The birth of Tom Downs on the banks of the Murray River in South Australia tragically coincided with the death of his mother. His premature arrival – in the breech position – subsequently informs how his life is played out.
What does a young boy make of a father who carries in his pocket a knife that is used to peel fruit, behead chickens, fashion toy flutes, and potentially serves as a weapon to kill his spouse? Two Greeks,the work of third-time novelist John Charalambous, is an engaging study of the power of family and the need for identity. In similar company to Raimond Gaita’s Romulus, My Father and Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, the novel delves into difficult emotional territory, but does so with humour and humanity. Like its literary cousins, it has the foundations for an insightful filmic adaptation.
Diego Maradona is the greatest football player I have ever seen, but as a coach he sits somewhere between a comic opera and a train wreck. Philip Larkin was one of Britain’s finest poets, but to read his music criticism is to wish someone had heaved his typewriter into the nearest river. Ronald Reagan qualified as an A-grade B-movie actor, yet as president – the biggest acting role on the planet – he proved decidedly C-grade. Switching genres can be tough.
Steve Holden’s début novel puts us inside the head of a transsexual mortician living in a small Tasmanian town. It could be a stifling and lonely place to be, but the nameless protagonist draws us persuasively into her world. As a mortician, her job is to disguise death, but as a storyteller she is able to illuminate it for our benefit.
Poet and novelist Ali Alizadeh’s third book of poetry, Ashes in the Air, reclaims some themes from his earlier poetry collection, Eyes in Times of War (2006). Autobiographical sequences once again interweave with accounts of recent wars and oppression. Alizadeh also explores some ...
Australians quite like the idea of freedom of speech, except in almost any situation you can think of. We hold that speaking freely is acceptable and commendable except when it is rude, upsetting, unpatriotic, in poor taste, or blocks the traffic.
How effective is a voice of reason in a climate of fear? In his introduction to this book, Professor Ian Lowe, president of the Australian Conservation Foundation and Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Griffith University says that he is ‘incorrigibly optimistic’ about the role of education in assisting us to make wise decisions about our future. Over the past twenty years, he has written twelve books, including A Big Fix: Radical solutions for Australia’s environmental crisis (2005) and Living in the Hothouse: How global warming affects Australia (2005), forty-five book chapters, more than thirty journal articles and six hundred columns for various publications. That work has been written for the general public, not just the scientific community.
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.
‘I never thought Australia needed culture of any kind,’ drawls Barry Humphries in Not Quite Hollywood, Mark Hartley’s recent documentary on Australian ‘trash’ cinema of the 1970s and 1980s. Perverse aesthete that he is, Humphries cannot resist the idea that lack of refinement might be a sign of vitality: ‘Culture is yoghurt, isn’t it, or mould? It grows on decaying things.’
In these litigious days, should I declare a tenuous bias in favour of David Brooks (whom I know not at all)? According to an extensive list of previous publications, which includes poetry, short fiction, essays and one earlier novel, he has devoted several editorial enterprises to the poet A.D. Hope. I too admired Hope, for his passionate admiration for Russian literature, which he sometimes lectured on and which made him a complimentary examiner of my own PhD thesis. Otherwise, the slate is blank: I tried to locate Brooks’s previous novel, The House of Balthus (1995) as preparatory reading for this review, but the local library system could not help.