Archive

The Shrine of Remembrance is such a familiar object in the landscape of Melbourne that we can easily be unaware of its singularity. This is, as far as I can tell, the largest purely monumental structure in the world commemorating the war of 1914–18, a great memorial to participants in the Great War. The duke of Gloucester inaugurated the Shrine before a crowd of more than three hundred thousand people – almost three times the largest number ever to attend a sporting event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – on 11 November 1934, Armistice Day, as it used to be called. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the duke placed a wreath from his father, George V, on the Stone of Remembrance in the Sanctuary at the centre of the Shrine, and at that moment, as planned by architect and engineer, a ray of light fell on the black granite of the Stone, lighting up the word ‘Love’ in the carved inscription ‘Greater love hath no man’. In 1934 more people than in 2007 knew those words and the words that followed them in the Bible: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

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John Birmingham’s After America is the second book in what is clearly intended to be a trilogy of page-turners – a follow-up to his Axis of Time trilogy, the swashbuckling alternative history which saw a US carrier battle group transported back in time to the middle of World War II. After America, the sequel to Without Warning (2009), is set in a decidedly dystopian alternative present, the result of a mysterious energy wave that wipes out most of the human and animal life forms in North America in 2003. As one might expect, chaos ensues. A global ecological catastrophe has accompanied the human disappearance, a civil engineer from Seattle (the only big US city to survive the wave) has been elected president, Israel has launched nuclear strikes on its Middle East neighbours, and groups of well-organised pirates from Lagos have taken over New York City.

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Michael Costigan reviews 'New Selected Poems' by Vivian Smith

Michael Costigan
Wednesday, 08 April 2020

In his 155-page essay on Australian poetry in The Oxford History of Australian Literature, Vivian Smith modestly makes only one passing reference to his own work, noting that he, with a number of other modern poets, had been influenced by university education.

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Andrew Peek reviews 'Jacko' by Tom Keneally

Andrew Peek
Wednesday, 08 April 2020

We are introduced to the eponymous hero of Jacko by an Australian narrator who is writing a novel about China and teaching a writing class at New York University. The students in his class hero-worship Grace Paley, Alice Munro, and Raymond Carver and compose pieces for submission to the New Yorker.

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John Hanrahan reviews 'Madness' by Morris Lurie

John Hanrahan
Wednesday, 08 April 2020

We meet Tannenbaum in his ‘cosy Anne Frankish semi-hidden nook’. These writerly Jewish recluses have very little else in common; Tannenbaum is separated from his wife and two children. His friend/lover Anise is trying to drink her way out of a nervous breakdown. For further solace he resorts to ‘horizontal unravelling’ or ‘psychiatric horizontality’.

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Kate Veitch reviews 'Women and Horses' by Candida Baker

Kate Veitch
Wednesday, 08 April 2020

As interviewer to the literary gentry in the Yacker series, Candida Baker could hardly be deemed a stranger to the agonies and ecstasies of the fiction writer’s craft. Her skill as interviewer and journalist has attracted attention and praise, and now everyone who’s been holding their breath to see how Candy Baker would manage her own first excursion into fiction can relax with a sigh of relief.

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Anyone interested in Aboriginal history or race relations will probably be familiar with the work of Henry Reynolds. His books include The Other Side of the Frontier (1982), Frontier (1987), and The Law of the Land (1987). This latest book is a collection of documents, ones that provided much of the source material for Reynolds’s earlier works. In this book, he tell us in the preface, ‘our forebears speak for themselves and speak in many voices’.

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What Revolution? The title’s a teaser! Echoes of Lefty/Godot? You’ll understand if I’m infected by Noel McLachlan’s prose. On page after page, sentences and semi-sentences addressing the reader informally/colloquially (even verblessly!), rich in apostrophes, italics, parentheses, sloping lines between pairs/triads, even quartets/quintets, of words, ending often with exclamation marks and (nine times on one page I’ve counted!) question marks.

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Mark Roberts reviews 'Hitting the Wall' by David Foster

Mark Roberts
Wednesday, 08 April 2020

I have often found myself feeling a little frustrated after reading a David Foster novel. While never doubting his ability as a writer, the convolutions of his narrative have, more than once, overshadowed his undeniably fine prose. His latest book, Hitting the Wall, a collection of two novellas, allows us the opportunity to examine how Foster handles the more urgent needs of this much shorter form.

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Perhaps too many relatives, constant rain, and excessive New Year celebrations have left me cranky and cheerless, but Morris Lurie’s latest novel, Seven Books for Grossman, did little to improve the general malaise. It is a slight volume. It certainly lacks the insight and compassion of some of Lurie’s short story collections like Dirty Friends. It also lacks the humour.

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