It was the first game for the season in some halcyon year of my cricketing past. We’d scraped together a team, but the other mob was rumoured to be a couple short. Their first three batsmen were competent enough and made a few. Then a collapse brought number eight to the wicket. Impeccably clad, he was one of those blokes who puts his gloves on after taking guard and then spends minutes surveying the field, pointing to each position with his bat, as if burning them into his tactical memory. At last he faced his first ball, which went straight through him and took the middle and off stumps out of the ground. ‘Bad luck, mate,’ said one of our blokes, with a kindness the ensuing months would erode. ‘First knock for the season, eh?’ The beautifully attired number eight looked at him in astonishment. ‘First knock ever,’ he said.... (read more)
Brian Matthews reviews 'Cutting Green Hay: Friendships, movements and cultural conflicts in Australia's great decades' by Vincent Buckley
On his first day at St Patrick’s, East Melbourne, Vincent Buckley was ‘flogged and flogged’ by a Jesuit priest in ‘an incompetent fury’. It is an experience that many of his readers will easily recognise, though their remembered lambastings were more likely to have been incurred at the hands of the Brothers and, unlike Buckley’s, would have been a continuing feature of school life.... (read more)
Brian Matthews reviews 'West Island: Five twentieth-century New Zealanders in Australia' by Stephanie Johnson
Australians and New Zealanders know it as the Tasman Sea or more familiarly The Ditch: for Māori, Te Tai o-Rēhua. Significant islands in this stretch of water are Lord Howe and Norfolk. As seen from New Zealand, the island most Australians probably don’t know offhand and, when they are told about it, might feel inclined to reject its name as, well, cheeky: it’s West Island – Australia in short.... (read more)
In August 1964, Charmian Clift returned to Australia from the Greek island of Hydra after nearly fourteen years abroad. As Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell portray her return – a description based, as always in this book, on solid or at least reasonably persuasive evidence – she ‘was leaving her beloved Hydra ...... (read more)
Brian Matthews reviews 'Antipodean Perspective: Selected Writings of Bernard Smith' edited by Rex Butler and Sheridan Palmer
The editors begin their introduction to Antipodean Perspective with some ground clearing: ‘The putting together of a series of responses to an important scholar’s work is a classic academic exercise. It is undoubtedly a worthy, but also necessarily a selective undertaking. In German it is called a Festschrift …... (read more)
Of the now twelve novels that make up Rodney Hall’s distinguished prose fiction – ranging from The Ship on the Coin (1972) to this year’s A Stolen Season – it is arguably in the latter that the task of remaking is most explicitly and adventurously undertaken, even literally in the case of Adam Griffiths. As an Australian ...... (read more)
As Ratty observed to Mole, ‘There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’ In Roger McDonald’s A Sea-Chase, lovers Wes Bannister and Judy Compton would certainly agree, but before they achieve Ratty’s state of nautical transcendence much that does matter has to be dealt with.
When some years ago I read Jim Davidson’s outstanding biography, Lyrebird Rising (1994), I was initially concerned by what seemed to be his potentially distorting fascination with the scene-stealing Louise Hanson-Dyer. But I soon discovered I needn’t have worried. Jim Davidson is not the sort of biographer whose obsession with his subject overcomes prop ...
Paris has gone crazy.’ There are people everywhere; ‘players and officials have been arriving like migrating birds’. The German team – including Hermann Hesse, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Gropius,Thomas Mann, Martin Heidegger ...... (read more)