Owen Richardson

Peter Robb, in this collection of some of his journalism, quotes E.M. Forster’s remark about Constantine Cavafy: that he lived ‘absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe’. That line is half true of Robb’s subjects in this book. They have a way of existing at an angle to the universe, but they are not at all motionless. The lives in this book have trajectories and velocities that bring out an equal dynamism in the man who recounts them, as could well be imagined by anyone who has read his earlier work about Italy and Brazil (2004) or his biography of Caravaggio (1998).

... (read more)

In David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, set half at a tennis academy and half at a rehab centre, one of the characters says that junior athletics is about sacrificing the ‘hot narrow imperatives of the Self’ to ‘the larger imperatives of the team (OK, the State) and a set of delimiting rules (OK, the Law)’. Meanwhile, the rehab inmates are learning, with the help of the twel ...

You have to sympathise with Nikki Gemmell. When she described her sense of liberation on deciding to publish The Bride Stripped Bare anonymously, she seemed to have in mind only a desire not to offend people close to her. She would also have liberated herself from the literary celebrity machine. But, once the game was up, she got even more of it than she would otherwise have done. It doesn’t seem to have bothered her too much. The profile in The Age and the appearance on Andrew Denton’s television show didn’t suggest that she was determined to salvage what she could from her original plan to stay invisible. Some of my more cynical friends have suggested that that was what she had in mind all along. But the book is written with a candour that confirms her avowals.

... (read more)