Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Kevin Brophy

The Blue Plateau, set in the Blue Mountains, is part memoir, part essay and part anecdotal local history. Mark Tredinnick wrote it during the seven years he spent living in the valley below Katoomba with his wife and growing family. Strangely, we learn little of the author or his family as this informative, sympathetic and poetic book emerges from its landscape in meditative bursts. It is a kind of mosaic of prose poems. If there is an order in this book, it is, as Tredinnick suggests in his prologue, one that is more implicit than explicit.

... (read more)

‘Urgent things to say’ in the Calibre Prize

The competition was keen, the field unprecedentedly large (almost 200 entries), but after main readings and much discussion Kevin Brophy’s and Jane Goodall’s essays struck the judges of this year’s Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay (Gay Bilson, Peter Rose and Rebecca Starford) as being in a class of their own. It was impossible to split them. Both writers share the third Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay, and each will receive $5000.

That’s all they have in common, though. It would be difficult to find two more dissimilar essays, a measure of Calibre’s versatility and the diversity of the writers who are drawn to it. Jane Goodall’s theme, like her succinct title (‘Footprints’), has a kind of suaveness and urgency as she explores ideas about ecology and personal responsibility with reference to Kate Grenville, Mrs Aeneas Gunn, Nevil Shute and a sublime short story by Leo Tolstoy.

Kevin Brophy’s fruity title (‘“What’re yer lookin’ at yer fuckin’ dog?”: Violence and Fear in Žižek’s Post-political Neighbourhood’) introduces an amazing tale of domestic mayhem and incivility in present-day inner Melbourne. Kevin Brophy’s tormentors may have been the neighbours from hell, but what a tale it is. To make sense of this five-year drama, Kevin Brophy draws on the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek and his theory that violence – ubiquitous violence, as he sees it – is the very basis of late capitalist ‘post-political’ life.

... (read more)
It is difficult to choose the reader for this poem.
I have left its windows open
so you might as well climb inside
where you can be safe for now from weather,
and though you’re already feeling intrusive
think of yourself as a museum visitor
to a reconstruction of a life now silenced.
The bed, I know, has not been made
but the silver cutlery on the formal dining table is meticulous.
You will not be roped out of any room
and you can be confident
the writer left before you and your party arrived.
The place is left as realistic as anything you might write yourself.
Dirty clothes (for instance) are piled into a predictable straw basket,
their odour not quite animal or human, ... (read more)

‘Some meteorites make it to the surface simply because they’re so small that they literally float to the ground. There are thousands of these interplanetary particles in the room you’re in now, stuck to your clothes, in your hair, everywhere.’ This startling piece of information introduces Aileen Kelly’s ‘Notes from the Planet’s Edge’ in her new book, City and Stranger (Five Islands Press, $16.95 pb, 88pp), whose cover features Russell Drysdale’s iconic image of Woman in a Landscape. This bushwoman, then, is stuck with interplanetary particles or, as Kelly puts it, ‘the invisible sift of space’. Drysdale’s woman is transformed from the Australian legend in the dirt-coloured smock, wearing those oddly impractical white shoes, into a figure framed by an immense and moving universe. We look for this in poetry – the breaking of frames, the pleasure of surprise and discovery, and the contest between language and experience.

... (read more)

There are now 10,000 books written about Auschwitz. About the Holocaust there must be many more tens of thousands. Lily Brett is one of the great readers and collectors of these books. Her novels and poems are awash with Holocaust details and with an obsessive sense of responsibility for this impossible knowledge. Impossible because the horrific details cannot be held in the mind for long. In Too Many Men, the Holocaust stories do not come with the poised and philosophical moral gravity of an Inga Clendinnen, nor with the outrageous sensationalism of a Darville but with a doggedness and astonishment that are finally powerfully effective.

... (read more)

For the eighteen months or so that I taught novel writing a few years back, I was haunted by a remark of Somerset Maugham’s: ‘There are three rules for writing a novel, unfortunately nobody knows what they are.’ In his teasing way, Maugham is suggesting that while the novel has a recognisable form, it cannot – for a multitude of reasons – be reduced to a formula. What escapes definition is what makes the journey into the unknown worth the effort for both the writer and the reader. The danger is, of course, that such a remark can be used to mystify the whole process and imply that creative writing can’t be taught. You either have what it takes or you don’t.

... (read more)

In his third novel, Steven Carroll continues to work on those questions, obsessions, scenes and images that preoccupy him as a writer – the characters and personalities of women, and in particular that figure of a sexually charged and sophisticated young woman so disturbing to Helen Garner in The First Stone; the language of infatuation; the placement of characters in their particular city; mismatched lovers as the centre of a love story; and a certain trick Carroll has of overlaying the inner lives of characters with the narrative of events in the story being told. It is as though his characters swim, groggily, up out of their fantasies into the harsh, ironic events that have been provoked by their inner dreams. Life in his novels operates as a merciless commentary on the evasions and hubris of each character's consciousness.

... (read more)

Every so often you come across a book of poetry which is just plain friendly, a book without tensions or terrors or angst to seize you – but which is consistently good poetry throughout. Seeing Things is such a book. It is so accessible in its straightforward diction and low-key tone that reading it is to feel very much spoken to, acknowledged. This is not a poetry foregrounding language or form so much as a series of poems which almost coalesce during reading into an intimate reportage of the quotidian. Intimate in the sense of almost being there, sharing the observations. It is language as transparency. From ‘Painting Session’ referring to the poet’s two-year-old daughter:

... (read more)

My Boyfriend’s Father by Ben Winch & The Man Who Painted Women by John Newton

July 1996, no. 182

‘When I was eighteen my boyfriend’s father died in jail.’ This is the opening sentence of Ben Winch’s second novel; it is also the conclusion of the novel and, having got that out of the way, we can settle into the details that will tell us why this man died in jail and what his story means for this now eighteen-year-old woman.

... (read more)

Wishbone by Marion Halligan

October 1994, no. 165

These are the opening lines of Wishbone. Already I know that this is a book I want to continue reading, and not just for the promise of sex, romance, and intrigue. I am also attracted by the ‘difficulty’ of knowing just what tone is being taken here, and just who is speaking to me in these words. As well as being thrown immediately into the story, the reader is confronted with this tone – analytic, cool, amused? There is the holding-back of both information and conclusions. There is the emphasis on bodies, their awkwardness, the space they take up, their economics … and later the words and wishes they produce. Knight will say to his lover, Emmanuelle, ‘I thought we could have an affair and just be bodies.’

... (read more)
Page 3 of 4