Archive

This issue of open access e-journal Transnational Literature offers contributions from a 2009 symposium on migration, held in Adelaide. It is a diverse collection, appropriately so given persistent themes of dislocation, assimilation and multiculturalism. Still, perhaps diversity has its limits: the issue is burdened with Graeme Harper’s keynote symposium address, a ponderous and misplaced commentary on ‘the journey’ creative writers undertake: ‘As might already be realised, post-working can be the pre-working for future Creative Writing, and it can (and often is [sic]) emphasize the fact that creative writers are creative writers because they are actively engaged in one or more of the many acts of Creative Writing.’

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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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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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Chris Womersley reviews 'Notorious' by Roberta Lowing

Chris Womersley
Monday, 14 September 2020

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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The best things about this book are the paintings, the photographs, and the paper. The worst thing is the prose. But does this matter, you may well ask, in a book obviously designed to travel rapidly from the coffee table to the wall – with its large size format and convenient disintegration at first read? It’s the pictures we want, not the prose.

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Lisa Gorton reviews 'Butterfly' by Sonya Hartnett

Lisa Gorton
Monday, 14 September 2020

Sonya Hartnett is one of the most various of good writers. In particular, she is good at creating atmosphere: a distinctive world for every story. As a consequence, every book she writes is a different style of book. Take some recent examples. The Ghost’s Child (2007), with its plot like a fable, reads like an old tale told in an outdated language of ‘sou’westers’ and ‘fays’. Its form, language and style are so consistent its oddity seems like part of its simplicity. In contrast, Surrender (2005), a horror story, has a style of calculated Gothic, playing narrative games to manufacture menace.

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Eva Gandel and Marc Besen Married in Melbourne in 1950 and soon began collecting current art. After the closure of John Reed’s privately established but short-lived ‘Museum of Modern Art & Design of Australia’, they bought a few of its de-accessioned possessions, paintings by John Perceval and Sidney Nolan. In the 1970s they added works by recentlydeceased Sydney artists William Dobell, Ralph Balson, and Tony Tuckson. These were perceived ‘gaps’ in a collection of recent Australian art. Perhaps the systematic history of Australian art then profusely displayed in the private collection formed by their relative Joseph Brown, and first published in 1974 as Outlines of Australian Art, had inspired the Besens to be more systematic. Hitherto, they had mostly encountered local work by living artists.

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I will always remember the first time I heard Kim Beazley Sr speak. It was at Kingswood College at the University of Western Australia, a year or two before the election of the Whitlam government. He spoke on the question of Aboriginal land rights, culture and spirituality. It was a spellbinding address which put the sword to the prevailing doctrine of assimilation. It wasn’t just the content of the speech which captured the interest of the student audience but the passion with which it was delivered. Like many there, my own thinking on the subject changed forever.

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Peter Rodgers reviews 'Israel’s Occupation' by Neve Gordon

Peter Rodgers
Monday, 14 September 2020

Barack Obama has promised to change the way America does things. If he is serious about this when it comes to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, we can only hope that he will read Neve Gordon’s examination of Israel’s post-1967 rule of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The subject matter, and the occasionally choking academic writing, do not make for a pretty story. But the book might serve to temper the new president’s apparently effusive support for Israel. That country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its determined settlement-building programme, are an ongoing disaster for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

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