Andrea Goldsmith

Earlier this year, while still much occupied with our works in progress, Drusilla Modjeska and I discussed what our next projects might be. We were both tempted to put together a collection of our shorter writings – essays, talks, reviews, articles – already written and just needing a touch up. ‘Money for nothing and your books for free,’ I said, echoing the old Dire Straits song – albeit in a much more acceptable form for these sensitive times. And that’s the gift with collected writings: little work is required to produce a book. But a gift for the writer can be a risky business for the reader. After all, one cannot hope that all the disparate pieces (sixty-two in Margaret Atwood’s latest collection) will be equally as compelling as one Handmaid’s Tale.

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More than twenty-five years ago, I wrote an essay on the work of Oliver Sacks (Island Magazine, Autumn 1993). Entitled ‘Anthropologist of Mind’, it ranged across several of Sacks’s books; but it was Seeing Voices, published in 1989, that was the main impetus for the essay. In Seeing Voices, Sacks explored American deaf communities, past and present. He exposed the stringent and often punishing attempts to ‘normalise’ deaf people by forcing them to communicate orally, and he simultaneously deplored the denigration and widespread outlawing of sign language. Drawing on the work of Erving Goffman, Sacks showed how deaf people were stigmatised and marginalised from mainstream culture, and he revealed, contrary to prevailing opinion in the hearing world, the richness and complexities of American Sign Language.

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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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John Berger describes emigration as ‘the quintessential experience of our time’ (And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos, 1984), and gives credence to the concept that geographic and psychological exile is pervasive to the human condition. ‘No one willingly chooses exile – exile is the option when choice has run out,’ says the ...

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I heard the Egypt story countless times, but then Dorothy Porter believed that if a story was worth telling, it warranted multiple retellings. In the late 1980s, before Dot and I met, she visited Egypt to gather material for her verse novel Akhenaten (1992). In Cairo, she joined a tour group taking in the major historical sights ...

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To celebrate the best books of 2018, Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser

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On the dust jacket of Elements of Surprise is the well-known picture by John Tenniel, illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), depicting Alice gazing up at the grinning Cheshire Cat perched on a branch of a tree. I felt very much like Alice while reading Vera Tobin’s book, as if I had fallen into a world in which the rules, concepts, and vocabulary were completely alien to my own ...

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I have always believed that, at a personal level, anything is possible, that if I desire to be a particular someone or do a particular something, I can. All my desires have been realistic: no hankerings for time travel or reinvention as a theoretical physicist, although both have enormous appeal. My desires have been possibilities ...

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The Merchant of Venice is a troublesome play. I have seen productions that have played up the comic aspects to an absurd and irritating degree while confining Shylock to the stereotype that bears his name. Some interpretations exploit the play as anti-Semitic propaganda ...

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The title of this book has a resonance that would not occur, for example, in a text called ‘Paris for Jews’. Most readers will approach the work with understandings and expectations shaped by Hitler and the Holocaust. The title suggests that Berlin is a different city for Jews than for other visitors, and that Jewish Berlin itself is different from ecumenical Be ...

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