Delys Bird

In his Epilogue to this major study of the West Australian wheatbelt and its writers, Tony Hughes-d’Aeth describes his work. With no ‘exact precedent’ in Australian scholarship, it is ‘best thought of as an amalgam of literary history, literary sociology and literary geography’. To achieve this, Hughes-d’Aeth traces the idea of the wheatbelt through inte ...

Elizabeth Jolley’s personal and publishing history is well known. She migrated from the United Kingdom to Western Australia with her husband, Leonard, and their three children in 1959, when Leonard was appointed Librarian at the University of Western Australia. Although she had been writing from a young age and had brought a great ...

Westerly 59:2 by edited by Delys Bird and Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

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March 2015, no. 369

‘A father is God to his son,’ declares the father in David Whish-Wilson’s story ‘The Cook’, just a split second before he is shot dead by his drug-dealing son. Thus begins this special edition of Westerly, which marks not only the magazine’s sixtieth year of publication but also the retirement of its two standing editors, ...

Tim Winton: Critical Essays edited by Lyn McCredden and Nathanael O’Reilly

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October 2014, no. 365

Sitting, a few years ago, in the audience at a writers’ festival in the south-west of Western Australia, at a panel session hosted by Jennifer Byrne, I was struck by the widespread reaction to one of the panellists announcing that the book she had chosen to discuss was Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (now securely canonised as an ‘Australian national classic ...

The question of the relationship of the biographer to their subject is a fascinating one. Kath Jordan is frank about her long and intimate friendship with Veronica Brady as she recounts the way this book came into being. In a preface, she remembers celebrating with a friend the High Court’s rejection of Western Australia’s challenge to its Mabo native title decision, in March 1995. Thinking of Brady’s active involvement in Aboriginal rights issues, the two decided that they would write her biography. Brady gave her consent to the idea – although there is no sense that she was closely involved with the project – and what became the unexpectedly long gestation of Larrikin Angel was eventually begun, with only one author.

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This is a particularly interesting group of reissued ‘classics’, spanning just over fifty years in twentieth-century Australian literature. Although they have very different fictional styles, all are realist or social realist novels, and their politics and preoccupations are not dissimilar. Each is concerned with working people’s lives, differing contrasts between city and country life, and aspects of class.

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Authority and Influence: Australian literary criticism, 1950–2000 edited by Delys Bird, Robert Dixon and Christopher Lee

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May 2001, no. 230

The problems that have bedevilled Australian literary criticism and literary history over the last twenty years have been worldwide. Histories, even quite short ones, now have to be written polyphonically, by committees of dozens of contributors. It is taken for granted that no single person could cover the whole field and the variety of critical perspectives, movements, genres, institutions and ideologies involved. One of the recurrent phrases of recent years has been ‘pushing the boundaries’; but histories, surveys, theses, articles all depend on demarcation lines. That is why the notion of a ‘canon’ has been useful, though, of course, a canon needs to be constantly questioned and revised so as not to become stagnant and restrictive.

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Beverley Farmer is one of a group of women writers celebrated in Gillian Whitlock’s collection of excerpts from their work, Eight Voices of the Eighties. Its introduction begins with a remark attributed to Elizabeth Jolley where she calls the 1980s in Australia ‘a moment of glory for the woman writer’. Beverley Farmer’s first novel, Alone, was published in 1980, at the beginning of this period of renaissance and recognition of women’s writing as central to a national literary culture.

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The first thing to be noted about this collection of essays is that it is aimed at a quite specific market – HSC/VCE students. There is a list of ‘Study Questions’ at the end, and the language of the essays is consistently pitched at an upper secondary school level. Readers who want more complex responses to My Place would be better served by consulting the eclectic bibliography to the text as a starting point.

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Three sections at the beginning of Marion Campbell’s second novel, Not Being Miriam, initiate its preoccupations and problems. They relate incidents from the childhood of Bess Valentine, its major character. In the first and shortest, Bess creates a transforming ritual, a childish game with significant narrative implications. Bess strips herself and Sean, paints their bodies with clay, the children enter the water which washes away the clay; then she dresses in Sean’s boxer shorts and clothes him in her bubble bathers.

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