For the most part, the burgeoning 1980s nostalgia industry in Australia tends to overlook the fact that back then the states seemed to be engaged in a kind of Sheffield Shield of venality, competing to see which would prevail as the most politically debauched. One might have thought of the Queensland of Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Terry Lewis and the New South Wales of Abe Saffron and Roger Rogerson as topping the table, but Western Australia, like its cricket team of the period, was definitely no slouch.

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  • Custom Article Title Dean Biron reviews 'Old Scores' by David Whish-Wilson
  • Contents Category Fiction
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    For the most part, the burgeoning 1980s nostalgia industry in Australia tends to overlook the fact that back then the states seemed to be engaged in a kind of Sheffield Shield ...

  • Book Title Old Scores
  • Book Author David Whish-Wilson
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Fremantle Press $29.99 pb, 233 pp, 9781925164107


Highlights of the 2016 Fiction issue include the three works shortlisted in the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize (now worth a total of $12,500). We received a record number of entries – nearly 1,400 – from thirty-eight countries. The judgesABR Deputy Editor Amy Baillieu and authors Maxine Beneba Clarke and David Whish-Wilson – chose a longlist of nineteen stories before selecting the shortlist.

Anthony Lawrence AdvancesAnthony Lawrence'Ash' by poet–novelist Anthony Lawrence is the raw, rhythmic story of a couple from the central New South Wales coast whose desire for a different life clashes with the dangerous realities of their current situation. Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen books of poems and a novel. His books and poems have won a number of awards, including the 2010 Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the NSW Premier's Award. His most recent collection is Headwaters (2016). He lives on the far north coast of New South Wales.

Josephine Rowe  AdvancesJosephine Rowe'Glisk' by Victorian author Josephine Rowe explores the complex bonds of family, love, and memory, and what happens when a man who fled to northern Scotland finally returns to small-town Western Australia. Rowe has written two short story collections and a novel, A Loving, Faithful Animal (2016). Her story 'Suitable for a Lampshade' won the Reader's Choice Award in the 2010 Jolley Prize. Based in Victoria, she is a recent recipient of a Stegner Fellowship in fiction from Stanford University.

Jonathan Tel  AdvancesJonathan Tel'The Water Calligrapher's Women' by Jonathan Tel tells the haunting story of a man scarred by China's Cultural Revolution from the layered perspectives of the people who watch him as he works. Tel, based in London, has won several prizes, and his story 'The Year of the Panda' was commended in the 2015 Jolley Prize.

The judges commended three other stories: 'Help Me Harden My Heart' by Dom Amerena, 'Window' by Cate Kennedy, and 'Slut Trouble' by Beejay Silcox. The commended authors each receive $750. Their stories will be published by ABR in coming months.

Join us at a special event at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Saturday, 27 August (ACMI's The Cube, 4 pm) to find out which of the shortlisted stories has won the Jolley Prize. After readings from the shortlisted stories, a special guest will name the winner. This is a free event, but please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


There will be more suspense on the eve of the Jolley Prize ceremony. Five authors are vying for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award, which is being presented at the Melbourne Writers Festival for the first time. The authors are Peggy Frew (Hope Farm), Myfanwy Jones (Leap), A.S. Patrić (Black Rock White City), Lucy Treloar (Salt Creek), and Charlotte Wood (The Natural Way of Things). The winner will receive $60,000; the other shortlisted authors $5,000 each.


Our latest ABR Fellow has produced a truly diabolical work. Michael Aiken, the inaugural ABR Laureate's Fellow, has written a book-length poem about revenge, resentment, and remorse, telling a new myth of what would happen if Satan tried to apologise and atone for his manifold crimes. Aiken introduces the poem 'Satan Repentant', and provides a substantial extract from this hugely ambitious and original work.

Michael Aiken, who was chosen by the ABR Laureate, David Malouf, told Advances: 'Receiving the Fellowship gave me an enormous boost psychologically and artistically. To be nominated by David Malouf is an amazing gift, not least in giving me the opportunity to meet and learn from him directly. David is an elegant speaker and gracious conversationalist. Unostentatious yet enormously learned, he is the very epitome of the consummate writer. I am enormously honoured.'

Michael Aiken will read from his work at an ABR/Sydney Ideas event at the University of Sydney on Wednesday, 3 August, and he will also discuss it with David Malouf. This is a free event, but bookings are advisable via the Sydney Ideas website.

We thank Michael Aiken, David Malouf, and all the ABR Patrons, who have made this Fellowship possible.


Alan Atkinson Aug advancesOur next ABR Fellow is one of Australia's most laurelled historians. Alan Atkinson – Emeritus Professor History at the University of New England, and Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney – is the ABR RAFT Fellow. The subject of his Fellowship article – to be published in the September issue of ABR – is 'How Do We Live with Ourselves? The Australian National Conscience'. The questions Alan Atkinson asks in this article are typically large and resonant ones – timely too: 'Can a nation, Australia especially, make an effort, just to be good? Can a whole people draw a line between right and wrong, and then act on the right? What, if anything, would such a conscience owe to the religious past and present?'

