Archive

Coming out from behind

Tom Thompson
Thursday, 22 October 2020

Publishers are like invisible ink. Their imprint is in the mysterious appearance of books on shelves. This explains their obsession with crime novels.

To some authors they appear as good fairies, to others the Brothers Grimm. Publishers can be blamed for pages that fall out (Look ma, a self-exploding paperback!), for a book’s non-appearance at a country town called Ulmere. For appearing too early or too late for review. For a book being reviewed badly, and thus its non-appearance – in shops, newspapers and prized shortlistings.

As an author, it’s good therapy to blame someone and there’s nothing more cleansing than to blame a publisher. I know, because I’ve done it myself. A literary absolution feels good the whole day through.

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Abbreviations

John Hanrahan
Thursday, 22 October 2020

Now we are in the season of missed and mellow fruitfulness. The mellow fruitfulness belongs to the winners of literary awards and literary grants. The missed are those who are eternally short listed but never ascend the throne. Of course, some books shortlisted never have a chance of winning. They are put there for encouragement, minor recognition, sometimes tokenism.

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If we are not what we eat, and we are not, nor what we read, as we are also not, nevertheless a plate of latkes and a page of Saroyan do something to limn the portrait, as the crashing waves delineate the shoreline rock.

Naah.

Skip that.

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This is a strange assortment of pieces. To someone who doesn’t move in any gay community, the anthology’s chief problem is its fissiparousness. There has to be a distinction between gay writing and writing by authors who are gay. The majority of contributors to Graeme Aitken’s book take gay life to be their subject, but several are included because they are gay, while not necessarily employing gay themes, or doing so indirectly.

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Book to Film

Peter Yeldham
Thursday, 22 October 2020

When the ABC asked me to adapt Roger McDonald’s novel 1915 into a major seven-part serial, I declined. Ray Alchin, producer and head of the ABC’s film studio in Sydney, looked at me with disbelief and asked me to read it again. So I read it again, twice, and thanked him for having the good sense to see its possibilities, and gratefully accepted.

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'Arabesques and Banknotes'

Laurie Clancy
Thursday, 22 October 2020

With the reissue of The Beauties and Furies (1936) this month by the British feminist press Virago, virtually all of Christina Stead’s work is in print for the first time in the half century long career of this distinguished writer.

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This is not so much a history of Sydney as a tour with a sensitive and alert guide who knows her history. The site is modern Sydney. Although Sydney was only just beginning to develop suburbs when the book ends – in the 1820s – Karskens tours the whole of the Cumberland Plain, the area that metropolitan Sydney now covers.   For the modern suburbs, as everywhere else, Karskens describes the land and how it was used when occupied by the Aborigines and the first Europeans. She points to what remains from earlier times in the routes of roads, remnant vegetation, the built environment and place names.

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Paul Carter reviews 'Disco Boy' by Dominic Knight

Paul Carter
Monday, 19 October 2020

Dominic Knight’s début novel chronicles a life on hold. Its narrator, Paul Johnson, is a twenty-five-year-old law graduate from Sydney University. Single and living off his parents, he detests his job as a mobile DJ, yet also loathes the prospect of working in a legal firm like his friend, Nige, whose life ‘is a corporate T-shirt saying “work hard, play hard”’. Paul’s comic struggles to overcome indecision and inertia shape the narrative, and the inner-city culture of Sydney’s young professionals provide its backdrop.

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‘In fifty years’ time,’ Robert Haupt and Michelle Grattan write in 31 Days to Power. ‘historians will look at the 1983 elections, see that inflation, unemployment and interest rates were at high levels compared to the past, and conclude that Fraser could never have won’.

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The title of The Half-Open Door implies questions relating to the lives of modern professional women in Australia, and bears on the current attention, political and academic, being given to women’s matters. These questions are made explicit in the book’s Preface, which asks why women enter the demanding areas of the professions and the arts, and why so few achieve positions of high status in these fields. Contemporary evidence, formal and informal, of the ambiguity of opportunity for women in Australia is commonplace. For instance, the typical composition of academic humanities departments is like that in which the reviewers work: sixty-four per cent of the student body yet only twenty per cent of the full-time academic staff are female. Why the door – which was opened relatively early for women in Australia by university admittance, emancipation and equal job-opportunity –remains half-closed is a question that needs to be asked. Regrettably, this volume goes only half-way to suggesting an answer.

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