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Brenda Walker

Brenda Walker is Emerita Professor of English and Literary Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her book Reading by Moonlight is a study of reading during illness.

Brenda Walker reviews 'A Kind of Confession: The writer’s private world' by Alex Miller

December 2023, no. 460 24 November 2023
Alex Miller’s most recent book, A Kind of Confession, begins with notebook entries from his pre-publication period – long years in which his deep trust in his identity as a writer appears to have been unshaken. In 1971, he notes: ‘I’ve been committed to writing since I was 21, 13 years. Quite a stretch, considering I’ve yet to publish.’ He was in his fifties before his first novel emer ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Cuttlefish: Western Australian poets', edited by Roland Leach

November 2023, no. 459 27 October 2023
In Marion May Campbell’s poem ‘in the storeroom,’ which appears in Roland Leach’s anthology Cuttlefish, she writes that ‘poems are letters that go astray’ – a whimsical yet fitting definition of the kind of poetry that appears in this collection. In these digital times, there is something ceremonial about a letter: a personal communication which must be opened and held; possibly shar ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Eleven Letters to You: A memoir' by Helen Elliott

July 2023, no. 455 27 June 2023
In an exuberant essay anticipating the publication of Eleven Letters to You, the critic and editor Helen Elliott describes the deep pleasure of working on the book: ‘The satisfaction of writing this book, of making it as good as I can has been unlike anything I’ve ever known. A necessary joy, the deepest new, an entirely selfish pleasure. A small and ravishing bomb inside me’ (The Monthly, M ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'The Settlement' by Jock Serong

October 2022, no. 447 27 September 2022
A third of the way through Jock Serong’s sixth novel, The Settlement, a woman asks her new husband a pointed question about Wybalenna, the desolate Tasmanian community in which she finds herself, a community of duplicitous, expedient, and brutally deranged white men and the First Nations Tasmanians they seek to subjugate. ‘How will it end? His wife had asked him when she first arrived. Will th ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Lohrey' by Julieanne Lamond

September 2022, no. 446 25 August 2022
The Labyrinth begins with a woman walking through her childhood home – a decommissioned asylum. In middle age she moves to a run-down house by a wild and dangerous sea, where she notes her vivid and prophetic dreams. The house is convenient because she needs to be close to her son, an imprisoned artist. She befriends a stonemason who offers to carve her a gargoyle (which she refuses). Together t ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Bedtime Story' by Chloe Hooper

May 2022, no. 442 24 April 2022
A father sits on a couch that is set between the beds of his young sons, who must be eased into sleep with a story. The scene is illuminated by a lamp in the shape of the globe, which is as it should be, for he shows them his world through the simple patterns of these stories: his cherishing of the natural world; his insight into happy reversals of fortune; his humour. The father’s stories are s ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Leaping into Waterfalls: The enigmatic Gillian Mears' by Bernadette Brennan

December 2021, no. 438 23 November 2021
In 2011, Bernadette Brennan convened a symposium on ‘Narrative and Healing’ at the University of Sydney, an opportunity for specialists in medicine and bereavement to meet writers with comparable interests. Helen Garner, for example, spoke about Joe Cinque’s Consolation. The day included an audiovisual piece about death as a kind of homecoming, with reference to the prodigal son, and exquisi ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Life as Art: The biographical writing of Hazel Rowley' edited by Della Rowley and Lynn Buchanan

August 2021, no. 434 22 July 2021
The biographer Hazel Rowley enjoyed the fact that her green card – permitting her to work in America – classified her as an ‘Alien of exceptional ability’. This is close to perfect: her own biography in a few words. If not exactly an alien, she was usefully and often shrewdly awry in a variety of situations: in the academic world of the 1990s, in tense Parisian literary circles, and in the ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Randolph Stow: Critical essays' edited by Kate Leah Rendell

May 2021, no. 431 27 April 2021
‘Land isn’t always meant to be grasped any more than art is, or dust,’ writes Michael Farrell in the arresting opening sentence of the first essay of Kate Leah Rendell’s Randolph Stow: Critical essays. Stow’s writing shows just how provisional meaning and territoriality can be, and the statement is a fitting beginning to a new book about his work. Randolph Stow (1935–2010) is a partic ... (read more)
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