Frank Moorhouse

The Drover's Wife edited by Frank Moorhouse

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March 2018, no. 399

In this collection of more than thirty pieces of fiction, journalism, criticism, academic papers, and ephemera (acceptance speeches, parliamentary questions, university course outlines), Frank Moorhouse gives evidence of, and attempts to explain, the durability of Henry Lawson’s classic short story ‘The Drover’s Wife’ in ...

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Operating in the shadows, security agencies usually have indifferent reputations. Their very nature prevents them from fully explaining themselves. At least some of their activities, if exposed to full scrutiny, would not enhance their reputations. There is a need for security agencies, yet the nature and scope of their role, powers, and responsibilities are contest ...

Storytelling in all its forms is one way of having something curious, strange, and comforting to say to others and ourselves when we are faced with the malaise of the real.

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Admirers of the first two volumes in Frank Moorhouse’s ‘Edith Trilogy’, Grand Days (1993) and Dark Palace (2000), will remember the gripping and heartbreaking scene at the end of Dark Palace in which Edith Campbell Berry, her British husband, Ambrose, and several of their senior colleagues are humiliatingly informed, in the cruellest ...

Oxford traveller

Dear Editor,

In his ‘Diary’ in the March 2007 issue of ABR, Chris Wallace-Crabbe tells us that he’s been reading Ulysses and War and Peace (‘alternately’) as he travels to Oxford. Then, out of the blue, he adds: ‘Meanwhile, Ken Gelder has written the most appalling attack on literature, and especially on the concept of style, in the latest Overland. His anti-aesthetic position is, of course, indistinguishable from that of John Howard and the right-wing philistines. It has been so for a long time: the right and the far-left in materialist cahoots.’ My Overland essay was a criticism of Tory literary tastes and positions in Australia, including the disdain some writers have for readerships. Only a blinkered literary snob could construe this as an ‘attack on literature’. I found Wallace-Crabbe’s insulting remarks utterly perplexing. For example, what does he mean by ‘the concept of style’? Whose concept? I have no idea. What does he mean by ‘anti-aesthetic’? The term used to be used by postmodernists, but he also attributes it to John Howard – a point which seems to fly in the face of reality.

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In a recent feature article in the Guardian Review, William Boyd proposed a new system for the classification of short stories. He constructed seven stringently categorical descriptions and ended his article with a somewhat predictable – that is to say, canonical – list of ‘ten truly great stories’, among which were James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Spring at Fialta’ and Jorge Luis Borges’s ‘Funes the Memorious’. Most of the writers cited were male, and the classifications were confident demarcations in terms of genre and mode (‘modernist’, ‘biographical’). It is difficult to know, and no doubt presumptuous to speculate, what Boyd would make of Frank Moorhouse’s edited collection The Best Australian Stories 2004. Garnering them ‘at large’ by advertisement and word of mouth, Moorhouse received one thousand stories, from which he selected ‘intriguing and venturesome’ texts, many of which display ‘innovations’ of form. Of the twenty-seven included, six are by first-time published writers and twenty are by women. This is thus an open, heterodox and explorative volume, unlike its four predecessors in this series in reach and inclusiveness. It is also, perhaps, more uneven in quality: a few stories in this selection are rather slight; and the decision to include two stories by two of the writers may seem problematic, given the large number of submissions and the fact that the editor claims there were fifty works fine enough to warrant publication. A character in one of the stories favourably esteems the fiction of Frank Moorhouse over that of David Malouf: this too may be regarded as a partisan inclusion.

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Relations between the public arena and the private are what the novel is all about. This loose, generous prose form was developed in early-modern Europe to enable a vigorous bourgeois imagination to ask the question: what is public, in fact, and what is private ...

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The faded but still brave word ‘grand’ in the title of Frank Moorhouse’s new novel gives a signal from another age, the 1920s, when after the war-to-end-all-wars there were grand ideals and grand hotels. It is also fitting that the League of Nations, the setting for the book, should in the 1920s have had its headquarters in Geneva in a former luxury hotel, while its own rather unfortunately named Palais was being built.

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Grand Days by Frank Moorhouse

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November 1993, no. 156

Grand Days is volume one of Frank Moorhouse’s Palais des Nations novels, and is connected to the author’s previous works Forty-Seventeen and The Electrical Experience by the characters of Edith Campbell Berry and George McDowell. The principal narrative of Grand Days goes on for 500 or so pages, and is followed by some thirty pages of notes and explanations which form another narrative. The most interesting narrative of all, to me, however, is the story of where this book fits into the life and work of Frank Moorhouse.

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Publishers are like invisible ink. Their imprint is in the mysterious appearance of books on shelves. This explains their obsession with crime novels.

To some authors they appear as good fairies, to others the Brothers Grimm. Publishers can be blamed for pages that fall out (Look ma, a self-exploding paperback!), for a book’s non-appearance at a country town called Ulmere. For appearing too early or too late for review. For a book being reviewed badly, and thus its non-appearance – in shops, newspapers and prized shortlistings.

As an author, it’s good therapy to blame someone and there’s nothing more cleansing than to blame a publisher. I know, because I’ve done it myself. A literary absolution feels good the whole day through.

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