Archive

Vane Lindesay reviews 'Ramming the Shears' by Michael Leunig

Vane Lindesay
Wednesday, 03 June 2020

The thing that has distinguished the ‘inspired genius’ from the run of the mill ‘practitioner’ in all creativity is quality of mind. Michael Leunig, few Australians have to be told, has this. But astonishingly, quality of mind has not been a gradual, developing part of Leunig’s work, for it was evident as an integral part of his art, first widely seen in the pages of the fondly remembered National Review fifteen years ago. This is not to say he has not developed – he has in subtle directions and of course his graphic expression too has developed, as it should, with the discipline of creating for the Melbourne Age newspaper.

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Brian Dibble reviews 'Foxybaby' by Elizabeth Jolley

Brian Dibble
Tuesday, 02 June 2020

A colleague asked if I thought that Elizabeth Jolley’s Foxybaby might have gone ‘over the top’. I assume she meant that the book might be ‘too much’ because the function of its preoccupation with (say) crime and sex, including incest and homosexuality, was not immediately apparent. The question is a reasonable one, but for two reasons I don’t think that her latest novel does go over the top: there is no theme used or technique employed in Foxybaby which has not appeared in Jolley’s writing before; and, ad astra (perhaps per aspera or per ardua), the book represents a logical but highly imaginative development from her most recent work.

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John Bryson has tried to solve one of Australia’s great mysteries – how Azaria Chamberlain died. The cover of Evil Angels gives the clue to his answer. A bruise-coloured sky glowers over a stark, orange-brown desert. There is the twisted relic of a tree in the foreground and in front of it, like a spreading puddle of blood, the shadow of a dingo, its eyes on an evil slant.

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This is a massive book, as large in scale as the author himself, running to over 700 pages, and – at a rough estimate – to something like 300,000 words of text, lightened only by a few photographs, all of them of Gough Whitlam with friends and enemies.

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'Sunday at Glen Alice'

Nadia Wheatley
Friday, 15 May 2020

We are having a Sunday picnic. It is not a cosmopolitan affair, with pâté and brie and champagne, nor even a dinky-di one, with sausages and sauce and tinnies. Simply an impromptu, let’s-get-out-of-the­house event: a jar of peanut butter, a jar of honey, a tub of marge, half a loaf of Friday’s bread and a packet of jubes.

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Comedy and violence co-exist happily in this delightful first novel about a group of weekend bird watchers who themselves become the objects of scrutiny.

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Set mostly in north-western Nepal during the early 1970s, Blood on the Lotus is a fictionalised account of the events leading up and consequent to the CIA’s withdrawal of support for the Kamphas, the Tibetan guerrilla army fighting the occupying Chinese.

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In her autobiographical sketch One Writer’s Beginnings, Eudora Welty wrote of her mother: ‘But I think she was relieved when I chose to be a writer of stories, for she thought writing was safe.’ Can you just imagine the shock on Chestina Welty’s face when she read, as she must have, this sentence tucked away into the middle of one of her daughter’s first stories: ‘When he finally looked down there was blood everywhere; her lap was like a bowl.’ 

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Robert Holden reviews 'The Grisly Wife' by Rodney Hall

Robert Holden
Friday, 15 May 2020

With the publication of Rodney Hall’s latest novel, The Grisly Wife, the author has brought to completion a trilogy that first began appearing in 1988. Since this last published novel is actually the middle work of the trilogy and what were formerly two separate novels are now bridged by this newcomer, we are finally given the opportunity to assess if and how the parts relate to the whole.

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These two very different novels by women provide a wealth of suggestive information about the women’s history being reclaimed and re-established by Australian feminists. They also happen to be intrinsically good novels, accomplished and charming in contrasting ways. Add Cambridge’s The Three Miss Kings, reprinted in the Virago Modem Classics series, was first serialised in 1883 in The Australasian, published in novel form in 1891, and soon became one of Cambridge’s most popular novels. It draws upon the familiar form of the romance, but it also, in its translation into an Australian setting, illuminates an idiosyncratic colonial grafting onto that form.

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