Alex Cothren

Alex Cothren holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Flinders University. He is a winner of the Carmel Bird, William van Dyke, and Peter Carey Awards for short fiction, and he has writing published in Meanjin, Island, The Griffith Review, Ruminate, and Australian Book Review. He is the co-editor of Westerly’s South Australia Special Issue.

Alex Cothren reviews 'Open Secrets: Essays on the writing life' edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike

July 2022, no. 444 25 June 2022
Alex Cothren reviews 'Open Secrets: Essays on the writing life' edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike
In her introduction to Sydney Review of Book’s latest anthology, Open Secrets: Essays on the writing life, Catriona Menzies-Pike quickly establishes what readers should not expect. ‘There are no precious morning rituals here,’ the editor promises, ‘no magic tricks for aspiring writers.’ It’s true that these essays, each a mix of disarming honesty and polymathic intelligence, hover far ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Good Captain' by Sean Rabin

May 2022, no. 442 23 April 2022
Alex Cothren reviews 'The Good Captain' by Sean Rabin
Just when you thought there wasn’t enough to worry about, along come bottom trawlers. While the fishing technique of dragging a heavy net along the bottom of the seabed is     nothing new – indeed, there was a British commission inquiry into the practice as far back as 1866 – the sheer size of modern super trawlers maximises their destructiveness. Centuries-old sea coral ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Sawdust House' by David Whish-Wilson

April 2022, no. 441 23 March 2022
Alex Cothren reviews 'The Sawdust House' by David Whish-Wilson
In David Whish-Wilson’s new historical novel, The Sawdust House, it’s 1856 San Francisco, where the citizen-led Committee of Vigilance has convened to purge foreign undesirables from a city populace swollen beyond control by the gold rush. Of course, armed nativists ‘enthralled by their own performance’ are a common feature of U.S. history, from the Virginian lynch mobs of the late 1700s t ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Magpie Wing' by Max Easton

December 2021, no. 438 23 November 2021
Alex Cothren reviews 'The Magpie Wing' by Max Easton
In July 1999, ABC’s 7:30 Report ran a story on the Western Suburbs Magpies, an NRL club struggling financially and playing out its final season before a merger with the nearby Balmain Tigers. For that human touch, the story featured shots of a family decking out their children in the Magpies’ black and white, their relationship with the ninety-year-old club described as ‘something in the hea ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'Night Blue' by Angela O’Keeffe, 'Where the Line Breaks' by Michael Burrows, and 'The Speechwriter' by Martin McKenzie-Murray

August 2021, no. 434 26 July 2021
Writers seeking publication are often advised to have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready. These succinct book-hooks are designed to jag a trapped publisher in the wink between a lift door closing and reopening. Has this insane tactic ever actually worked? No idea. But it’s fun to imagine the CEO of Big Sales Books, on their way up to another corner-office day of tallying cricket memoir profits, blind ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'Grimmish' by Michael Winkler

April 2021, no. 430 23 March 2021
Alex Cothren reviews 'Grimmish' by Michael Winkler
Have you ever noticed how boxing matches invariably deflate into two breathless people hugging each other? In pugilistic parlance, this is called a clinch. It is a defensive tactic, a way for fighters besieged by their opponent’s assault to create a pause and regain their equilibrium. And while it is beyond cliché for books to be hailed as knockouts or haymakers or other emptied expressions of ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Adversary' by Ronnie Scott

May 2020, no. 421 27 April 2020
Alex Cothren reviews 'The Adversary' by Ronnie Scott
One of the few details we learn about the unnamed narrator of Ronnie Scott’s début novel, The Adversary, is that he is fond of Vegemite. Although only a crumb of information, this affinity for the popular breakfast tar reveals much about our hero. Just as Vegemite ‘has to be spread very thin or you realised it was salty and unreasonable’, his human interactions give him a soupçon of a soci ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'Simpson Returns: A novella' by Wayne Macauley

May 2019, no. 411 21 April 2019
Alex Cothren reviews 'Simpson Returns: A novella' by Wayne Macauley
Care and compassion, a fair go, freedom, honesty, trustworthiness, respect, and tolerance. These were the nine ‘Australian values’ that former Liberal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson demanded be taught in schools, especially Islamic schools, across the nation in 2005. How? Partly through the tale of John Simpson and his donkey, Murphy. They clambered selflessly up and down Gallipoli’s Shrap ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Windy Season' by Sam Carmody

November 2016, no. 386 28 October 2016
Alex Cothren reviews 'The Windy Season' by Sam Carmody
Boat, pub, boat, pub, boat, pub: in the fictitious Western Australian fishing town of Stark, residents divide their days between these two brutally masculine locales, and readers will be hard-pressed to decide which is bleaker. Is it the crayfish boat, with its ‘pong of bait’ and ‘hostile company of the breeze’, or the rural tavern, where ‘the trebly call of dog racing’ soundtracks the ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'We Ate The Road Like Vultures' by Lynette Lounsbury

May 2016, no. 381 26 April 2016
Jack Kerouac spent his elderly years sequestered in a crumbling Mexican hacienda that 'smelt like beer and farts'; his amphetamines replaced with antacids, his octogenarian skin 'the colour and texture of beef jerky'. Never mind that Kerouac actually drank himself to an early death in Florida, because somehow this alternate universe, the starting point of Lynnette Lounsbury's second novel, We Ate ... (read more)
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