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Richard Holmes

Richard Holmes’s aim in this remarkable book is to set aside the notion that ‘Romanticism as a cultural force is generally regarded as intensely hostile to science, its ideal of subjectivity eternally opposed to that of scientific objectivity’, replacing it with the notion of wonder, uniting once mutually exclusive terms, so that ‘there is Romantic science in the same sense that there is Romantic poetry, and often for the same enduring reasons’. ... (read more)

Just before I flew to Australia to deliver this year’s HRC Seymour Lecture in Biography, I heard an ABC broadcast on the BBC World Service. The Australian commentator was talking about the centenary of the birth of Donald Bradman, the ‘great Don’ with his famous Test batting average of 99.94 runs. He said that Bradman was a peculiarly Australian role model because he was a sporting hero and because he knocked the hell out of the British bowling. Slightly carried away by the moment, he added: ‘We still need those founding fathers – we’ve had no George Washington, no Abraham Lincoln ... Don Bradman fills a biographical gap.’

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Jonathon Otis – a true believer

The winner of the 2008 ABR Reviewing Competition is Jonathon Otis for his review of Julian Barnes’s memoir, Nothing to Be Frightened Of. Mr Otis receives $1000 and future commissions in the magazine. Second prize, valued at $250, goes to Elizabeth Campbell for her review of Brook Emery’s poetry collection Uncommon Light. Third prize, a set of Black Inc. books, goes to Alexis Harley for her review of Janet Frame’s novel Towards Another Summer.

The competition attracted 150 entries – a forty per cent increase from 2005. The selection of subjects under review was impressively vast, ranging from national and international fiction to ethics, the economy and even gastronomy. Religion, notably, was a popular subject; we received numerous reviews of Christopher Hitchens. There were multiple reviews of Ian McEwan and J.M. Coetzee. Interestingly, death was a popular subject.

Peter Rose judged the competition with Rebecca Starford. The Editor remarked: ‘This competition gets better and better. I’m pleased we attracted more entries, but the main purpose of this competition is to foster greater interest in the art of reviewing, to encourage new reviewers and to replenish the ranks of Australian critics. The standard this year was markedly higher than in previous years; the long list was extensive. We have identified about two dozen new reviewers for ABR. We’ll certainly present this award again in 2009.’

Jonathan Otis, a Melbourne-based writer with an abiding interest in genre, had this to say on learning of his win: ‘I feel a quiet, comforting elation. I am a true believer in literature’s life-affirming qualities. For me, ABR exemplifies vigilance through art in Australia. I am thrilled to have won the competition and for the opportunity to contribute to such an esteemed literary review.’

Jonathon Otis’s review appears on page 42. He will write for us again in 2009.

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