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Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson is a Melbourne-based writer whose first contribution to ABR appeared in 2001.

'Chopping into Literature' by Simon Caterson

November 2001, no. 236 01 November 2001
Bad art is where the personality of the artist reveals itself most fascinatingly, according to Lord Henry Wootton, the Wildean aesthete in The Picture of Dorian Gray. It is an idea that assumes an unexpected relevance as we reach the tenth anniversary of what is perhaps the strangest phenomenon in Australian publishing history. November 1991 saw the publication of Chopper: From the Inside, the ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb' by Wayne Reynolds

April 2001, no. 229 01 April 2001
Australia’s bid for the atomic bomb is one of the  great ‘what ifs’ of Australian history. Until now it has also been one of the greatest unknowns. According to Historian Wayne Reynolds, a convenient fiction has arisen which holds that all that really happened was that the Anglophile Menzies government allowed Britain to test its bombs at Maralinga to no great effect, except a legacy of ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews The Lamplighter by Anthony O'Neill

April 2003, no. 250 18 October 2022
To an appreciable extent, this is a book that can be judged by the cover. In the auto-interview accompanying the publisher’s media release, Anthony O’Neill explains that he was motivated to write his second novel by a desire to ‘emulate certain classic tales of the macabre that emerged from the nineteenth century, arguably the greatest century for novels’. In particular, he states that The ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Trust: America’s best chance' by Pete Buttigieg

May 2021, no. 431 17 December 2020
Serious observers of American presidential politics will not have missed the rapid rise to national prominence of Pete Buttigieg, the thirty-eight-year-old former mayor of the small Midwestern city of South Bend, Indiana. Within a year of announcing his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Buttigieg had made history as, in his words, ‘the first openly gay candidate to win a stat ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Burning the Books: A history of knowledge under attack' by Richard Ovenden

October 2020, no. 425 24 September 2020
The store of knowledge available to humanity has never been so immense and accessible as it is today. Nor has it been so vulnerable to neglect or erasure. That, in essence, is the message of this book, written with urgency by the most senior executive at the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford, one of the largest and oldest library systems in the world. In Burning the Books: A history of knowledge under ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Bird Way: A new look at how birds talk, work, play, parent, and think' by Jennifer Ackerman

August 2020, no. 423 27 July 2020
One of the most bizarre as well as unfortunate deaths in literary history occurred when the playwright Aeschylus was struck by a tortoise dropped on him by a bird. Bizarre, that is, if we don’t consider what the bird involved was doing, which was clever as well as practical. From the bird’s perspective, the tortoise was being dropped on a convenient stone rather than the bald head of a Greek t ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Child of an Ancient People' by Anouar Benmalek (translated by Andrew Riemer)

March 2004, no. 259 01 March 2004
At once extravagant and tightly wrapped, this novel reinforces the view that historical fiction says as much about the present and the future as it does about the past. At the level of history proper, Anouar Benmalek’s vision unites three continents that, in the second half of the nineteenth century, are subject to the depredations of European colonialism and domestic tyranny. At the human level ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Chromatopia: An illustrated history of colour' by David Coles

January-February 2019, no. 408 26 December 2018
The story of art could be framed as a narrative of tension between the boundless creative imagination of artists and the practical limitations – including instability, scarcity, even toxicity – of their materials. As master paint-maker David Coles explains in this wonderful book, the vividness and permanence of artists’ colours have never been assured. ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Missing in Action: Australia’s World War I grave services, an astonishing story of misconduct, fraud and hoaxing' by Marianne van Velzen

Online Exclusives 30 August 2018
Apart from its value as a case study in bureaucratic corruption and incompetence caused by lack of proper oversight, Missing in Action serves as an important reminder that the trauma of Australia’s involvement in World War I did not end with the Armistice. The appalling loss of life was compounded by the ineptitude and fraud associated with the initial official attempt after the fighting had end ... (read more)
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