Archive

Pirate Rain by Jennifer Maiden

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October 2010, no. 325

Jennifer Maiden is a great experimenter – in a specific sense. In a 2006 interview in The Age she said: ‘I have always found poetry a useful tool for tactical and ethical problem-solving … I suppose it’s a laboratory for testing out ideas.’ Maiden works from an ethical stance, but not, as some critics and readers have assumed, a facile leftist one (whatever ‘left’ means in the twenty-first century). The poems in this latest book are mainly discursive, and many address political situations, issues and, more specifically, public figures and personae.

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Kim Scott noted in 2001 that the biographical notes accompanying his first two novels (True Country, 1993, and Benang: From the Heart, 1999) changed ...

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Vanda and Young: Inside Australia’s Hit Factory by John Tait & Behind the Rock and Beyond: The Diary of a Rock Band, 1956–1980 by Jon Hayton and Leon Isackson

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October 2010, no. 325

 The history of Australian rock music is rich and eclectic. Vanda and Young: Inside Australia’s Hit Factory and Behind the Rock and Beyond: The Diary of a Rock Band, 1956–1980 provide two perspectives on the early years of rock music in this country. John Tait, owner of a second-hand record and bookshop in Melbourne and a self-confessed ...

 On 8 September 2010, in the foyer of the Robert Blackwood Hall at Monash University, beneath the beautiful ‘Alpha and Omega’ stained-glass window created by Leonard French and connoting humankind’s endless striving for achievement, Monash University ePress became Monash University Publishing. It was very appropriate that the press should be launched by B ...

In this age of throwaway digital images it is easy to forget that before the late nineteenth century the only means of conveying a visual image of an object or place was by drawing its likeness. For this reason, well-funded exploratory expeditions often included an artist whose role was to illustrate new and interesting people, landscapes, geological features, anima ...

During the lead-up to the last United States presidential election, I found myself waiting for a train at the Princeton railway station with nothing to read. I picked up a copy of the student newspaper. Much of it was standard Bush bashing, intermingled with unrealistic expectations of what Obama might achieve. But one sentence in an editorial caught my eye: ‘It is time to end amateur hour at the White House.’ One of the great failings of George W. Bush’s presidency was the neglect of expert advice on the complex issues that faced America during his two terms. Ideology, prejudice and vested interests trumped properly informed judgements based on good research.

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Conventional wisdom has it that writing comes second to life. Young American journalist Elif Batuman has a different idea. ‘What if,’ she suggests, ‘instead of moving to New York, living in a garret, self-publishing your poetry and having love affairs in order to – some day – write it up as a novel for 21st century America – what if instead you went to Balzac’s house and read every work he ever wrote, dug up every last thing you could find about him – and then started writing?’ In her remarkable and very funny début, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Batuman has done just that (though not specifically on Balzac) and written a book primarily about her relation to books.

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How complex a task it is to write the biography of a writer. For writers, whose daily business is making things up, the truest experience may be one they have imagined. All biographers need to be storytellers and private detectives, but the biographer of a writer must also be a literary critic, must account for how the work relates to the life and escapes the life; beyond this, how the experience of writing it might change how the author apprehends those other parts of experience, called facts.

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One of the most disconcerting aspects of the 2010 election campaign was the intrusion of former prime ministers and aspirants to that post. Liberals had tired of Malcolm Fraser’s interventions long before he decided not to renew his membership of the party. Labor supporters did not welcome another round of bickering between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. The interventions of Mark Latham were hardly edifying.

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My Brilliant Career, the book Miles Franklin published in 1901 when she was twenty-one, cast a shadow over her entire life. It sold well and made her famous for a time, but it did not lead to the publication of more works. The glittering literary career foretold by the critics did not eventuate, at least in Franklin’s opinion. ‘The thing that puzzles me,’ she wrote to Mary Fullerton on New Year’s Day, 1929, ‘is how are we to know whether we are a dud or not at the beginning; I mean how long should a poor creature smitten with the egotism that he can write, keep on in face of rebuffs’.

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