affairs in order to – some day – write it up as a novel for 21st century America – what if instead yo ...
Twelve-year-old Isabella and her best friend, Griffin, have been keeping themselves and three younger children alive in Grimsdon since a massive wave flooded the city three years ago... (read more)
Writing a matter of hours after Charles Dickens’s death on 9 June 1870, an obituarist for The Times of London remarked, ‘The story of his life is soon told’. The publication of Dickens’s friend John Forster’s Life of Charles Dickens between 1871 and 1874 soon gave the lie to these words, revealing a far more complex and damaged Dickens than the reading public had ever suspected this novelist, journalist, actor, social reformer and bon viveur to be. Since the 1870s thousands of pages have been devoted to scrutinising the life of the self-styled ‘sparkler of Albion’, including G.K. Chesterton’s Charles Dickens: A critical study (1906), Edgar Johnson’s magisterial Charles Dickens: His tragedy and triumph (1952) and Claire Tomalin’s superbly readable account of Dickens’s infatuation with his mistress, Ellen Ternan, The Invisible Woman (1991).... (read more)
This is Tom Shapcott’s thirteenth individual collection of poetry (two Selected Poems have appeared, in 1978 and 1989) in a writing life that – at least for his readers – began with the publication of Time on Fire in 1961. It continues something of a late poetic flowering, which, to my critical mind, began with The City of Home in 1995. All in all, Parts of Us is no disgrace to its twelve predecessors.... (read more)
Let no one say that all travel memoirs fall into the same predictable box. Otherland and Mother Land, two such works from Melbourne writers, may enjoy rhyming titles and pluck similar strings, but their styles could hardly be more dissimilar. The first, a new book from Maria Tumarkin, describes a journey to her Ukrainian/ Russian country of birth with her twelve-year-old daughter in tow; the second, a 2008 evocation by Dmetri Kakmi, follows a revisiting of his childhood on a Turkish-Greek island. Of it I wrote in The Age: ‘Always a beautiful, evocative and carefully crafted reconstruction of a past life generically familiar to many migrants, Mother Land outshines the plethora of similar memoirs because it consciously operates at two levels: the narrow focus, limited characters and humdrum events are transcended and elevated to a universal myth of loss’ (16 August 2008).... (read more)
Henry Reynolds reviews 'Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and indigenous people in America and Australia, 1788–1836' by Lisa Ford
The federal government’s intervention in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is, above all, an exercise of power. It illustrates for all to see that the government can interfere with the smallest details of domestic life in a blatantly discriminatory way, regardless of Australia’s international obligations and professed belief in racial equality. It declares to the world that adult Aborigines can be treated like children. Both the present and previous government would argue, in a time-honoured way, that it is for the communities’ own good.... (read more)
Gregory Kratzmann reviews 'Out Of The Box: Contemporary Australian gay and lesbian poets' edited by Michael Farrell and Jill Jones
Does the title of this anthology, heralded by its editors as the first collection of Australian gay/lesbian/queer poetry, refer to the myth of Pandora’s pithos? Hesiod’s version of the story, which sees Pandora as the unleasher of all manner of evils on the (‘rational’/patriarchal) world, has been interrogated by feminist scholars who see Pandora in an older incarnation of ‘gift-giver’, bestower of plenitude, crosser of boundaries. Or does ‘Out of the Box’ have a more colloquial sense – ‘exceptional’, ‘surprising’? Whatever the reasoning behind the title, Michael Farrell and Jill Jones have made choices which should provoke debate (among other things) about gay and lesbian identity and community, and about the relationship between poet and reader.... (read more)