Patrick Allington

Early in Steven Carroll’s novel Goodnight, Vivienne, Goodnight, a middle-aged woman contemplates her own existence: ‘Vivienne, Vivie. Viv. Now distant, now near. Who was she? The Vivienne now sitting in the gardens of Northumberland House, Finsbury Park, is contemplating the question.’ This Viv is Vivienne Haigh-Wood, the first wife of T.S. Eliot – or Carroll’s fictional rendition of her. Northumberland House is an asylum where, by 1940, Viv has lived for several years. Her previous actions include not accepting the end of her relationship with Eliot, dabbling in fascism (‘Did you tell him I just liked the uniform?’), and asking a police officer at five one morning if it’s true her husband has been beheaded. Institutionalised, she now lives in quiet defiance of other people’s perceptions and diagnoses of her. And with the help of her friend Louise and a group called the Lunacy Law Reform Society, she is about to do a runner.

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I appreciate critics who enter into a conversation with a book and who draw upon curiosity, wonder, and deep thinking to judge. Maria Tumarkin writes magnificently about writers and books.

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‘What is the use of saying, “Peace, Peace” when there is no peace below the diaphragm?’ asks Chinese writer Lin Yutang in The Importance of Living (1937). The subject of food and its manifestations – sustenance, communion, gluttony, longing – has claimed a place in the books of every era and genre, from heavenly manna in the Book of Exodus to starving gladiators in Suzanne Collins’s multi-billion-dollar The Hunger Games franchise. Writers as varied as Marcel Proust and Margaret Atwood have prioritised this theme in their work.

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ABR asked a few colleagues and contributors to nominate some books that have beguiled them – might even speak to others – at this unusual time.

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From its raw and revelatory prologue, Nigel Featherstone’s novel Bodies of Men offers a thoroughly humanising depiction of Australians during World War II. In telling the story of two soldiers, William – too young to be a corporal – and his childhood friend ...

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To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wyndham, James Ley, Geordie Williamson, Jane Sullivan, Tom Griffiths, Mark Edele, and Brenda Niall.

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In his fiction, Steven Carroll stretches and slows time. He combines this with deliberate over-explaining and repetition, the echoing of memories and ideas, coincidence, and theatricality. A distinctive rhythm results: when reading his work, I often find myself nodding in time to the words. Occasionally – and it happens now and again in his new novel, A New En ...

Griffith Review 55: State of Hope edited by Julianne Schultz and Patrick Allington

by
June-July 2017, no. 392

South Australia remains something of a national contradiction in terms, and this is brought out well in this richly diverse and varied collection of essays and stories. Shifting its focus away from Adelaide to many of South Australia’s older industrial and pre-industrial centres, including Whyalla, Port Augusta, the Riverland, and Clare, Griffith Review’s St ...

Originally published in German, Albrecht Dümling’s The Vanished Musicians: Jewish refugees in Australia (Peter Lang), a fascinating compendium of Jewish musicians who found refuge in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, is now available in Australian Diana K. Weekes’s excellent translation ...

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Melanie Joosten begins the introduction to A Long Time Coming, her book of essays about ageing, by quoting Simone de Beauvoir: 'let us recognise ourselves ...

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