Rachel Robertson

I read this book about a young woman falling into the dislocating world of a puzzling mental illness at a time when the global pandemic was disrupting many people’s equilibrium. I started to wonder: might living through this time of enhanced anxiety encourage empathy towards people who experience extreme anxiety in non-pandemic times? If those living in the ‘kingdom of the well’ (as Susan Sontag puts it) now start to recognise the contingent, temporary, and often accidental nature of well-being, could that trigger a deeper understanding of those who always live with chronic illness or disability?

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Rachel Robertson reviews 'Hearing Maud' by Jessica White

Rachel Robertson
Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Hearing Maud begins and ends with the notion that the narrator’s life has been defined by a pharmakon, an ancient Greek term denoting something that is both poison and cure. This subtle and more complex version of the ‘gift or loss’ dilemma common in disability memoirs avoids oppositional thinking and embraces instead paradox and nuance ...

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An essay at the heart of this collection, ‘Against Motherhood Memoirs’ by Maria Tumarkin, is not as insistent as its title suggests. Tumarkin, interested in ‘fissures and de-fusion’, troubles the awkward spots in her analysis. While reading Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (2015) – which places ‘motherhood and queerness side by side’ with ...

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In her Introduction to The Best Australian Stories 2017, Maxine Beneba Clarke describes how the best short fiction leaves readers with ‘a haunting: a deep shifting of self, precipitated by impossibly few words’. Many of the stories here achieve this, inserting an image or idea into the reader’s mind and leaving it there to worry ...

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Rachel Robertson reviews 'Dying: A memoir' by Cory Taylor

Rachel Robertson
Monday, 23 May 2016

We must all die, but many of us live as though we don't know this fact. When death comes close to us or our loved ones, we may feel totally unprepared ...

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2008 Calibre Prize (Winner): 'Reaching One Thousand'

Rachel Robertson
Wednesday, 07 January 2015
I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers.
Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici
The real world is not given to us, but put to us by way of a riddle.
Albert Einstein

In the kitchen of my mother’s houses there has always been a wooden stand with a ...

Rachel Robertson reviews 'Riding a Crocodile'

Rachel Robertson
Wednesday, 24 September 2014

There is a long tradition of physicians turned writers, including Chekhov, Keats, Conan Doyle, and Somerset Maugham. More recent doctor–novelists include Alexander McCall Smith, Michael Crichton, and Khaled Hosseini. In Australia, Peter Goldsworthy is probably our most prominent writer–physician, with John Murray and now Paul Komesaroff joining the tradition.

Doris Brett's memoir 'The Twelfth Raven'

Rachel Robertson
Friday, 28 March 2014

Why does illness create such a marked need for story? Why do we want to read about other people’s illnesses and talk or write about our own? At the most basic level, it is surely because human beings always need stories. Indeed, neuroscientists believe that narrative consciousness is hard-wired into our brains. But what is it about illness in particular that invit ...

Rachel Robertson reviews 'The Twelfth Raven' by Doris Brett

Rachel Robertson
Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Why does illness create such a marked need for story? Why do we want to read about other people’s illnesses and talk or write about our own? At the most basic level, it is surely because human beings always need stories. Indeed, neuroscientists believe that narrative consciousness is hard-wired into our brains ...

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Rachel Robertson reviews 'Boomer & Me' by Jo Case

Rachel Robertson
Friday, 26 April 2013

The last decade has seen a significant growth both in the number of motherhood memoirs and in books about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Australia is no exception to this trend, and Jo Case, in Boomer & Me, makes a contribution to both fields. As someone who has written a motherhood memoir about autism, I am a sympathetic reviewer but might also be c ...

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