Peter Rose

The subtitle of Janet Malcolm’s new book (published in Australia by Melbourne University Press) is Gertrude and Alice. Few names of literary couples can be so confidently trimmed. Scott and Zelda, Ted and Sylvia, George and Martha … all those happy couples. Gertrude and Alice has been used before, as the main title of Diana Souyhami’s joint study (1991), and will doubtless be used again. Their fame is an achieved and bankable thing, notwithstanding the fact that Gertrude Stein (1874– 1946) – whose books included Three Lives (1909), The Making of Americans (1925) and the wonderfully titled A Long Gay Book (1932) – remains perhaps the least read of the modernists.

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Earlier this year, the National Archives of Australia – after an epic legal battle – finally released the Palace Letters, a substantial cache of correspondence shedding light on the involvement of Buckingham Palace in the lead-up to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975. In today's episode, Jon Piccini talks with Peter Rose about two new books that interrogate the significance of the letters: The Truth of the Palace Letters by Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston, and The Palace Letters by Jenny Hocking. Piccini reviews both titles in his review in our upcoming January–February issue.

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Whatever we might think of him, Donald Trump has proven to be one of the most transformative figures in recent history. In today's episode, Timothy J. Lynch talks to ABR Editor Peter Rose about three new and highly critical books on Trump: Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump, A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, and The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton. As Lynch writes in his review, 'There is a paradox that these books illustrate but cannot resolve: why is a man so chaotic, so reviled, so malignant also so transformational?’

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In this week’s ABR Podcast, Peter Rose speaks to Michael L. Ondaatje (Professor of History at the Australian Catholic University) about black American voters’ attitudes towards Donald Trump and the Republican Party. They also discuss recent startling developments in an already tumultuous presidential election. 

Michael L. Ondaatje’s article ‘Black and Republican in the age of Trump’ is one of a series of commentaries funded by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. It appears in the October issue.

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In today's episode, Johanna Leggatt speaks to ABR Editor Peter Rose about growing disquiet about ‘cancel culture’, censorious voices on social media, and Twitter's threat to writers and journalists. Beginning with the recent case of Rachel Baxendale, a journalist at The Australian, who was subjected to much invective because of her persistent questions about the quarantine fiasco in Victoria, Leggatt laments the ‘routine trashing of reputations on Twitter’ and wonders why Twitter has ‘devolved into a channel for our most juvenile emotions’.

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What we read at difficult times in our lives – plague, insurrection, divorce, major root canal work, etc. – is always telling. Carlyle, miserable and unwell at Kirkcaldy, read the whole of Gibbon straight through – twelve volumes in twelve days – with a kind of horrified fascination. I recall one friend who, at a time of ineffable tension, calmly read Les Misérables, one thousand pages long, in a single week. (I would have been incapable of reading a tabloid.) Another time, lovelorn in Siena, I stayed in my ghastly hotel room and read The Aunt’s Story right through while the handsome Sienese sunned themselves in the companionable Campo.

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ABR asked a few colleagues and contributors to nominate some books that have beguiled them – might even speak to others – at this unusual time.

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What a difference a month makes! In late March, as we were sending the April issue to press, how bleak the outlook was here in Australia, but especially overseas. Future print editions seemed doubtful because of the scale of the threat and the imminent lockdown.

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I think of you now for the first time
in about five times as many years
as you actually lived, so uncomplainingly,
they always said, as they do of the dead.

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La Bohème 

Opera Australia
by
07 January 2020

Gale Edwards’s production of La Bohème is back for an extended summer season – sixteen performances no less. This production has been filling theatres since its creation in 2011. It may not run for as long as Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 extravaganza, still an annual fixture at the Metropolitan Opera, but it probably has another good decade to go. Revived here by Liesel Badorrek, it works considerably better in the tiny Joan Sutherland Theatre than it did in the State Theatre in 2018; the latter is too palatial for bohemian confinement and privations.

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