WHEN DID YOU FIRST WRITE FOR ABR?
The first thing I ever wrote for ABR was published early in 1985; it was a review of Helen Garner's The Children's Bach. My association with ABR has lasted much longer than any of my romantic entanglements.
WHICH CRITICS MOST IMPRESS YOU?
The best thing I can do here is quote lines of criticism that I've never forgotten. Terry Eagleton on Wuthering Heights: 'the institution of the family is founded upon a potentially anarchic force – sexual desire itself – which it must nevertheless strictly regulate.' This is a bit of insight that can be helpfully applied not only to Wuthering Heights but to most fiction, films, and theatre, to say nothing of daily life.
Helen Garner on Sally Potter's film Orlando, referring to the moment when the naked Tilda Swinton calmly looks straight back at the camera: 'This was a very special moment, for me. I heard the clank of loosening chains' – the best comment I've seen on the subversion of the male gaze. Katherine Mansfield on E.M. Forster: 'Forster never gets any further than warming the teapot. See this teapot. Is it not beautifully warm? Yes, but there ain't going to be no tea.'
Christopher Hitchens was an exceptional literary critic, of the old school. As with Hitchens, I am in awe of some of James Wood's insights, but the many vast and unspoken assumptions in his work that are founded on his unexamined Oxbridge-white-male privilege drive me bonkers. My favourite contempor-ary Australian critics are Delia Falconer and Felicity Plunkett for literature, and Alison Croggon and John McCallum for theatre. J.M. Coetzee, not surprisingly, is a superb literary critic. Clive James was the first and, I think, still the best real TV critic. And the New Yorker's music critic Alex Ross is always wonderful to read, even when you don't know what he's talking about.