Editorial boards of magazines are seldom noticed, except when a magazine is in trouble. For the past three years ABR’s board chairman was Brian Johns. Last May Brian resigned. It was a resignation he had been signalling for some time; he believed that it was time for him to go.
As a member of the board, I was saddened to see Brian go. ABR had been very important to him, and its success and survival, in both cultural and economic terms, had been an overriding concern. Brian was a demanding, at times overbearing, at times charming, but always inspiring and exciting chairman.
Brian is always interested in what people think, and in them. One of his great talents is that he inspires people to articulate and implement their ideas. With ABR his overriding ambition has been to establish it as a journal of influence in promoting Australian writing, that was successful on all fronts; and with the help of some wonderful editors – John McLaren, John Hanrahan and, most recently, Kerryn Goldsworthy – that has been achieved.... (read more)
This year I have read too many American political quickies, and large numbers of somewhat more satisfying detective stories. Amid the revelations about Hillary Clinton’s childhood, and the equally fictitious accounts of intrigue in Istanbul and Venice, a couple of books stand out. Andrew Wilson’s The Lying Tongue (Text) and Stephen Eldred-Grigg’s Shanghai Boy (Vintage) are ‘gay books’ that speak to themes other than sexuality, and deserve to be better known. Although ultimately too improbable, Andrew McGahan’s Underground (Allen & Unwin) evokes rather well a left-wing dystopia, centred on a Howard-like government. As for nonfiction, Tony Judt’s Postwar: Europe since 1945 (Heinemann), while telling us more about Poland and less about Spain than we need know, is a fascinating reminder of the Cold War era, evoked for the other side of the Atlantic in Thomas Mallon’s novel Fellow Travellers (Pantheon).... (read more)
Sir Ninian Stephen: A tribute edited by Timothy L.K. McCormack and Cheryl Saunders
Not half as nice
Nothing jolts a writer like finding that her book has been read in serious discord with her intentions and produced the last effect she’d have wanted. Heather Neilson (ABR, October 2002) thinks I’m ‘preaching’ and condemning to outer darkness those who don’t agree with me. This is disquieting, but also salutary.... (read more)