William Heyward

Great publishers seem to be scarcer than great writers, possibly because people grow up dreaming of being the next Hunter S. Thompson or Simone de Beauvoir rather than Sonny Mehta or Beatriz de Moura. Writers probably need publishers, but publishers definitely need writers. Such a fact has never seemed more tangible to me than as I read The Garden of Eros, Jo ...

The Drinker by Hans Fallada, translated by Charlotte Lloyd and A.L. Lloyd

by
June 2013, no. 352

The Drinker, by Hans Fallada – first published in Germany in 1950, translated by Charlotte and A.L. Lloyd into English in 1952, unearthed for an Anglophone audience in 2009 by Melville House, and now published by Scribe – is the story of Erwin Sommer, who drinks himself, almost unaccountably, to death. It counts for everything, of course, to know that the ...

The Rest is Weight by Jennifer Mills & Tarcutta Wake by Josephine Rowe

by
November 2012, no. 346

The Rest is Weight, by Jennifer Mills, is a restless collection of short stories. Its settings include Russia, remote parts of Australia, Mexico, and China. The stories are densely packed; there are no ‘snapshots’ or ‘sketches’, only well-made narratives populated by plausible, complicated characters. Nor is there any decorative writing; no showy turns of phrase, only tough, efficient prose, always working in service of a narrative. Style is subordinate to substance for Mills, and the result is a book that will draw in new readers, as well as pleasing those who have already enjoyed her previous two novels.

... (read more)

Wildlife by Eliot Weinberger

by
June 2012, no. 342

As is often the case with brilliant writers, an Eliot Weinberger sentence cannot be mistaken for that of anyone else. There is his insistence upon concrete details: ‘It was recorded in the 12th century, in the Collected Stories of Anomalies, that Chang T’ien-hsi dreamed that a green dog with a long body came from the south and tried to bite him.’ Even when entering the realm of the absurd, he avoids abstraction: ‘Each year, in the village of Pullipudupet, in southern India, a very young girl is selected to marry a frog.’ His adjectives and nouns have a rhythmic weight: ‘Camels’ feet leave lotus-pad prints in the sand.’ His conjunctions attest to the peculiarity of the world: ‘Naked mole-rats have no fur, but their lips are hairy.’

... (read more)

For the unacquainted reader, a few facts about Hans Keilson, author of There Stands My House: A Memoir. A German Jew, Keilson fled the Nazis for the Netherlands in 1936. After the war he wrote and published two novels, Comedy in a Minor Key (1947) and The Death of the Adversary (1959), both of which were unread for decades but which have now been rediscovered and received as masterpieces in the Anglophone world. Keilson also had a long, accomplished career as a psychiatrist, specialising in the treatment of children traumatised by war. He died on 31 May 2011 at the age of 101. Scribe is the first house to publish his memoir in English.

... (read more)

Patrick Holland makes his plans clear in the first sentence of Riding the Trains in Japan (his fourth book and first work of non-fiction): ‘I arrived in Kyoto in the middle of the national holiday called O-Bon, the Japanese All Souls, when Buddhists believe departed spirits may return to earth and when ancestors and the elderly are honoured.’ His subjects and themes have been identified: himself, the people and places of Asia, Eastern spirituality and tradition, and the transient nature of life and all of its cultural accessories. The opening also reveals Holland’s technical approach: a willingness to conflate personal anecdote with documentary observation, the minutiae of daily life with the grandness of tradition, and the material world with a spiritual one. Clearly, he wants to test the conventional form of travel writing.

... (read more)

The current issue of Meanjin is a forthright one. In her editorial, Sally Heath singles out the contributions of Marcia Langton and Darren Siwes, and with good reason: their work typifies the issue. Siwes has given the journal its cover, and his choice of image – a coin depicting an Indigenous head of state in the year 2041 – makes its point. The cornerstone of the issue is, however, ‘Reading the Constitution out Loud’, a thorough and level-headed essay by Langton on Julia Gillard’s promise to hold a referendum on the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. Langton, a member of the government’s inquiry panel, whose matter-of-fact style leads the way for the rest of theissue, asks, ‘how can we sustain the opportunity for a referendum […] in circumstances that are not riven by “dog whistle” issues in the racialist Australian politics that arise with each electoral season?’ The question cannot be ignored, nor easily answered.

... (read more)

Like all of his earlier books, Raymond Roussel’s final work, New Impressions of Africa, published in 1932, was printed at his personal expense, and only after he was satisfied that the poem was as good as possible. He claimed that each line took fifteen hours to compose. Roussel wanted his work to have enduring importance, and wrote a book entitled How I Wrote Certain of My Books to help readers who might otherwise misunderstand his method (it appeared in 1935, two years after his suicide). Roussel, thanks to his vast inherited wealth, was a writer who answered to no one and nothing, except his own inimitable vision.

... (read more)