Archive

As when the governess
Clutched to her bosom the damp head of Miles,
Who squirmed, unseeing, frantic for a hint,
Not able yet to guess
What she appeared to see in the haunted pane
Besides the backlit sky: the shape of Quint
Trying to find his way past her denial’s
Hard stare, not quite in vain.

... (read more)

Madam Lash is a biography of Australia’s most famous dominatrix. Author Sam Everingham provides an engaging insight into the life of the woman who helped bring sadomasochism to mainstream attention in this country.

... (read more)

Lifeboat Cities by Brendan Gleeson & Transport for Suburbia: by Paul Mees

by
September 2010, no. 324

These two books share common assumptions about the nature of our cities and our collective future as homo urbanis. If we are to survive the impending disaster of climate change and build an environmentally durable and socially just future, then we must do so within our existing, sprawling suburban landscapes. Gleeson and Mees know and respect one another’s work – each quotes the other approvingly – but the two authors diverge sharply in tone and intention.

... (read more)

The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett & The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody

by
September 2010, no. 324

I had fun imagining Sonya Hartnett and Isobelle Carmody indulging in a little pre-publication chit-chat:

IC: What are you working on now, Sonya?
SH: A children’s story about two orphaned brothers battling for survival in a world turned upside down; talking animals; themes of freedom and loss. What about you?
IC: A children’s story about two orphaned brothers struggling for survival in a world suddenly turned alien; talking animals; themes of resilience and loss …

The result is two different novels, but the marketing meetings at Penguin must have been interesting.

... (read more)

I am in Louisiana with the dogs,
my lost generations of dogs.
How I got there, what budget tour I’m on,
whether my papers are in order,
my visa credible, is a total mystery.

... (read more)

Equator, a rambunctious, unwieldy novel, begins in a Spanish orphanage with an elderly watchdog, Pinski. According to the narrator, who is addressing a large orange butterfly, Pinski has succumbed to the heat of the day and cannot be bothered protecting his human charges. The human characters – and therefore, by association, those who are reading his story – are called ‘the custodians of the nectar’. This rather beautiful metaphor is used many times in Equator, as are dialogues, which become incantations about good and evil.

... (read more)

The political assassination of Kevin Rudd will fascinate for a long time to come. As with Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s play it was done, as Lady Macbeth cautioned, under ‘the blanket of the dark’, literally the night of 23–24 June 2010. The assassins heeded Macbeth’s advice: ‘if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.’ And as in Macbeth, the assassins were in the shadow of the throne. Even the old king approved: Bob Hawke, himself deposed in 1991, recognised at last that the removal of a Labor prime minister is sometimes necessary.

... (read more)

Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem between the Wars by Shane White, Stephen Garton, Stephen Robertson and Graham White

by
September 2010, no. 324

Gambling was and is an economically and culturally important activity in many urban African American communities, and ‘numbers’ was from the mid-1920s a ‘full-blown craze’ in Harlem. It was a complicated method of gambling on a set of three numbers generated by an apparently incorruptible process. The numbers, posted each day by the New York Clearing House, a financial institution just a couple of blocks from Wall Street, related to arcane matters such as daily clearances between banks and the state of the Federal Reserve, but they were eagerly awaited, published in news-papers and deployed for quite different purposes. Numbers ‘bankers’ roamed the streets collecting small ‘investments’ from customers who then collected a return if their three numbers came up. Regular small bets from large numbers of people generated a lot of money, and successful numbers operators became rich. Numbers had a turnover in the tens of millions of dollars a year in Harlem and, remarkably, became the enterprise ‘with the largest number of employees and the highest turnover’ in that legendary part of the city.

... (read more)

Suburban crime narratives featured in many Australian films in the 1990s, partly due to the influence of director Rowan Woods’s film The Boys, which drew inspiration from the ‘kitchen sink’ cinema of 1960s Britain. Twelve years after its theatrical release, this seminal film – based on the play by Gordon Graham and written for the screen by Stephen Sewell – remains the best example of an Australian genre that illustrates Marcus Clarke’s conception of ‘weird melancholy’ in the criminal element of our cities’ troubled underclass.

... (read more)

Unsurprisingly, Australia leads the world in the production of close-grained studies of convicts sentenced to transportation. Since 1788, it’s what we do. Emma Christopher proves herself to be a crackerjack at tracking down just about anyone who ever stood before an eighteenth-century court. She reels off their crimes, social origins, associates, aliases, lovers, victims, favourite haunts and previous convictions like a bailiff of long experience. What is more, she appears to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the alleys, lanes and bolt-holes of every city in the British Isles. So stupendous is her talent for conjuring up the atmosphere of the times that most readers will forgive her for too frequently slip ping into the archaic language of the documents she studies.

... (read more)