John Hanrahan

John Hanrahan reviews 'The Comfort of Men' by Dennis Altman

John Hanrahan
Friday, 27 November 2020

Where women lead, men generally have the sense to follow. Eventually. Feminist fiction, lesbian fiction have developed ahead of gay fiction in Australia. This is one of the many ideas acknowledged or explored in Dennis Altman’s welcome addition to literature about homosexual relationships.

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John Hanrahan
Friday, 27 November 2020

Melbourne has Moomba and Melbourne Cup week. Sydney and Perth have cultural festivals. And so, pre-eminently, does Adelaide. Even from the backblocks of Melbourne, Adelaide Writers’ Week stirs up a real thrill.

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My Blue-Checker Corker and Me probably has enough strengths to make one forget, eventually, most of its irritating features. Paul Radley’s story of ‘a small mellow world’ is unashamedly emotional. and Radley is clearly fascinated with the possibilities of language. This is the story of a twelve-year-old boy and his relationship with his grandfather, his mates and his pigeons.

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John Hanrahan
Thursday, 22 October 2020

Now we are in the season of missed and mellow fruitfulness. The mellow fruitfulness belongs to the winners of literary awards and literary grants. The missed are those who are eternally short listed but never ascend the throne. Of course, some books shortlisted never have a chance of winning. They are put there for encouragement, minor recognition, sometimes tokenism.

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This is a splendid book, by far the most important of the recent OUP contributions to the study of Australian literature. Everything that you ever wanted to know about Australian Literature. Comprehensive (amazingly), consistently lively, up to date, as far as I can judge, accurate.

I have played the usual reviewers’ game for a book like this – trying to ...

‘“No good dad,” he used to remark hopelessly, “people’ll say that you were dragged up.”’ In this way, Furphy records his son’s response to Such is Life. Furphy, in his own review of his own novel expressed a different view. ‘There is interest, if not relevancy in every sentence ... beyond all other Australian writers. Tom Collins is a master of idiom ... Originality is a characteristic of Such is Life ...’ However much he had his tongue in his cheek, Dad was of course right, as a rereading of the novel in John Barnes’s Portable Furphy will prove. The novel is ‘a classic’ as Stephens recognised, even if he did throw in his each-way bet of, ‘or a semi-classic’. Barnes has included all of Such is Life (in a photo facsimile of the original edition, which does make one long for larger type and more spacious layout, but makes possible an interesting collection of Furphy’s other writings in a comparatively small volume).

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John Hanrahan
Friday, 24 July 2020

My first contact with Arthur Phillips was through a note signed A.A.P., attached to a short story that an editor couldn’t find space for. The note pointed out that the story lacked reality, e.g. a child was allowed to sit in a hotel bar. When I finally got to meet A.A. Phillips, it was over a drink. The pleasure at meeting was enhanced by a child at the next table. I ribbed Arthur about this, telling him that he had sinned against the commandments of social realism. He allowed me my small victory (the story is still unpublished) and then told a number of very funny stories against himself. I knew him only slightly, but that minimal acquaintanceship showed him to be as extraordinary and as delightful in his living as he was in his writing.

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John Hanrahan reviews 'Madness' by Morris Lurie

John Hanrahan
Wednesday, 08 April 2020

We meet Tannenbaum in his ‘cosy Anne Frankish semi-hidden nook’. These writerly Jewish recluses have very little else in common; Tannenbaum is separated from his wife and two children. His friend/lover Anise is trying to drink her way out of a nervous breakdown. For further solace he resorts to ‘horizontal unravelling’ or ‘psychiatric horizontality’.

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John Hanrahan reviews 'Heroin Annie' by Peter Corris

John Hanrahan
Tuesday, 24 March 2020

This is The Great Tradition. Spade, Marlowe, Archer, Spenser. Peter Corris has relocated it, given it another place and another name and done it all with verve and flair. In ten adventures, Cliff Hardy lurches around Sydney in the rusty armour of his Falcon (except on one occasion when he goes to his spiritual home, California). While Corris does not achieve as much in the short stories as he does in the novels (but then that is true of Hammett), he does present Cliff Hardy as alive (miraculously) and well (apart from batterings and hangovers) and doing good (if not entirely within the meaning of the act).

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Thomas Shapcott uses as a basis for his novel the fascinating life story of Karoly Pulszky, who left Hungary as the disgraced Director of the National Gallery of Art and who committed suicide after two months in Queensland. Pulszky, a forceful and flamboyant man, followed in the footsteps of his distinguished father in building up Hungary’s art collection. He was married to Emilia Markus, ‘The Blonde Wonder of Budapest, the Greatest Actress in Hungary’. Financial mismanagement enabled his family’s political enemies to bring him down and he left Hungary in shame. Years after his death, one of his two daughters, Romola, married Nijinsky, and she wrote extensively about her own colourful life. Shapcott draws on her writings with considerable skill.

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