Catherine Kenneally: The first thing that strikes me is that there are now two books in a row with Christian symbols on the cover.
Peter Goldsworthy: Yes, well I didn’t have much say in the cover of that one. They showed it to me. Interestingly there was the novel, Honk if You Are Jesus and then a novella called Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam – probably more interesting to me because that’s my own work. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe that’s the mythical 1960s generation getting into middle age and starting to worry about death and the afterlife and all that stuff.
I’ve always been fascinated by those almost banal adolescent questions, why is there something rather than nothing. I’ve never fully outgrown them, and maybe you shouldn’t outgrow them. It is the basic question, why are we here?, and all those whys that continue to fascinate me.... (read more)
Award-winning Western Australian poet Philip Salem is both surprised and delighted by the response to his first novel, Playback. Simon Patton spoke to him recently during a brief visit to Melbourne.... (read more)
Helen Daniel: I find The Sitters very different from The Ancestor Game, which seems to me much more elaborate and complex. This new novel, which is about absence and silence, is an occasion of great economy and restraint.
Alex Miller: I think a couple of times in the book I actually say the story is my secret. In other words, I’m not going to tell you the story, I’m going to leave that out. Having left the story out, this is what’s left, which is always a kind of aim with me, and I think with any writer probably, to try to do as much as possible with as little. To leave it all out.... (read more)
Helen Thomson reviews 'Unbridling the Tongues of Women: A biography of Catherine Helen Spence' by Susan Magarey
This republication of Susan Magarey’s 1985 biography of Catherine Helen Spence commemorates the anniversary of her death, aged eighty-five, in April 1910. In an enlarged and attractive new paperback format, with a revised introduction, its cover sketch of Spence, with upraised hand, in mid-speech, emphasises the key subject, both actual and metaphorical, of women’s public speaking. Remarkable as a writer and as a political and social reformer, Spence’s status as one of Australia’s earliest female public intellectuals is best represented in her more immediately transgressive role as public speaker, a graphic unbridling of the female voice.... (read more)
Herz Bergner arrived in Melbourne in 1938, having left Warsaw after Hitler’s rise to power. Already a published Yiddish short story writer, he joined a group of progressive Yiddish-speaking writers and thinkers who often gathered at the Kadimah Library in Carlton. As information about the Holocaust began to reach these shores, Bergner argued passionately for an increase in European immigration to Australia. He also began work on a novel in Yiddish about a boatload of Jewish refugees (and some others) adrift on the high seas, supposedly destined for Australia.... (read more)
As a middling country far from the centre of major world events, Australia has usually bobbed about in the wake of greater Pacific powers. After being a dependency of Britain for nearly two centuries, the country was accustomed to having its fate decided by distant power brokers. Yet Australian leaders occasionally attempted to strike out on their own in pursuit of what they saw as distinctively Australian interests. Alfred Deakin did it in 1908 when he ignored the usual diplomatic niceties of consulting the British Foreign Office before inviting the American fleet to visit Australia; Billy Hughes did it with his grandstanding at the Versailles peace conference of 1919; and Robert Menzies and John Curtin did it during the desperate days of mid-1941, when they tried to keep Japan out of the war, as British Empire forces struggled to maintain their tenuous hold on the Mediterranean.... (read more)
When I started reading My Israel Question, the Israel Defence Force Chief of Staff had just vowed to ‘turn back the clock in Lebanon by twenty years’; and the demolition was underway. Beirut’s airport, major roads, bridges, power generation facilities and other civilian infrastructure had been bombed, and villages and densely populated suburbs were being reduced to rubble. In a report some weeks later (August 23), Amnesty estimated that 1183 Lebanese had been killed, mostly civilian, about one-third of them children. The injured numbered 4054, and 970,000 people were displaced; 30,000 houses, 120 bridges, 94 roads, 25 fuel stations and 900 businesses were destroyed. Israel lost 118 soldiers and 41 civilians, and up to 300,000 people in northern Israel were driven into bomb shelters. Israel estimates that Hezbollah, the putative object of its wrath, lost about 500 fighters.... (read more)
Books like this are not written for people like me, and it is only fair to acknowledge that at the outset. ‘Australia’s most beloved popular historian’ (he must be, it says so on the inside flap) actually doesn’t want to be regarded as an historian, but as a storyteller (he says so himself), and so has little or no interest in satisfying the requirements and expectations that a professional historian might seek to apply to his undertaking. He will make a lot of money in the process, and good luck to him.... (read more)
More revisionism, I sighed, viewing the title of this book. First it’s the extent of frontier warfare between Indigenous Australians and settlers, now it’s the 1930s Depression. Doubtless in the next year or two we shall have a history demonstrating that the trauma of Gallipoli has been much exaggerated, since most of those who took part survived and some lived to ripe old ages. I was too hasty. David Potts has produced a subtler and more nuanced study than might be expected from the book’s title and advance publicity. Some of his findings are open to debate, but he underpins his arguments with evidence based on many years of oral history research with his undergraduates in the splendidly creative school of history at La Trobe University. It is this use of oral history that makes for controversy.... (read more)
Shane Warne is one of the greatest bowlers of all time, if not the greatest. Highly competitive and aggressive, he is one of the main factors in Australia’s prolonged dominance in world cricket. He has been involved in a series of controversies, on and off the field. He has been fined for sledging and over-aggressive appealing; and for providing, along with Mark Waugh, information to a bookie (something they both readily admitted, which the Australian Cricket Board tried to cover up). In 2003 he received a one-year ban for taking a banned substance, diuretic tablets, intended, he claimed (and this is not disputed by Barry), to help him lose weight. Off the field, like many leading sporting personalities, he is a serial womaniser... (read more)