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In 1880, Turgenev visited Tolstoy at his country estate after a long period of estrangement, only to discover that the great novelist had, in the interim, renounced art in favour of ethical enquiry. Turgenev was appalled, and dashed off a letter complaining that ...

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Melbourne woman Kate Holden’s memoir of being a heroin user and of working as a prostitute to fund her habit opens with a quote from Virgil: ‘To descend into hell is easy. But to return – what work, what a labour it is!’ The quote is at odds with the life story Holden constructs in this brave, explicit, and extremely well-written book ...

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Kate Grenville is a brave woman. For some years now, the representation of Aboriginal people by white writers has been hedged about by a thicket of post­colonial anxieties, profoundly problematic and important but too often manifested as hostile, holier-than-thou critique, indulging, at its most inept ..

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On the face of it, this book represents a strange project: to elaborate for the reader’s consideration the moral beliefs of a man whom the author judges (and judged in advance, one suspects) to be shallow, inconsistent, lacking moral and intellectual sobriety, and to have failed so often to act on the moral principles he repeatedly professes that he can fairly be accused of hypocrisy ... 

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Geography by Sophie Cunningham

by
April 2004, no. 260

The first book of fiction is a little sub-genre with a number of readily recognisable features. It’s loosely structured and tends to be episodic, without much of a plot. It’s at least partly about love and sex, preferably of an obsessive or otherwise significant kind. And it’s at least partly autobiographical. If it’s already a bad book, then these things do tend to make it worse, but if it isn’t, then they don’t necessarily detract; it’s not a value judgement, just an observation.

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Anyone who heard Inga Clendinnen’s 1999 Boyer Lectures or who has listened to her in any other way will hear her voice clearly in this book: contemplative, reflective, warm, gently paced. Dancing with Strangers seems to have been written as if it were meant to be read aloud. It reaches out to its listeners ...

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Paris has gone crazy.’ There are people everywhere; ‘players and officials have been arriving like migrating birds’. The German team – including Hermann Hesse, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Gropius,Thomas Mann, Martin Heidegger ...

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In 1978 the writer John McPhee, accompanied some geologists on a field trip to the American West, and in order to express their insights into the vast processes that had formed the present landscape, he coined the evocative and durable term ‘deep time’. With a sharp Australian eye, Tim Flannery has now done the same for the entire continent in this remarkably ambitious yet highly readable book. As an active research palaeontologist, he has a profound sense of the history of his discipline, and has the ability vividly and sometimes whimsically to put himself and the reader into the places of discovery and into the mindsets of the often testy pioneers in this fossil game.

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Murray Bail has passed muster as an important Australian novelist for quite a while now.  His 1980 novel Homesickness, with its sustained parodic conceit of Australian tourists forever entering the prefab theme park, rather than its ‘real’ original, was an early national venture into what might have been postmodernism. Holden's Performance, a good time later ...

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Several books could and doubtless will be written to explore the sociological and psychological puzzles attending Helen Darville’ s remarkable masquerade. Robert Manne has no interest in the motivations of Helen Darville. His concerns are cultural and political, and therefore focus on the fictional character, Helen Demidenko: on her writings and statements, and on the responses of Australian intellectuals to those writings and statements during her brief life from 1992 to late August, 1995.

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