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James Jiang

James Jiang

James Jiang edits the Sydney Review of Books. Prior to joining the SRB, he was Assistant Editor at Griffith Review and Australian Book Review. He received his PhD in modernist literature from the University of Cambridge and taught in the English and Theatre Studies program at the University of Melbourne for a number of years. His essays and reviews have appeared in a variety of scholarly and generalist publications in Australia and abroad.

James Jiang reviews 'Kingdom of Characters: A tale of language, obsession, and genius in modern China' by Jing Tsu

June 2022, no. 443 23 May 2022
Picture, poem, or puzzle? The Chinese written character has been one of the most enduring obstacles to and catalysts for intercultural appreciation. When, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel wanted to demonstrate the relative backwardness of Oriental thought, he could find no better exhibit than the form of its writing. Attached as it was to ‘the s ... (read more)

James Jiang reviews 'Places of Mind: A life of Edward Said' by Timothy Brennan

November 2021, no. 437 25 October 2021
When the leukaemia with which he had been diagnosed in 1991 claimed his life twelve years later, Edward W. Said left behind more than the usual testaments to a successful academic career: landmark studies, bountiful citations, bereft colleagues, and the cadres of pupils whose intellectual maturation he had overseen. More importantly, he embodied a many-sided ideal of intellectual and civic engagem ... (read more)

'Blurb praise and hot takes: Criticism in an age of publicity' by James Jiang

October 2021, no. 436 22 September 2021
Because my background is academic (and in English studies), certain disciplinary conventions still find their way into my review writing. In fact, it’s hard for me to think of my reviewing as reviewing rather than as criticism in that more university-bound sense: that is, as having something to do with the art of interpretation. It may help that most of the books I review – works of contempora ... (read more)

James Jiang reviews 'A Thousand Crimson Blooms' by Eileen Chong and 'Turbulence' by Thuy On

July 2021, no. 433 21 June 2021
The biographical note to A Thousand Crimson Blooms observes that Eileen Chong’s first book, Burning Rice (2012), is ‘the first single-author collection of poetry by an Asian-Australian to be studied as part of the NSW HSC English syllabus’. Having run many writing workshops for students and adults over the years, Chong takes her pedagogy as seriously as her poetry. It’s no surprise, t ... (read more)

James Jiang reviews 'Dislocations: The selected innovative poems of Paul Muldoon' edited by John Kinsella

March 2021, no. 429 22 February 2021
Dislocations is a product of the Irish diaspora. Its editor is a Western Australian who claims his Irish heritage from Carlow and Wicklow; its subject was brought up on the border between counties Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland, and emigrated to the United States in 1987. There is, then, a biographical precedent for John Kinsella’s sharp characterisation of Paul Muldoon’s work as ‘a l ... (read more)

James Jiang reviews 'Reaching Light: Selected poems' by Robert Adamson

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Robert Adamson is the fact that he is still alive. One of the ‘Generation of  ’68’ and an instrumental figure in the New Australian Poetry (as announced by John Tranter’s 1979 anthology), Adamson has continued to write and adapt while also bearing witness to the premature deaths of many of that visionary company. As Adamson’s friend and fellow po ... (read more)

James Jiang reviews 'Mount Sumptuous' by Aidan Coleman, 'Navigable Ink' by Jennifer Mackenzie, and 'A Happening in Hades' by Stephen K. Kelen

August 2020, no. 423 27 July 2020
Mount Sumptuous by Aidan Coleman Wakefield Press, $22.95 pb, 56 pp Mount Parnassus remains a proscribed destination for the moment, but Aidan Coleman’s Mount Sumptuous provides an attractive local alternative. Following on from the poems of love and recovery in Asymmetry (2012), this collection marks the poet’s reawakened appetite for the sublimities and subterfuges of suburban Australia ... (read more)

James Jiang reviews 'The Espionage Act: New poems' by Jennifer Maiden

March 2020, no. 419 24 February 2020
W.H. Auden once rebuked Percy Shelley for characterising poets as ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. To think this way is to confuse hard with soft power, coercion with persuasion. Poetry, as Auden famously wrote, ‘makes nothing happen’; he instead bestowed Shelley’s epithet upon ‘the secret police’. But in an age of surveillance and information warfare that has militaris ... (read more)

James Jiang reviews 'Heide' by Π.O.

January–February 2020, no. 418 16 December 2019
Heide is the final instalment of an epic trilogy that began with 24 Hours (1996) and was followed by Fitzroy: A biography (2015). It also marks a departure for Π.O. In this third volume (the only one in the trilogy not to be self-published), the unofficial poet laureate of Fitzroy turns his attention away from the migrant and working-class characters of his beloved suburb toward the names that li ... (read more)