When it came to Iceland, Monty Python, as always, had the properly irreverent idea. Their version of Njal’s Saga was a horrendous case of interrupted narrative. It took ten minutes for their ‘very exciting Icelandic saga’ to get started, bogged down as it was in endless biblical begetting, and when things did kick off, the whole sketch unwittingly collapsed into an extended advertisement for ... (read more)
Adam Rivett is a Melbourne-based reviewer. He contributes to The Slow Review.
December 2009–January 2010, no. 317 •
01 December 2009
George Alexander’s new novel opens with a racially motivated murder, committed on Australia Day, 1998. A gang called the Cleaners abducts and executes Sly Bone, an Aborigine, whose body they dump in country New South Wales. We then jump forward a year. Australia Day looms, and the Cleaners have another target in mind. Meanwhile, journalist Alex Tolman and his colleague Larry Sheridan, investigat ... (read more)
Keeping Faith, Roger Averill’s first novel after his non-fiction debut, Boy He Cry: An island Odyssey (2009), is a quiet and resonant piece of work. Befitting a novel set partly in a labour ward and beginning with a description of a stillborn baby, it proceeds with the knowledge that finding the right words can be difficult. It speaks carefully and tactfully, in a spare language of great focus.
... (read more)
Keeping Faith, Roger Averill’s first novel after his non-fiction début, Boy He Cry: An island odyssey (2009), is a quiet and resonant piece of work. Befitting a novel set partly in a labour ward and beginning with a description of a stillborn baby, it proceeds with the knowledge that finding the right words can be difficult. It speaks carefully and tactfully, in a spare language of great focus. ... (read more)
June 2009, no. 312 •
01 June 2009
Self-evidently, the short story demands precision. The term ‘short story’ more than likely brings to mind the magazine-length sprint or the rapidly delivered epiphany. John Updike was a master of this demanding form. In his Olinger and Tarbox tales, characters are assembled quickly and sent to their fate with little delay. Never cursory, this was writing performed under haiku-like restraint. I ... (read more)
Pitched awkwardly between mass-market romance and a literary novel, Musk and Byrne is a curious creation. Spending excessive verbal effort on a familiar and rather vacuous plot, the book never finds a satisfactory shape, and finally lacks a true purpose. Never intellectually thorough enough to offer an exploration of artistic identity, and not trashy enough to deliver tawdry thrills, it is both to ... (read more)
The autobiography, that seemingly inevitable act of self-revelation, is frequently a work tricked out with very little art. For the novelist, unlike the anecdote-disposing musician or painter, the problem is doubled: they are making a home with the same tools. Rare is the autobiography that, like Nabokov’s Speak, Memory (1951) or Martin Amis’s Experience (2001), speaks in the voice of the work ... (read more)
For ex-Orangeman Billy, history is a nightmare from which he’s trying to get a good night’s sleep. Haunted by ‘all the bloody faces of Catholic lads I done over and worse’, he’s an exile in Thailand, regularly numbing himself with cheap sex, beer, and the occasional fight. He claims he’s never seen the sunrise sober in his life. Things are about to change.
... (read more)
February 2012, no. 338 •
21 January 2012
Wolf Creek, released in 2005, was always smarter than your average slasher. Anchored by a brilliant performance by John Jarratt, the film was harrowing enough to strike the unobservant as another Saw or Hostel, but far more lurked there for those who bothered to look. In acclaimed novelist Sonya Hartnett’s brief but vivid critical study, the film has found the analysis it deserves. In the book ... (read more)
For a work that deals heavily with culinary aspirations, it is going to be hard to review Wayne Macauley’s brilliant new novel The Cook without reference to Masterchef, so let’s get it out of the way early. This year, after each new episode of the television show aired, the assorted snark-addled wits of the Fairfax press gathered online to do their mocking work. The mechanics of the show were ... (read more)