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The naïveté of honesty

September 2005, no. 274

Australian Literary Studies edited by Leigh Dale

Vol.22, No.1, May 2005, 130 pp

Book 2 Cover Small (400 x 600)

Meanjin: Portraits of the artists edited by Ian Britain

Vol.64, Nos.1–2, 2005, $30 pb, 342 pp

The naïveté of honesty

September 2005, no. 274

In his Structure of Complex Words (1951), William Empson counted fifty-two uses of the words ‘honest’ and ‘honesty’ in Othello. Nikki Gemmell, the publicity-shy cover star of the latest edition of Meanjin, manages to cram ten references to honesty (her own) into five lachrymose pages of her essay ‘The Identity Trap’, in which she explains that she refused to publish The Bride Stripped Bare (2003) under an assumed name because ‘a pseudonym is a lie’. How comforting it is to know that a writer of fiction should be possessed of such integrity, even if she does say so herself. Gemmell’s revelation does, however, constitute a severe blow to the reputations of George Orwell, Henry Handel Richardson and those lying Brontë sisters.

Portraits of the Artist, a double issue, revisits a successful theme from two years ago. Its emphasis is on questions of identity – specifically the creation and representation of identity – both on an artistic and a personal level. The edition is split fifty-fifty between contributions dealing with the visual arts and, in its second half, essays on literary subjects. It is a terrifically diverse collection, taking in everything from cinema and cartooning to the recent Christo installation in New York’s Central Park. On the literary side of the ledger, it boasts articles on Helen Garner and Patrick (‘Uncheery Soul’) White, as well as an interview with Hannie Rayson and new fiction from Peter Goldsworthy.

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