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Peter Pierce

Peter Pierce

Peter Pierce (1950-2018) was an Honorary Professor at Monash University. He edited The Cambridge History of Australian Literature and had been chief judge of the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction for the many years. Among his other books are From Go to Whoa: A Compendium of the Australian Turf; Australian Melodramas: Thomas Keneally's Fiction; and The Country of Lost Children.

Peter Pierce reviews 'New Guinea Days' by Michael O'Connor

July–August 2010, no. 323 01 July 2010
In the literature of Australia, our vast and mysterious nearest neighbour – now Papua New Guinea – has had a more significant place than is usually recognised. It was in this country that James McAuley saw war service and later converted to Catholicism. About New Guinea he wrote some of his most beautiful poetry, as when he summoned a bird of paradise to ‘[leave] your fragrant rest on the su ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'Investigations in Australian Literature' by Ken Stewart

October 2000, no. 225 01 October 2000
No more critically acute or challenging collection of essays on the subject has been published than Ken Stewart’s modestly titled Investigations in Australian Literature. Yet the author’s personality is not similarly subdued. The Stewart known in person to many readers of ABR emerges unselfconsciously: erudite but undogmatic, rueful and witty, a touch dishevelled, one of the most beguiling and ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews '2007: A true story, waiting to happen' by Robyn Williams

October 2001, no. 235 16 September 2022
Much loved public characters who venture into fiction in their mature years are, of course, on a hiding to nothing. Their apprenticeship, their experiences, their intuitions have all been spent or deployed elsewhere. In the case of Robyn Williams, these were as a distinguished science reporter and analyst for the ABC. The knowledge and opinions that he gathered there have been brought to the makin ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'Shattered' by Gabrielle Lord

June 2007, no. 292 01 June 2007
In her fourteenth novel, in a career that began in 1980 with Fortress, Gabrielle Lord returns to the series of books that feature the troubled and trouble-attracting private investigator, Gemma Lincoln. Shattered, the fourth in the series, is the most densely and effectively plotted of them. Gathered here are key people from earlier novels: Gemma’s lover, the undercover policeman Steve Brannigan ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'The Trout Opera' by Matthew Condon

December 2007–January 2008, no. 297 01 December 2007
Ten years in the making, Matthew Condon’s vibrant modern epic, The Trout Opera, has been worth the wait. It has an expansiveness and generosity of spirit that has become uncommon in Australian fiction (unless we think of an altogether different book, but on a similar scale, Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria, 2006). Sent in 1996 to report on the slow death of the Snowy River, Condon met the storied o ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'One Fourteenth of an Elephant: A memoir of life and death on the Burma-Thailand Railway' by Ian Denys Peek, and 'If This Should Be Farewell: A family separated by war' by Adrian Wood (ed.)

April 2003, no. 250 01 April 2003
These two unusual books reflect on aspects of the prisoner-of-war experience in Singapore, Thailand and Burma during World War II that have not been much canvassed in Australia. One Fourteenth of an Elephant, Ian Denys Peek’s sometimes irascible ‘memoir of life and death on the Burma-Thailand Railway’, relates the experiences of a member of the Singapore Volunteer Armoured Car Company. Peek ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'A Companion to Australian Literature Since 1900' by Nicholas Birns and Rebecca McNeer (eds)

February 2008, no. 298 01 February 2008
When G.B. Barton presented his two works concerning the literary history of New South Wales to the Paris Exhibition of 1866, he hoped that they would enable readers ‘to form an exact idea of the progress, extent and prospects of literary enterprise among us’. The words are succinct, unobjectionable, and their sentiments influenced much of the literary history of the next century, much as the p ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'Lines of Fire: Manning Clark and Other Writings' by Peter Ryan

December 1997–January 1998, no. 197 15 December 2021
This collection of Peter Ryan’s writings, Lines of Fire, is no grab-bag of oddments. The pieces included here are given an impressive unity by the author’s imposition of his presence, by his trenchancy, elegance of expression, a desire to honour the men and women of his younger days and to excoriate a present Australia in which too many people wallow in ‘an unwholesome masochistic guilt’. ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'The Sleep of a Learning Man' by Anthony Lawrence

March 2004, no. 259 01 March 2004
The Sleep of a Learning Man is the sixth verse collection from the gifted and exacting Anthony Lawrence. He has also written a novel. The epigraph to this book gives some hint as to where the poet stands, and where he intends to go. It is from Antonio Porcia: ‘I am chained to the earth to pay for the freedom of my eyes.’ But looking is only one means to find his way, a dilemma that a number of ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'Tom Roberts' by Humphrey McQueen

May 1996, no. 180 01 May 1996
Almost at the end of his very long biography, Tom Roberts, Humphrey McQueen wonders why – if Australian landscape painting had so much need of a father – ‘no-one thought to install Margaret Preston as the mother’ of the genre? He has a suggestive answer to a question which needed to be posed: That landscape art should seek a father when our culture describes nature and the earth as moth ... (read more)
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