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Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews (1936–2022) was the author of short stories, essays, and biographies. His memoir A Fine and Private Place (2000) won the inaugural Queensland Premier’s Award for non-fiction and his Manning Clark: A Life (2008) won the National Biography Award in 2010.

Brian Matthews reviews 'The Critic in the Modern World: Public criticism from Samuel Johnson to James Wood' by James Ley

October 2014, no. 365 24 September 2014
Aproaching Thomas Wyatt’s great but notoriously resistant poem ‘They flee from me that sometime did me seek / With naked foot stalking in my chamber’, poet and critic Vincent Buckley wrote, ‘The sense of purposive yet mysterious activity created in this opening stanza is also a matter of its sensuousness … The critical problem is to define this … sensuousness … [I]t is not to identif ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'The Claimant' by Janette Turner Hospital

June–July 2014, no. 362 26 May 2014
‘You acquired the habit of disguise and now you can’t shed it.’ This observation, made by a nameless old man to Lilith Goldberg, one of the three main protagonists of The Claimant, lies at the heart of the novel, though it shares that vibrantly beating heart with much else: the implications and intricacies of privilege; the iron grip of lineage; the complexities of naming and identity; the r ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 18', edited by Melanie Nolan

February 2014, no. 358 17 January 2014
In his brief preface to Volume 1 of the Australian Dictionary of Biography 1788–1850 A–H (1966), Douglas Pike describes the ‘all-Australian, Commonwealth-wide … consultation and co-operation’ underpinning the volume and notes that the breadth and complexity of its intellectual network meant the Dictionary could ‘truly be called a national project’. Five decades later, in an informati ... (read more)

Brian Matthews is Critic of the Month

February 2014, no. 358 17 January 2014
When did you first write for ABR? 1981, during John McLaren’s incumbency as editor. What prompted you to take up book reviewing? Well, it took me up, really. It hadn’t occurred to me to review books until I was invited to write a piece for a journal called Prospect at Melbourne University. A long hiatus ensued during my school teaching years, but when I moved to Flinders University I began ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Eyrie' by Tim Winton

November 2013, no. 356 30 October 2013
Tim Winton’s Eyrie begins with one word standing alone like a defiant minimalist paragraph: ‘So.’ Not so strange, because ‘so’ is a popular, usually sarcastic or ironic opening gambit in the argot of twenty-first-century Letters to the Editor – ‘So Tony Abbott has refused to …’; ‘So Michael Clark thinks his team can …’, etc. – and likewise many of the Twittersphere’s s ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Coal Creek' by Alex Miller

October 2013, no. 355 26 September 2013
The writing of a novel, Alex Miller has said, ‘is a kind of journey of the imagination in which there’s the liberty to dream your own dream … There’s always got to be a model located somewhere in fact and reality … But some of your best characters are what you think of as being purely made up, just characters that needed to be there.’ There is no way of telling and no need to know if ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature' edited by Jane Stafford and Mark Williams

June 2013, no. 352 26 May 2013
To begin at the beginning. ‘When the first Pakeha ship came,’ Te Horeta told the explorer Charles Heaphy, ‘I was a lad … [about twelve years old].’ Watching the ‘white people’ row ashore, ‘paddling with their backs to the way they were going’, the boy and his companions ‘thought they must have eyes behind their heads’. ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'On Warne' by Gideon Haigh

December 2012–January 2013, no. 347 27 November 2012
In his The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling (1995), Peter Philpott remarks: ‘If there is one factor in spin bowling which all spinners should accept … it is the concept that the ball should be spun hard. Not rolled, not gently turned, but flicked, ripped, fizzed.’ Richie Benaud agrees: ‘Spin it fiercely. Spin it hard.’ The intensity of the grip that produces ‘fizz’ will also often result in ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Montebello: A memoir' by Robert Drewe

November 2012, no. 346 25 October 2012
Robert Drewe’s first memoir, The Shark Net (2000) – an account of ‘memories and murder’ – opens in the transforming ‘different sunlight’ of a courtroom, a light that seems ‘harsher, dustier, more ancient looking’, making the figure in the dock somehow ‘uglier, smaller’, ‘like a criminal in a B-movie’, the very ‘stereotype of a crook’. ... (read more)
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