Gerard Windsor

Gerard Windsor had a rocky start to his writing life. Out of the Jesuits after seven years, he scored a contract with his old school, Riverview, in Sydney, to write its centennial history. I was one of the alumni he interviewed; I remember suggesting that he take steps to guarantee the publication of his text. After all, I argued, a school run by a religious order was like a family commissioning its history: it would have tender feelings towards its dead and be wary of any diminution of their legends.

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He. by Murray Bail

by
March 2021, no. 429

In 2005, Murray Bail published Notebooks: 1970–2003. ‘With some corrections’, the contents were transcriptions of entries Bail made in notebooks during that period. Now, in 2021, dozens of these entries – observations, quotations, reflections, scenes – recur in his new book, He. It’s to be assumed that this book, too, is a series of carefully selected transcriptions from the same, and later, notebooks.

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I grew up with The Sydney Morning Herald. In spite of enforced years in Melbourne and Canberra and sojourns overseas, I still regard it as my paper. So my business being writing and Sydney my town, it’s a matter of identity that The Herald’s reviews are the primary ones for me. But my tribal instincts are faltering. The problem is The Herald’s book coverage. My quarrel isn’t with the choice of books nor the quality of the reviews. It’s the prior matter of quantity. Over the three Saturdays of the 11, 18, 25 April, The Herald ran a total of ten full-scale book reviews. The Australian over the same period ran seventeen, and they were generally longer.

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Collected Stories is a misleading title for Louis Nowra’s new publication. It’s nothing as uniform as that. Apart from poetry, is there any genre in which Nowra has not made his mark? He’s a playwright, screenwriter, novelist, memoirist, local historian, essayist, reviewer, feature journalist – and the author of one enduring Australian gem in Così (1992), in all its multiple forms. Yet he has scouted out other territories and the results jostle together in Collected Stories. Such a title conjures up a lifetime’s labour in the genre – gatherings of Anton Chekhov or John Cheever or Alice Munro. But Nowra’s volume is essentially a ragbag of disparate writings.

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The Plains is a book for the critic, not the mere reviewer. It is a strange creature, to be approached with care. Several omens made me cautious. My review copy reached me three months after the date of posting.

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For more than thirty years, Paul Collins has been His Holiness’s loyal opposition. Absolute Power is the latest round in his spirited debate with the Vatican, the government which has the largest constituency of any in the world. Collins’s interest, in fact obsession, is in the nature ...

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This book came my way at the right moment. I read it in the week that the Royal Commission enumerated the fact that, so far, 4,444 individuals have brought cases of sexual abuse against Catholic institutions in Australia – a staggering number. I know of others who are still struggling to come forward and tell their story. The archbishop of Sydney described the res ...

‘Ken Wark,’ says Linda Jaivin on this jacket, ‘makes postmodernism sexy.’ First cabbages, now postmodernism! Where can she take us from here? The trouble is I don’t believe her. Now that’s too easy a write-off. I’m not instinctually warm to The Virtual Republic, and I think Linda Jaivin’s line is a more than normally meretricious blurb, but Wark’s enterprise is essentially a request for conversation and why not accede to that. Still I want to protest even as I converse. The book is an olive branch masquerading as a polemic. Or, like Lindsay’s parrot who was a swagman, is it the other way round?

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Would it surprise you to know that a number of our well-known writers write to please themselves? Probably not. If there’s no pleasure, or challenge, or stimulus, the outcome would probably not be worth the effort. If this effort is writing, it seems especially unlikely that someone would engage in the activity without enjoying the chance to be their own audience.

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Initial appearances notwithstanding, The Great World is not a grand, epic title. It is a phrase of the wide-eyed naäf, gaping at the wondrous, which is anything beyond his experience, especially any tawdry, flashy concoction. In fact, David Malouf’s primary ‘great world’ is an entertainment park of that name in Singapore where ...

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