Archive

From a clutch of novels including the award-winning Camille’s Bread (1996), Amanda Lohrey has now turned to shorter literary forms, notably two Quarterly Essays (2002, 2006), a novella (Vertigo, 2008) and this new collection of short stories. At the 2009 Sydney Writers’ Festival she publicly confessed her new leaning, arguing the benefits of genres more easily completed by both writer and reader and less likely to produce guilt if cast aside unfinished.

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This special issue of La Trobe Journal is guest edited by Lynette Russell from Monash University, and John Arnold, the Journal’s new general editor (since No. 82). Titled Indigenous Victorians: Repressed, Resourceful and Respected, it showcases new historical scholarship that draws on the State Library of Victoria’s unrivalled collections. Topics covered in the twelve essays are diverse: Aboriginal guides to the Victorian goldfields, fisheries in western Victoria, cricketers at Coranderrk, Lake Tyers Aboriginal settlement, the Victorian Aboriginal Advancement League, and government legislation relating to Aboriginal Victorians, among others.

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When the book arrived for review, a paperback of 656 pages, my heart sank. Americans are the world’s greatest researchers. Reading it would be like drinking from a fire hose. But it began incisively, with a turning point in the 2008 presidential campaign that established Obama’s audacity as a ‘complex, cautious, intelligent, shrewd, young African-American man’ who would project his ambitions and hopes as the aspirations of the United States of America itself. Soon we were in Kenya, with Tom Mboya, Jomo Kenyatta, the Mau Mau uprising, and Barack Hussein Obama Sr, a promising young economist with a rich, musical voice and a confident manner on his way to the University of Hawaii. We also meet the most compelling character in the book, perhaps in Obama’s life: his mother, a seventeen-year-old from Kansas, intrepid and idealistic, who takes up with the dasher from Kenya, becomes pregnant and marries him.

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Many of my dreams have to do with the sea. Sometimes they concern Antarctica, an exciting prelude to going into the interior with other people.

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It takes a talented writer to imbue history with colour and vivacity. It is all the more impressive when the author creates a compelling narrative. As an example of a burgeoning genre, A Few Right Thinking Men more than matches its historical crime contemporaries in both areas.

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The Australian Journal of French Studies special number on Jacques Rivette continues the journal’s tradition of ground-breaking scholarship. Rivette has long been acknowledged as both an important and enigmatic film director – in some respects even more challenging than his New Wave colleague, Jean-Luc Godard. Rivette’s work is notoriously difficult of access. Almost all his films are unconventionally long; the longest, Out 1 – Noli me tangere (1970), runs for almost thirteen hours. In all of them, narrative lines are deliberately unresolved and complicated, and made the more disorienting by the director’s improvisational filming methods; only exceptionally, such as with Céline et Julie vont en bateau (1974) or Va savoir (2001), have they attracted sizeable mainstream audiences.

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Going Down Swinging, No.30 edited by Lisa Greenaway, Nathan Curnow, and Ella Holcombe

by
October 2010, no. 325

Reading the editorials and listening to editor Lisa Greenaway speak at the recent Melbourne Writers Festival, you could have been forgiven for noting a feeling of defeatism in Going Down Swinging’s sense of its own trajectory: a journal that has from the start, and each year since, been ‘destined to fail’.

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What’s not to love about Arthur Rimbaud? Having run away from his home in northern France, the outrageous and outrageously gifted teenage poet landed on the Paris doorstep of fellow poet Paul Verlaine in 1871. There, he co-opted the twenty-seven-year-old Symbolist into his artistic enterprise of ‘derangement of the senses’, which soon saw the pair embarking on a torrid affair that culminated in their fleeing to Brussels, where Verlaine shot Rimbaud (although not fatally) and was jailed.

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Even the cover design of Sheila Fitzpatrick’s memoir gave me something to ponder. The title, which signals the father–daughter story, is linked with an engaging seaside photograph of the two of them. The father’s swimming trunks and the daughter’s bathing cap have an authentic 1940s look. Add to that a bland subtitle, Memories of an Australian Childhood, and the tough confrontations of the text may come as a surprise.

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Not for forty years have Australians had real arguments with their governments about international relations. Many marched in 2003 against the Iraq invasion, but were ignored. Now, if the national obesity rate is any guide, Australians spend more time eating, partying and sleeping than having the earnest pre-breakfast discussions about foreign relations that Fukuzawa recommended.

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