Professor Atkinson will read from and discuss his essay at a separate Sydney Ideas event on Monday, 5 September (full details to follow). The essay coincides with the publication of a new edition of his award-winning three-volume The Europeans in Australia (NewSouth).


The Peter Porter Poetry Prize is one of Australia's most prestigious prizes for a new poem. The Prize – now open to all poets writing in English – is named after the great Australian poet Peter Porter (1929–2010), and was first awarded in 2005 (Stephen Edgar). The Prize was renamed in 2011, following Peter Porter's death. The winner receives $5,000 and shortlisted poets receive $500. The judges this year are Jill Jones, Ali Alizadeh, and Felicity Plunkett. All the shortlisted poems are published in the magazine. Entries close 1 December 2016.

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  • Custom Article Title News from the Editor's Desk - August 2016
  • Contents Category Advances
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    News from the the Editor's Desk in the August issue of Australian Book Review.

Jolley Prize

ABR's 2016 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize ceremony was held at the Melbourne Writers Festival on 27 August. The event was compèred by ABR Deputy Editor, Amy Baillieu, with opening remarks from poet and author Maxine Beneba Clarke, who delivered a stirring keynote speech at the festival's opening night.

We are delighted to announce that Josephine Rowe won this year's Jolley Prize for her story 'Glisk'. Ian Dickson announced Josephine as the overall winner. Anthony Lawrence placed second for his story 'Ash' and Jonathan Tel came third for his story 'The Water Calligrapher's Women'. Subscribers can read all three shortlisted stories in the August 2016 Fiction issue. We would like to congratulate all three shortlisted entrants and thank all those who entered their stories.

We look forward to interviewing this year's Jolley Prize winner on our podcast. Meanwhile, Cate Kennedy's story 'Window' – one of three commended by the judges – will appear in our October issue.

ABR - Jolley - ALABJRMBCID(Left to right) Anthony Lawrence, Josephine Rowe, Amy Baillieu, Maxine Beneba Clarke, and Ian Dickson

ABR in the USA

Our first cultural tour of the United States begins on 15 September, led by Peter Rose and Christopher Menz. One highlight is the opening-night celebration of Australian literature at the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC, where Peter Rose will be joined by Geraldine Brooks and Anna Funder. Over the course of sixteen days the party will then visit Boston, New Haven, and New York, taking in writers' homes, libraries, museums, and live performances. Everyone is looking forward to attending a separate event at the McNally Jackson bookshop in Manhattan, when Helen Garner – fresh from receiving her Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction in New Haven – will be in conversation with Ben Lerner (Tuesday, 27 September). Garner's biographer, Bernadette Brennan, a tour guest, will be in the audience. She has just completed the critical biography, which Text will publish in 2017.

This is a turning point for the magazine – the first time ABR has gone on the road – and there will be much to report in our pages and in Arts Update on our return.

WesterlyWesterly eastward

In late July our colleague Catherine Noske, Editor of Westerly, spent a week with ABR as part of her Professional Development grant from the Australia Council. Catherine, who became Editor of the biannual journal in early 2015, was keen to observe the completion, and subsequent digitisation, of our magazine (both of which occur in-house). She attended staff meetings and had separate conversations about all aspects of the business, including publishing, production, marketing, podcasting, and cultural philanthropy. It was great to have Catherine with us, and we enjoyed hearing about her plans for Westerly, one of Australia's oldest literary journals.

Westerly 61.1 is now available. At almost 300 pages, it is one of the longest issues ever published. This one is devoted to indigenous themes and writing. Stephen Kinnane, the guest editor, has commissioned work from writers such as Kevin Brophy, Alison Whittaker, Kim Scott, and Graham Akhurst. Beautifully illustrated, this is a rich and engaging issue. To subscribe or purchase a copy go to Westerly's website:

Opening for a volunteer

ABR is seeking a volunteer to assist with administration and accounting for approximately one day a week. Training and supervision will be provided. Tasks include: data entry and database management, subscriptions and magazine sales processing, customer support and other office administration duties. Ours is a small, busy, congenial office. We are looking for someone with great communication skills, sound accounting experience, and high attention to detail. Please contact Business Manager, Grace Chang on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to register your interest.

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  • Custom Article Title News from the Editor's Desk - September 2016
  • Contents Category Advances
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    News from the the Editor's Desk in the September issue of Australian Book Review.

For this reviewer, it’s been a long five years since the publication of Stephen Daisley’s Traitor (2010). The rightly acclaimed and award-winning début novel wrote of the terrors of war, and the life on the land of one irreparably damaged New Zealand soldier, David. As an exploration of the damage done to an ordinary and unappreciated man, the prose was often hauntingly poetic, often carrying the weight of what can’t be said – the sadness and the tragedy that is too immense to take in. In this respect Traitor was a truly original vision, and yet many of its thematic concerns, its deft use of the telling detail, its beautiful descriptions of landscape and ear for dialogue are also present in Coming Rain.

