Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson

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

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder' by Carol Baxter

May 2017, no. 391 30 April 2017
Simon Caterson reviews 'The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder' by Carol Baxter
Among the glittering generation of pioneering aviators and aviatrixes of the 1920s and 1930s, Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller stands out as remarkably adventurous. Carol Baxter’s highly readable biography provides an engaging portrait of a young suburban housewife who decided, quite literally, to make her own way in the world. As Baxter acknowledges, for a biographer it is a tremendous story that ju ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing' by Ashleigh Wilson

September 2016, no. 384 22 August 2016
Simon Caterson reviews 'Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing' by Ashleigh Wilson
Notwithstanding the fact that he died alone in a hotel room following a heroin overdose at the age of fifty-three, Brett Whiteley led what for an Australian artist in particular may be characterised as a fortunate life. As Ashleigh Wilson relates in this excellent biography, Whiteley retained the capacity to astonish, despite his misadventures. A middle-class upbringing and education in Sydney an ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Book of the People: How to read the Bible' by A.N. Wilson

August 2016, no. 383 26 July 2016
Simon Caterson reviews 'The Book of the People: How to read the Bible' by A.N. Wilson
According to A.N. Wilson, the Bible is badly misread by those fundamentalists, whether believers or atheists, who choose to read it in a literal-minded way rather than as the supreme work of the imagination. For Wilson, the Bible is an inexhaustible source of poetic and moral stimulus, not an instruction manual containing strictures of uncertain historical provenance that make no sense to modern m ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Waterfront: Graft, Corruption and Violence: Australia's crime frontier from 1788 to now' by Duncan McNab

May 2016, no. 381 27 April 2016
Simon Caterson reviews 'Waterfront: Graft, Corruption and Violence: Australia's crime frontier from 1788 to now' by Duncan McNab
The Australian way of life has been much influenced by the proximity of most of the population to the coast. While we often think of the sunny side of that existence in terms of the beach, certain shadier aspects of the Australian experience have been shaped at the docks. 'Australia's major ports have been the birthplace of the nation, home to the tight-knit communities that were pivotal in the b ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Journey to Horseshoe Bend' by T.G.H. Strehlow

January-February 2016, no. 378 22 December 2015
Simon Caterson reviews 'Journey to Horseshoe Bend' by T.G.H. Strehlow
First published in 1969 and out of print for nearly forty years, Journey to Horsehoe Bend is a literary classic that envisions an Australian epic on a grand scale. That epical potential was recognised by composer Andrew Schultz and librettist Gordon Kalton Williams, whose cantata adapted from the book had its world première in 2004. Journey recounts the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful atte ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Australian Catholic Lives' by Edmund Campion

June-July 2015, no. 372 29 May 2015
Simon Caterson reviews 'Australian Catholic Lives' by Edmund Campion
‘Most history is simply lost.’ By means of a regular biographical column in the Jesuit magazine Madonna published over the past twenty-five years, Father Edmund Campion has preserved pieces of Australian personal history that might otherwise have been neglected, if not forgotten altogether. In this, the author’s second collection of biographical sketches (following Great Australian Catholics ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Mannix' by Brenda Niall

April 2015, no. 370 25 March 2015
Simon Caterson reviews 'Mannix' by Brenda Niall
With her long-awaited life of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, Brenda Niall, one of Australia’s leading biographers, has conquered a subject that for decades she regarded as compelling yet ‘intractable’. ‘As a presence (I wouldn’t claim such a remote and magisterial being as a neighbour) Daniel Mannix was part of my childhood,’ Niall recalls. She grew up in the once largely Irish suburb of Ke ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Rich: From slaves to super-yachts, a 2,ooo-year history' by John Kampfner

March 2015, no. 369 02 March 2015
Simon Caterson reviews 'The Rich: From slaves to super-yachts, a 2,ooo-year history' by John Kampfner
Just how different are the rich from everyone else? F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a 1926 short story that they are ‘soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. ... (read more)

This backyard thy centre is

October 2013, no. 355 30 September 2013
This backyard thy centre is
To judge by John McLaren’s thought-provoking survey of 200 years of writing about Melbourne, the city’s most insidious negative feature for many observers – wrong-headed though they may be – is dullness. In George Johnston’s My Brother Jack (1964), the narrator David Meredith rails against the suburbs as ‘worse than slums. They betrayed nothing of anger or revolt or resentment; they la ... (read more)
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