Peter Carey’s first novel, Bliss, will be self-recommending to all admirers of his astonishing short stories. The Fat Man in History and the even better War Crimes mark Carey as the most genuinely original of our storytellers – a fabulist and, in some corners of his imagination, a surrealist of disturbing power. Part of his achievement and, arguably, a sign of his freshness of vision is that his fictions manage so adroitly to slip through the critic’s webs of explication. They tend to resist any simple yielding up of their inner meaning at the same time as they touch the nerves of our general experience and social fears. The central figures of his narratives are typically trapped in the labyrinths of their obsessions or delusions, they are solitaries, often, like the fat men in the title story, both victims and perpetrators of their condition.... (read more)
The Transit of Venus has been widely acclaimed, and justly so: it is a great novel of passion and ambition, success and failure, written with elegance and wit, and magnificently structured. Still, despite the critical superlatives, few critics have attempted to come to grips with the power of Hazzard’s writing. There have been the inevitable comparisons with Jane Austen, and some attention has been paid to the symbolic connotations of the title, but little more. The prose and structure of the novel are worth examining in some detail because, seven years in the making, it is a most crafted and sculpted work of literary art.... (read more)
In Tirra Lirra by the River, an elderly woman, Norah Porteou, returns to live in her childhood home in Brisbane after forty years as a ‘London Australian’. The house is empty, so is her life. Norah is a ‘woman whose name is of no consequence’. She is sensitive, vaguely artistic, slightly superior (‘Mother,’ she appeals in a childhood scene, ‘don’t let Grace call me Lady Muck.’) The novel consists of a review of her past, with interruptions from half-remembered neighbours offering curious and resentful help.... (read more)
Divorce Dilemma is a book for those contemplating divorce, but it should be compulsory reading for those contemplating marriage! Warwick Hartin brings a wealth of research and practical experience to this clear and searching analysis of divorce and marriage in our society. He courageously examines the sacrosanct institution of marriage, our reasons for marrying, the divorce rate and the effect of divorce on children.... (read more)
In David Malouf’s second and perhaps most celebrated novel, An Imaginary Life (1978), of which this new novella is so reminiscent, the Roman poet Ovid is exiled to a primitive village named Tomis. Ovid, ‘called Naso because of the nose’, has been banished due to his unspoken affronts. In Tomis, Ovid, doomed and apart, senses that he must acquire in simplicity a new kind of wisdom:... (read more)
A Fraction of the Whole is Sydney author Steve Toltz’s sprawling début. Wearing its misanthropic heart uproariously on its sleeve, Fraction is a long father-and-son tale that traverses continents and nods to countless literary forebears on its way.... (read more)
In early 2018, Christos Tsiolkas published a long essay as part of a series commissioned by the Sydney branch of PEN, an organisation dedicated to freedom of expression. ‘Tolerance’, which appeared in Tolerance, Prejudice and Fear (2008), is an interesting document, not least for the way it highlights how compelling yet exasperating a writer Tsiolkas can be.... (read more)
We were never married, Dido.
Cease weeping, let me leave and agree
we both knew real spouses.
Even as the ghost of my precious wife passed
through my clutching arms like mist
Never far from one’s mind these days, the events of September 11, 2001, and their direct aftermath in Afghanistan and elsewhere, had to be prominent in this month’s issue of ABR, such is their complex resonance and ubiquitous iconography. To complement Morag Fraser’s essay in this issue on the consequences of ‘September 11’ for civic ...