Vintage Books

Several years ago, I was privy to a breakfast conversation with one of our venerable literary critics, in which he lamented the proliferation of novels in Australia by young women. Of particular concern, he announced, was the tendency of said young women to construct ‘itsy-bitsy sentences from itsy-bitsy words’. And he smiled around the table warmly, secure in venerable male polysyllabic verbosity. As a young woman myself of vague literary urges, I felt thoroughly rebuffed. The only words I could think to form were both too itsy-bitsy and obscene to constitute effective rebuttal, and they remained unsaid.

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José Borghino reviews 'A Private Man' by Malcolm Knox

José Borghino
Friday, 07 February 2020

Gabriel García Márquez once said that all of us lead three different lives simultaneously: public, private, and secret. In his second novel, A Private Man, Malcolm Knox explores two very secret recesses of the modern Australian male’s experience: porn and sport. That both these spheres also have a very public face merely allows for these secret experiences to be played out in front of a paying audience as either tragedy or farce, or sometimes both.

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It is an eerie measure of a movie’s power when you come out at the end of it and sense, however fleetingly, that you’re still a part of its world, or that its world is all but indistinguishable from the everyday one you’ve just re-entered. German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder was grand master of this trick. His compatriot Pina Bau ...

W.H. Chong reviews 'The Summons' by David Whish-Wilson

W.H. Chong
Monday, 14 October 2019

The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past; it keeps coming back as different novels, and writers do things differently there. Nazi Germany remains history’s prime hothouse from which to procure blooms for fiction’s bouquet. All those darkly perfumed spikes – drama and tragedy intrinsic, memory within recall.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Dreams of Speaking' by Gail Jones

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Wednesday, 10 July 2019

If you can say immediately what you think a novel is ‘about’, then the chances are that it may not be a very good novel. Fiction as a genre gives writers and readers imaginative room to move, to work on a vertical axis of layers of meaning as well as along the horizontal forward movement of narrative development ...

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How much do you care about sheep? I mean really care about sheep. Because The Ballad of Desmond Kale is up to its woolly neck in them. It’s an unusual and inspired variation on the classic Australian colonial novel of hunters for fortune, for identity and for redemption ...

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Simon Tormey reviews 'My Life, Our Times' by Gordon Brown

Simon Tormey
Friday, 26 October 2018
It is a cliché to note that Gordon Brown is an enigma as far as contemporary British politics is concerned. A fundamentally decent man of high moral standing, Brown forged with Tony Blair arguably the most successful political partnership the United Kingdom has known ... ... (read more)

For admirers of Clive James’s poetry written since he became terminally ill in 2011 (and this reviewer is certainly one), The River in the Sky will pose something of a quandary. In collections like Sentenced to Life (2015) and Injury Time (2017), the poems were generally tough, vulnerable, well-turned and ...

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I have only been to Harden-Murrumburrah once, the small town where journalist Gabrielle Chan moved in 1996, leaving the Canberra press gallery to live on a farm with her husband. It was on the way back from a football match in Cootamundra, in the middle of another grim Canberra winter ...

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