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Doug Wallen

Doug Wallen

Doug Wallen is a freelance arts writer based in Beechworth, Victoria.

Courtney Barnett

ABR Arts 18 May 2015
‘I’m sorry for all of my insecurities, but they’re just a part of me’, sings Courtney Barnett in her song ‘Debbie Downer’. Those insecurities are not just part of her, but key to the heady spike in her global profile over the past two years. Since her mid-2013 single ‘Avant Gardener’, which detailed the twenty-seven-year-old songwriter’s panic attack and anaphylaxis while gardeni ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Paul Kelly Presents: The Merri Soul Sessions'

ABR Arts 10 April 2015
Hopping around the stage of Ballarat’s historic Her Majesty’s Theatre, Paul Kelly at one point resembled a giddy teenager cutting loose on rhythm guitar at band practice rather than a veteran songwriter with nearly twenty albums behind him. Such exuberance can be attributed in large part to the night’s premise: Kelly augmented his five-piece live configuration with five singers who took turn ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'The Buried Giant' by Kazuo Ishiguro

April 2015, no. 370 25 March 2015
Fitting for a novel about a patient quest, we only fully grasp Kazuo Ishiguro’s precise intentions with The Buried Giant at the end of its final page. Until then, the reader primarily follows the elderly married couple, Axl and Beatrice, as they journey through a memory-dulling fog that hangs heavily over the land. The presence of such magical elements, including pixies and goblins, and the post ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Wolf in White Van' by John Darnielle

December 2014, no. 367 01 December 2014
Despite the acoustic guitar driving most of his music as the leader of celebrated American band The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle hung out with the ‘metal kids’ in high school. During more than two decades as a songwriter, he has returned again and again to young misfits who find solace in music and other forms of escape – whether comic books, games, movies, or drugs. Perhaps because he’s ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Slush Pile' by Ian Shadwell

November 2014, no. 366 01 November 2014
Billed as ‘a satire of literary ambition’, Ian Shadwell’s début novel chronicles the misadventures of Michael Ardenne, an Australian author who has been riding the coat-tails of his Booker Prize-winning first book for more than a decade. Content for years to drain every last drop of goodwill from the book industry, not to mention his long-suffering wife, he has never bothered to pen a follo ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Elvis Has Left the Building' by Dylan Jones

September 2014, no. 364 01 September 2014
Usually the subject’s death signals the end of a biography, but for Dylan Jones it is the starting point. Three decades after his death in 1977, Elvis Presley has proven even more ubiquitous, and lucrative, than he was in life. When he died – with the official cause listed as heart failure, but a vast cocktail of drugs playing an undeniable role – his manager, ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, decla ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'Wild Things'

August 2014, no. 363 01 August 2014
‘The boys are behaving badly’ is the coy tagline for journalist Brigid Delaney’s début novel, about an élite Australian university’s cricket team subjecting a Malaysian exchange student to a grisly hazing ritual that goes too far. Such understatement isn’t indicative of the book itself, which follows a group of thinly drawn characters through pained, often melodramatic soul-searching. ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'The Blazing World' by Siri Hustvedt

May 2014, no. 361 28 April 2014
A quote from Oscar Wilde in Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World crystallises the novel’s central study of adopted guises: ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.’ The book’s protagonist, underappreciated New York artist Harriet Burden, dons a trio of masks when she puts forward her art as the work of three different male artis ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History' by Elizabeth Kolbert

March 2014, no. 359 28 February 2014
‘When the world changes faster than species can adapt, many fall out,’ writes Elizabeth Kolbert towards the end of her study on the mounting wave of extinction we are living through – and causing. The list of species dispatched by humans, directly or indirectly, is growing every day, yet Kolbert isn’t merely ringing alarm bells or giving a dour post-mortem. As the book’s subtitle suggest ... (read more)

Doug Wallen reviews 'The Weaver Fish' by Robert Edeson

March 2014, no. 359 28 February 2014
Perth writer Robert Edeson has been published in the fields of neuroscience, biophysics, and mathematics, but The Weaver Fish is his début foray into fiction. He doesn’t leave that diverse scholarly background behind, though, packing the novel with dazzling science and sprawling footnotes while indulging in mischievous wordplay and fabricated nations and animals at every turn. ... (read more)
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