Stephen MurraySmith

If, as Dr Johnson opined, a lexicographer is a harmless drudge, what does that make a lexicographical reviewer? A potentially harmful drudge perhaps. Who else feels the need to consume a dictionary whole in one indigestible sequence?

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Overland 100 edited by Stephen Murray-Smith

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December 1985–January 1986, no. 77

Perth, like Sydney, is a city of water, but the water on display is safely enclosed in the reaches of the Swan. Here ferries and commuting speedboats plough their straight lines among flocks of red or blue sailed dinghies sailing and tacking in sudden turns like flocks of tropical fish. In Fremantle, sailors’ missions and clubs straggle around the side streets, and the mall on a Saturday afternoon is left to drunks and kids on BMX bikes. In the Book Market casual browsers can look through the latest publications from Australia and abroad, or climb upstairs to find a collection of raw socialist writings dedicated to Pat Troy, ‘one of Australia’s finest working class fighters’.

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Room for Manoeuvre: Writings on history, politics, ideas and play edited by Leonie Sandercock and Stephen Murray-Smith

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August 1982, no. 43

A joke told annually and publicly for fourteen years closes this collection of Ian Turner’s work. From 1965 to 1978, Turner delivered the Ron Barassi Memorial Lecture and so created the site of an imagined overlap between the more formal rituals of the intellectual culture and the rowdy world of spectatordom, the VFL, the most visible and familiar self-presentation of the popular. He fabricated this site for speaking ‘our’ culture by romping around it in careful pastiche.

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In this, her fourth autobiographical volume, Naomi Mitchison takes on a difficult task – that of making travellers’ tales interesting. Her first three autobiographies dealt with childhood, youth, the between-war years. She demonstrated great literary skills in selective recall and in creating the wholly misleading impression that this was an artless narrative. In fact she gave us a brilliant account of the lives of a section of the British upper bourgeoisie, and the moving and honest story of her own growth into political radicalism.

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