Jane Goodall

Letters to the Editor

Thursday, 01 October 2020

Delights and jolts

Dear Editor,

ABR is always engaging, even when one disagrees with the thrust or standpoint of particular reviews, but surely the May issue is the most brilliant ever. An edition which has a poet (Peter Rose) reviewing David Malouf’s new novel, Brian Matthews on Henry Lawson, Elizabeth Webby on Xavier Herbert, and Robert Phiddian on Penny Gay’s monograph about Shakespearean comedies, has to be special, thoroughly deserving of the endorsements of literary luminaries with which ABR has promoted itself over the years. In fact, a writer who, as Dr Phiddian did, can use the phrase ‘industrial-strength literary-criticism’ in his first paragraph and one of my favourite words, ‘rebarbative’, in his second, has my unremitting admiration. And I haven’t yet mentioned the appearance of John Burnheim and Ian Britain on the Letters page.

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In his conclusion to this book, Kevin Brophy states a key principle of creative composition: ‘to be responsive to what happens, what is thrown into the mind, what one comes upon.’ This is at once a statement of advice for an artist at work, and a theoretical proposition. Through the course of the ten essays that make up the volume, Brophy develops a hypothesis about the kinds of brain function involved in creativity and, in particular, the role of consciousness in relation to other mental and sensory forms of intelligence. Without drawing the terms ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ into play – a great relief to those of us who have grown weary of that inevitable binary – he suggests that the work of an artist or writer may be facilitated by an exploratory interest in the operations of consciousness.

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Samuel Johnson had some advice for aspiring writers. ‘Read over your compositions,’ he said, ‘and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.’ One imagines the impact of this recommendation on an eighteenth-century student of literature, clutching a page of overblown rhetorical flourishes and faux erudition. Our cr ...

Craig Sherborne's Tree Palace

Jane Goodall
Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Craig Sherborne’s previous books include two memoirs, Hoi Polloi (2005) and Muck (2007), and an autobiographical novel, The Amateur Science of Love (2011). His second novel, Tree Palace, is an excursion outside the confines of the first-person narrative. First-person narrative does not of course always imply confinement, but in Sherborn ...

By its title, Tales from the Political Trenches promises reportage from the front line, eyewitness accounts of what really happens in the hidden zones of the political battlefield. The tales told here follow a rollercoaster sequence of political events: the meteoric rise of Kevin Rudd, Maxine McKew’s triumph over ...

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Jane Goodall: Remembering Robert Hughes (1938–2012)

Jane Goodall
Thursday, 30 August 2012

When Gore Vidal died a few weeks ago, his publisher issued a statement calling him the last survivor of a postwar crop of American literary giants. ‘It is hard to think of another … who cut as dashing and visible a figure in various public realms,’ said Vidal’s Doubleday editor, Gerald Howard. Less than a week later the obituary columns were taken over by ju ...

Alex Miller and a craving for mythos

Jane Goodall
Thursday, 24 May 2012

Jane Goodall

 

The Novels of Alex Miller: An Introduction
edited by Robert Dixon
Allen & Unwin, $39.99 pb, 268 pp, 9781742378640

 

As creative writing programs continue to surge in popularity, it has become something of an uphill battle to recruit students fo ...

Robert Dessaix: As I Was Saying

Jane Goodall
Monday, 27 February 2012

Grand illusion

Jane Goodall

 

AS I WAS SAYING: A COLLECTION OF MUSINGS
by Robert Dessaix
Vintage, $27.95 pb, 224 pp, 9781742753072

 

‘I’m sitting in my tower, cogitating.’ Well, Dessaix admits, it’s not a real tower, though he likes to think of ...

Address to the reader is one of the conventions of the modern essay form, going back to Montaigne, who includes a statement of address by way of an introduction to his collected writings. A question or series of questions refreshes the direct address along the way, accentuates the sense of voice, and vitalises the connection by supposing the reader as an interlocuto ...