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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 'The Silence Calling: Australians in Antarctica 1947–97' by Tim Bowden

September 1997, no. 194 01 September 1997
As Tim Bowden would well remember, the ties of Hobart to the Antarctic have been visible long before the transfer of the Antarctic Division from Melbourne to Kingston, south of Hobart, in 1982, and the establishment of the Institute of Antarctic and Oceanic Studies at the University of Tasmania six years later. From the 1950s, the chartered Scandinavian vessels that carried members of the Australi ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'Dilemma' by Jon Cleary and 'Fetish' by Tara Moss

April 2000, no. 219 01 April 2000
Let us start with the similarities: two thrillers, set mainly in Sydney, each with a would-be snappy but jaded one word tide. On each a stiletto-heeled shoe is part of the cover design. There the ways seem to part. Dilemma is Jon Cleary’s forty-ninth novel in a career of six decades and marks the sixteenth appearance of Detective Scobie Malone. For Canadian-born, former model Tara Moss, Fetish i ... (read more)

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

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 'The Brisbane Line Controversy' by Paul Burns

June 1998, no. 201 01 June 1998
The title is not provocative: The Brisbane Line Controversy, but Paul Burns’s subtitle flags the partisanship that will mark his study. This is a case, he contends, of ‘Political Partisanship versus National Security 1942–45’. His conclusion is unobjectionable: ‘belief in a “Brisbane Line” was our barometer of fear about the vulnerability of our own continent which no Australian Army ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'The Mindless Ferocity of Sharks' by Brett D’Arcy

May 2003, no. 251 01 February 1987
Brett D’Arcy’s novel, arrestingly titled The Mindless Ferocity of Sharks, is one of the most unusual and accomplished to be published in Australia for years. The setting is a decaying town called the Bay on the coast of Western Australia, south of Perth. Its abattoir and tanneries have long since closed. The locals are sufficiently hostile to have fended off development – so far. They endure ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'Documents that Shaped Australia: Records of a nation’s heritage' by John Thompson

April 2010, no. 320 01 April 2010
For many undergraduate students of Australian history in the 1960s (when there were still plenty of them), the set text was not a narrative history but Manning Clark’s Select Documents in Australian History (1950, 1955). Dry but fascinating, the documents covered the period from 1788–1900. First published more than a decade before the opening volume of Clark’s A History of Australia, here we ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'Prisoners of the Japanese: Literary imagination and the prisoner-of-war experience' by Roger Bourke

October 2006, no. 285 01 October 2006
When it was first published, Tasmanian army nurse and prisoner of war Jessie Simons entitled her memoir of captivity While History Passed (1954). It was reissued as In Japanese Hands (1985). This was one of the numerous autobiographical works produced after their ordeal by POW survivors, whether they were driven by an enduring hatred of their captors (Rohan Rivett, Russell Braddon) or by a strivin ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'A Nation at War: Australian politics, society and diplomacy during the Vietnam War, 1965–1975' by Peter Edwards

November 1997, no. 196 01 December 1997
A nation at war is a less than gripping tide, although it is suggestively ambiguous. Australia was at war in Vietnam for most of the decade covered in Peter Edwards’s book. In senses chiefly, but not wholly, metaphorical, it was also a society ‘at war’, divided over conscription and the commitment of troops to Vietnam. The excellent cover photograph illuminates the latter implication of Edwa ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (Second Edition)' edited by William H. Wilde, Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews

December 1994, no. 167 01 December 1994
‘Those bastards at Oxford,’ Barry Andrews fulminated ten years ago (he had in mind one or two in particular) ‘are trying to make us cut 200,000 words from the book!’ The ‘book’ was the first edition of the estimable The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. The ‘bastards’ had miscounted and the text survived more or less in full. Now, nine years after its first publication, th ... (read more)

Peter Pierce reviews 'An Angel in Australia' by Tom Keneally

December 2002-January 2003, no. 247 01 December 2002
Writing novels, he’s Tom Keneally. Works of history – such as The Great Shame (1998) about the Irish diaspora to the USA and Australian in the nineteenth century, and this year’s American Scoundrel, concerned with the adventures of politician, general and amorist Dan Sickles – are by Thomas Keneally. There is more doubling in Keneally’s most recent novel, for he uses two titles. In this ... (read more)
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