Australian Literature

‘Those bastards at Oxford,’ Barry Andrews fulminated ten years ago (he had in mind one or two in particular) ‘are trying to make us cut 200,000 words from the book!’ The ‘book’ was the first edition of the estimable The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. The ‘bastards’ had miscounted and the text survived more or less in full. Now, nine years after its first publication, the Companion has appeared in a revised edition with an extra 200,000 words, not there by way of compensation, but rather to cope with the brilliantly successful publicity campaign for Australian writing during the last decade. Bill Wilde and Joy Hooton remain as editors, Barry having died in 1987.

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This is a splendid book, by far the most important of the recent OUP contributions to the study of Australian literature. Everything that you ever wanted to know about Australian Literature. Comprehensive (amazingly), consistently lively, up to date, as far as I can judge, accurate.

I have played the usual reviewers’ game for a book like this – trying to ...

From time to time, Australian literature has been fortunate enough to attract the enthusiasm of international critics, from C. Hartley Grattan in the 1920s to Paul Giles, who compared Australian and American literature in his scholarly Antipodean America (2013). Nicholas Birns, a New York academic, tells us that he first encountered Australian writing back ...

Andrew Nette reviews 'Fear Is the Rider' by Kenneth Cook

Andrew Nette
Wednesday, 24 February 2016

There is something alluring about the publication of a lost or unknown literary manuscript. How will it fit into the author's body of work? Is it inferior to or better than the published work? Does it illuminate a hitherto unknown aspect of the author's thinking, or make you re-examine the known sequencing or themes? These questions were on my mind as I read Fea ...

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Mick' by Suzanne Falkiner

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Late in 1998, the Times Literary Supplement, as was its wont, sent Randolph 'Mick' Stow a book for review. It was Xavier Herbert: A Biography (1998) by Francis de Groen, and Stow accepted the commission with enthusiasm. 'What a ghastly, embarrassing old pillock,' he wrote to his lifelong friend Bill Grono. 'Well, you'll soon read my opinion of him. ...

Patrick Allington reviews 'Hope Farm' by Peggy Frew

Patrick Allington
Friday, 18 December 2015

'I try to imagine going back': so begins a story about a woman remembering her childhood even when it seems she would just as soon forget it. Hope Farm is Melbourne writer and musician Peggy Frew's second novel. Her terrific début, House of Sticks (2011), was about, among other things, contemporary parenthood and the rhythm of conventional and unc ...

Naama Amram reviews 'The Waiting Room' by Leah Kaminsky

Naama Grey-Smith
Friday, 18 December 2015

'Freg nisht dem royfe, freg dem khoyle – Don't ask the doctor, ask the patient,' my grandmother says in Yiddish, one of eight languages at her disposal, having grown up in Europe during World War II and migrated as a teenager to the multilingual melting pot of Israel. I smile and ask her for another gem. My grandmother obliges, this time with a juicy-soun ...

In Jo Case's 'Something Wild', young single mother Kristen is tempted to rediscover 'the thrill of doing what she feels like, just to see what happens'. She could be speaking for characters in many of the pieces in The Best Australian Stories 2015, a collection that features people on the verge of transgression. As Amanda Lohrey writes in her introduction, ...

Sarah Holland-Batt reviews 'The High Places' by Fiona McFarlane

Sarah Holland-Batt
Friday, 18 December 2015

Towards the end of Fiona McFarlane's enigmatic collection of short stories, The High Places, we meet the odd, enchanting story 'Good News for Modern Man', which functions as a key to many of the book's concerns. The story centres around Dr Bill Birch, a malacologist undertaking an obsessive study of a colossal female squid, Mabel, which he has trapped in Ne ...

'Randolph Stow's Harwich' by Suzanne Falkiner

Suzanne Falkiner
Friday, 18 December 2015

The port of Old Harwich can be approached by a streamlined highway through a barren industrial landscape, or via the high street through suburban Dovercourt. Either way, you keep going until you reach the sea: 'and if you get your feet wet, you've gone too far', they'll say when you ask directions. Finally, you reach an enclave of narrow streets lined by small cotta ...

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