Archive

This is a massive book, as large in scale as the author himself, running to over 700 pages, and – at a rough estimate – to something like 300,000 words of text, lightened only by a few photographs, all of them of Gough Whitlam with friends and enemies.

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'Sunday at Glen Alice'

Nadia Wheatley
Friday, 15 May 2020

We are having a Sunday picnic. It is not a cosmopolitan affair, with pâté and brie and champagne, nor even a dinky-di one, with sausages and sauce and tinnies. Simply an impromptu, let’s-get-out-of-the­house event: a jar of peanut butter, a jar of honey, a tub of marge, half a loaf of Friday’s bread and a packet of jubes.

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Comedy and violence co-exist happily in this delightful first novel about a group of weekend bird watchers who themselves become the objects of scrutiny.

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Set mostly in north-western Nepal during the early 1970s, Blood on the Lotus is a fictionalised account of the events leading up and consequent to the CIA’s withdrawal of support for the Kamphas, the Tibetan guerrilla army fighting the occupying Chinese.

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In her autobiographical sketch One Writer’s Beginnings, Eudora Welty wrote of her mother: ‘But I think she was relieved when I chose to be a writer of stories, for she thought writing was safe.’ Can you just imagine the shock on Chestina Welty’s face when she read, as she must have, this sentence tucked away into the middle of one of her daughter’s first stories: ‘When he finally looked down there was blood everywhere; her lap was like a bowl.’ 

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Robert Holden reviews 'The Grisly Wife' by Rodney Hall

Robert Holden
Friday, 15 May 2020

With the publication of Rodney Hall’s latest novel, The Grisly Wife, the author has brought to completion a trilogy that first began appearing in 1988. Since this last published novel is actually the middle work of the trilogy and what were formerly two separate novels are now bridged by this newcomer, we are finally given the opportunity to assess if and how the parts relate to the whole.

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These two very different novels by women provide a wealth of suggestive information about the women’s history being reclaimed and re-established by Australian feminists. They also happen to be intrinsically good novels, accomplished and charming in contrasting ways. Add Cambridge’s The Three Miss Kings, reprinted in the Virago Modem Classics series, was first serialised in 1883 in The Australasian, published in novel form in 1891, and soon became one of Cambridge’s most popular novels. It draws upon the familiar form of the romance, but it also, in its translation into an Australian setting, illuminates an idiosyncratic colonial grafting onto that form.

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At various times in its history, the Australian short story has been predictable, as editorial and public appetites have limited experimentation. I am glad to be reading now, when approval can be conferred on collections as different and as variously excellent as Julie Lewis’s The Walls of Jericho and Peter Skrzynecki’s The Wild Dogs. Lewis’s work is more formally experimental than Skrzynecki’s, but both collections offer insight into the social and the literary.

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Paul Eggert reviews 'Jimmy Brockett' by Dal Stivens

Paul Eggert
Friday, 24 April 2020

First published in 1951 and again in 1959, Dal Stivens’s novel, Jimmy Brockett, is now republished as one of Penguin’s ‘Australian Selection’. Reading it, you find yourself being drawn into admiration of a man who is undeniably obnoxious.

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If Australia during the last century was ‘no place for a nervous lady’, this collection of women’s writings edited by Lucy Frost establishes with simple eloquence that it certainly was no place for a nervous gentleman.

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