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Catriona MenziesPike

Catriona Menzies-Pike is a writer and editor based in Vancouver. In 2023, she won the Walkley-Pascall Prize for arts criticism. Between 2015 and 2023, she was Editor of the Sydney Review of Books.

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In this week’s ABR Podcast, Catriona Menzies-Pike reviews Richard Flanagan’s new hybrid work Question 7. Menzies-Pike argues that Flanagan’s ‘sweeping engagement with history ultimately brings the author back to himself’ in ways that limit understanding of the present tense. Catriona Menzies-Pike is a literary critic and former editor of the Sydney Review of Books. Listen to ‘The Measure of things: Flanagan’s looping book of questions’, published in the November issue of ABR.

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When Richard Flanagan left school, he tells us early in Question 7, he worked as a chainman or surveyor’s labourer, ‘a job centuries old set to vanish only a few years later with the advent of digital technology’. Chainmen would have followed the surveyors who mapped Van Diemen’s Land and the rest of the British Empire; their task was to ‘drag the twenty-two-yard chain with its hundred links with which the world was measured’. The clanking surveyor’s measure evokes convict chains, and it demonstrates one of the principles at the heart of this book: that the past lives and redounds in the present. The chainman is a descendant of convicts, and he insists that ‘there was no straight line of history. There was only a circle.’

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In her introduction to Sydney Review of Book’s latest anthology, Open Secrets: Essays on the writing life, Catriona Menzies-Pike quickly establishes what readers should not expect. ‘There are no precious morning rituals here,’ the editor promises, ‘no magic tricks for aspiring writers.’ It’s true that these essays, each a mix of disarming honesty and polymathic intelligence, hover far above the glut of literary listicles clogging the internet. And thank goodness: if I have to suffer Hemingway mansplaining show-don’t-tell one more time, I may go out and shoot a lion myself.

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The Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike

April 2016, no. 380

When I heard that there was a new book out on why women run, I assumed I would be reading about women fleeing domestic horrors rather than running marathons. Such a reaction might make Catriona Menzies-Pike sigh with frustration, and the cultural myopia which gave rise to my unthinking assumption is one of the reasons she wrote this book. 'I'd read a lot of books ab ...

Five poems have been shortlisted in the 2016 Peter Porter Poetry Prize. The poets are Dan Disney, Anne Elvey, Amanda Joy, Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet, and Campbell Thomson; their poems can be read here. The judges on this occasion were Luke Davies, Lisa Gorton, and Kate Middleton.

Join us at our studio in Boyd Community Hub on Wednesday, 9 March (6 pm), when the poets will introduce and read their works, followed by the announcement of the overall winner, who will receive $5,000 and an Arthur Boyd print. This is a free event, but reservations are essential.

These ceremonies always commence with a series of readings of poems written by Peter Porter (1929–2010). This year our readers – Judith Bishop (winner in 2006 and 2011), Morag Fraser, Lisa Gorton, and Peter Rose among them – may choose to dip into the new collection of late Porter poems: Chorale at the Crossing (Picador, $24.99 pb).

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Where to start with Fever of Animals? The narrator of Miles Allinson’s début novel is hardly certain where to begin his story. Throughout this curious book, the difficulties of composition are paramount. ‘And what is this book I am supposed to be writing? Am I even writing a book or am I fooling myself, as I fooled myself so many times in th ...

We meet Kit, a reticent and slightly spoilt teenager, just after her arrival at the train station of an unnamed Victorian seaside town. She has been picked up by her friendly, daggy aunt Treen and taken to the Sea House, a dilapidated nineteenth-century mansion that is a case study in antipodean gothic.

Treen lives in the Sea House as a carer and companion t ...

‘What’s your favourite way water can be?’, eight-year-old Em asks her father Merv. Em likes waterfalls, but Merv prefers floods. A flood, he explains to Em, ‘is a type of flat waterfall you can ride on. But it’s serious too. It knows where it’s going and it’s determined to get there.’

Mervyn Rossiter, the exasperating, endearing larrikin hero ...

Midway through Kári Gíslason’s début novel, The Ash Burner, Ted, his dreamy, curious narrator, watches Anthony paint Claire. As she strikes angular poses for him, Ted reflects on how he would paint her: ‘I would have waited for the moments when she relaxed that pose and when her outline, the shape of her waist, was allowed to stand uncorrected by art o ...

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