Archive

Many of my dreams have to do with the sea. Sometimes they concern Antarctica, an exciting prelude to going into the interior with other people.

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It takes a talented writer to imbue history with colour and vivacity. It is all the more impressive when the author creates a compelling narrative. As an example of a burgeoning genre, A Few Right Thinking Men more than matches its historical crime contemporaries in both areas.

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The Australian Journal of French Studies special number on Jacques Rivette continues the journal’s tradition of ground-breaking scholarship. Rivette has long been acknowledged as both an important and enigmatic film director – in some respects even more challenging than his New Wave colleague, Jean-Luc Godard. Rivette’s work is notoriously difficult of access. Almost all his films are unconventionally long; the longest, Out 1 – Noli me tangere (1970), runs for almost thirteen hours. In all of them, narrative lines are deliberately unresolved and complicated, and made the more disorienting by the director’s improvisational filming methods; only exceptionally, such as with Céline et Julie vont en bateau (1974) or Va savoir (2001), have they attracted sizeable mainstream audiences.

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Going Down Swinging, No.30 edited by Lisa Greenaway, Nathan Curnow, and Ella Holcombe

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October 2010, no. 325

Reading the editorials and listening to editor Lisa Greenaway speak at the recent Melbourne Writers Festival, you could have been forgiven for noting a feeling of defeatism in Going Down Swinging’s sense of its own trajectory: a journal that has from the start, and each year since, been ‘destined to fail’.

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What’s not to love about Arthur Rimbaud? Having run away from his home in northern France, the outrageous and outrageously gifted teenage poet landed on the Paris doorstep of fellow poet Paul Verlaine in 1871. There, he co-opted the twenty-seven-year-old Symbolist into his artistic enterprise of ‘derangement of the senses’, which soon saw the pair embarking on a torrid affair that culminated in their fleeing to Brussels, where Verlaine shot Rimbaud (although not fatally) and was jailed.

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Even the cover design of Sheila Fitzpatrick’s memoir gave me something to ponder. The title, which signals the father–daughter story, is linked with an engaging seaside photograph of the two of them. The father’s swimming trunks and the daughter’s bathing cap have an authentic 1940s look. Add to that a bland subtitle, Memories of an Australian Childhood, and the tough confrontations of the text may come as a surprise.

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Not for forty years have Australians had real arguments with their governments about international relations. Many marched in 2003 against the Iraq invasion, but were ignored. Now, if the national obesity rate is any guide, Australians spend more time eating, partying and sleeping than having the earnest pre-breakfast discussions about foreign relations that Fukuzawa recommended.

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Pirate Rain by Jennifer Maiden

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October 2010, no. 325

Jennifer Maiden is a great experimenter – in a specific sense. In a 2006 interview in The Age she said: ‘I have always found poetry a useful tool for tactical and ethical problem-solving … I suppose it’s a laboratory for testing out ideas.’ Maiden works from an ethical stance, but not, as some critics and readers have assumed, a facile leftist one (whatever ‘left’ means in the twenty-first century). The poems in this latest book are mainly discursive, and many address political situations, issues and, more specifically, public figures and personae.

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Kim Scott noted in 2001 that the biographical notes accompanying his first two novels (True Country, 1993, and Benang: From the Heart, 1999) changed ...

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Vanda and Young: Inside Australia’s Hit Factory by John Tait & Behind the Rock and Beyond: The Diary of a Rock Band, 1956–1980 by Jon Hayton and Leon Isackson

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October 2010, no. 325

 The history of Australian rock music is rich and eclectic. Vanda and Young: Inside Australia’s Hit Factory and Behind the Rock and Beyond: The Diary of a Rock Band, 1956–1980 provide two perspectives on the early years of rock music in this country. John Tait, owner of a second-hand record and bookshop in Melbourne and a self-confessed ...