As mouths go, it must be one of the most fabled of the century past. The lips, as widely parted as they could be, suggest the contours of a distended heart. There is an upper gallery of teeth, slightly imperfect, and glazed by spittle mingling with the crystal darts and droplets of a powerful jet of water issuing relentlessly from above the face. A mottled tongue is ...
This six a.m. moment
in the cool-blue cool
of early morning
is not eternal.
I’ve been trying to place love
in the exhibit for inspection
but there are fees to be perfected.
The Shearers by Patsy Adam-Smith is worth a place in the best of libraries if only for its superb collection of photographs and reproductions – 291 of them! She is to be commended for including reproductions of an 1891 ‘Loyalty’ certificate, an 1890 Queensland Shearers’ Union ticket and three ‘shearing ticket’ versions of the Amalgamated Workers’ Union. I wish I could claim possession of an original of these. I do, however, have a complete collection of every membership certificate issued in what is now called The Australian Workers’ Union right from its very beginning in 1886, when it was called the Australasian Shearers’ Union.... (read more)
Don Watson’s Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A portrait of Paul Keating PM (Knopf). Gripping narrative; gripping drama. Plenty of heart; plenty of blood on Canberra carpets. Fond picture of possibly Australia’s last Labour prime minister. Sylvia Lawson’s How Simone de Beauvoir Died in Australia: Stories and essays (UNSW Press). Complex, spacious, committed, convincing, intellectually riveting speculations and reflections. And, finally, anything by Peter Temple, an outstanding crime fiction novelist who combines true grit and a college education with the smells of the city (Melbourne). Try Shooting Staror Dead Point (both from Bantam).... (read more)
Imagine me, myself, ten years on, a survivor of what is amusingly called ‘retirement’, though it will have been a matter of movement into rather than out of work. Let me, in short, give the four-day forecast; no weatherman will venture on the fifth, even to enforce the kind of superstition I am practising in these lines. Let us say the verbal magic works, and I reach seventy. What can I say now by way of analysing the character which I now confront in the time scale of then, across the years of future toil? Let me speak to that self in tones of restrained intimacy; restrained, because he frightens me a little.... (read more)
David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon is his eighth novel, his first since The Great World (1990) which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger. It is approximately two-thirds the length of that book but is longer than his first three fictions, Johnno, An Imaginary Life, and Fly Away Peter. Its length is important, as in its 200 pages it packs one of the most powerful punches to be found in any contemporary novel. Astonishingly compact and almost feverishly lucid, Remembering Babylon is a searing and startling literary parable, in my opinion destined to endure as one of Australia’s literary commandments.... (read more)
‘One day in the middle of the nineteenth century, when settlement in Queensland had advanced scarcely more than halfway up the coast …’ The opening lines of the novel seek to place it and us squarely in the discourse of history; to require that we lay aside the credulity with which the reader welcomes in romance and fantasy and become fellow-enquirers into the world of factual record, population figures and dates, marks on maps, important conflicts and the names of governors.... (read more)
That old rhyme sits unpondered in the memory of every woman or man who grew up to speak English or chant it in the many incantatory rituals of childhood. It is locked in there, partnered with the rhythmic thud of a skipping rope and spirals drawn on your palm to test endurance, in the exquisite torture test that was part primitive ordeal, part initiation into a social community that had its mysteries and its taboos and its transgressions. Children move naturally in this world of internalised rhythms, of things unexplained, of enigma and excitement.... (read more)
Jack Hibberd reviews 'Rethinking Life and Death: The collapse of our traditional ethics' by Peter Singer
There is no doubt of viciousness of existence. Bertolt Brecht spoke of how one minute you are striding out freely down a merry boulevard, the next poleaxed by a great lump of steel fallen from the heavens.... (read more)