The novel takes place in 1956, largely in the ‘marginal wheat and sheep lands’ of the South-West of Western Australia. Lew, a young man in his early twenties, and Painter, his older companion, work as a team charcoal burning and shearing, moving from job to job in Lew’s old truck. Lew is eager for experience, and the novel opens with his seduction by an older woman, using him as a stand-in for her husband killed in the war. Painter however is well-beyond taking any interest in matters-of-the-heart, having burnt his bridges during his drinking years. Daisley describes him thus: ‘wearing a blue Jackie Howe singlet. Unshaved face. A bald head worn brown in the sun, covered in scars and odd bumps. Both ears were lumped, cauliflowered, and his left ear was much smaller. The nose broken so many times there was no bridge left. He had big wrinkled hands covered in tattoos of birds and stars.’ Painter is a man who has learned, often from bitter experience, to ‘lie to tell the truth and distrust the truth as a lie’. Indeed, it’s an authentic feature of the masculine relationships in this book that a man like Painter is most impressive when he’s silent, immersed in his labours, working alongside his younger companion. When the pair arrive at the eastern-wheatbelt station of John Drysdale, to shear a thousand-odd head of sheep, this importance of work as the emotional core at the heart of their relationship becomes foregrounded, and allows Daisley free rein to employ some of his most vivid writing. Here the minutiae of farm life are rendered with respect and sympathy, emphasising the ingenuity by which farmers have adapted an alien technology to the demands of the new land. Lew and Painter work with a resourcefulness and unspoken pride that expresses the truth that it’s the respect for the job, and the self-respect associated with doing the job right, in which the true dignity of work is to be found.

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  • Custom Article Title David Whish-Wilson reviews 'Coming Rain' by Stephen Daisley
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title Coming Rain
  • Book Author Stephen Daisley
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  • Biblio Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 270 pp, 9781922182029
Thursday, 30 October 2014 16:12

'To Name Those Lost' by Rohan Wilson

Rohan Wilson’s To Name Those Lost is a ferocious and brilliant sequel to his The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award-winning début, The Roving Party (2011), which charted the murderous exploits of John Batman and his crew of cutthroats sent out on a punitive expedition to bring Tasmania’s northern Aborigines to heel, by way of terror and genocidal slaughter. The novel divided opinion: was it a realistic exploration of the dark past and birthing rites of the modern nation of Australia, or a gratuitous exercise in reproducing the trauma visited upon Tasmania’s indigenous population? Some Tasmanians may have tired of the representation of their bonny isle as a crucible of gothic violence and misery. Regardless, there is no denying the raw power and purity of intent of Wilson’s To Name Those Lost.

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  • Custom Article Title David Whish-Wilson reviews 'To Name Those Lost' by Rohan Wilson
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title To Name Those Lost
  • Book Author Rohan Wilson
  • Biblio Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 298 pp, 9781743318324
Monday, 28 April 2014 00:40

Tony Birch's 'The Promise'

Publisher’s superlatives aside, Tony Birch’s return to short-form writing is an event to be celebrated. Following on from his Miles Franklin short-listed Blood (2011) and his two earlier collections, Shadowboxing (2006) and Father’s Day (2009), The Promise is a collection of twelve short stories united by Birch’s characteristic wit, matter-of-factness, and charm. In many respects, each of the stories in The Promise is an exploration of how the processes of age, attrition, and heartbreak wear away the rougher edges of his characters, though clearly it is what remains that interests Birch: that ember of humanity impermeable to cynicism and the vagaries of fate.

Throughout the stories, Birch writes with an assuredness that conceals the evident craft of the pieces, from the beguiling opening lines, to the often acute descriptive language, for example in ‘The Ghost of Hank Williams’, where the ‘scratches of white-hot lightning’ that mark the sky are linked to the second story in the collection that might also be read as a ghost story, ‘The Promise’, where a ‘death-rattle wind’ contributes to the piece’s air of hypnagogic reverie. Because of the economy of Birch’s style, images are crucial to the success of his writing. Often they suggest moments of absurdity or unexpected turns, such as the sensual pleasure experienced while eating a ‘fat olive’, or the image of two men, a cat, and a dog floating in a car on a river. They act as grace notes or suggest deeper mysteries, or indeed function as turning points. And yet, even in their absurdity, such images appear familiar to the point of intimacy, lingering in the reader’s mind.

It is Birch’s obvious affection for his characters that comes through most strongly in this collection. While it is true that the main impetus of these stories rarely involves the dramatics of a sudden transformation, brought about by a violent event, or even a moment of sudden insight, one central tension common to many of the characters, particularly where a failed relationship is at the story’s emotional core, is that more is demanded of them than they are able to give, and it is this deficit that brings change into their world. Birch’s younger male characters, immediately recognisable and authentic with their clipped voices and quick wit, are knocked off balance by the inevitable and casual mistakes of youth. With his adult male characters, who generally appear to yearn for the pleasant equilibrium of inertia, it is precisely the desire to live a good and simple life that makes them paradoxically vulnerable to the decisions made by others. It is women who perceive the male characters more clearly than they do themselves, wise to their various weaknesses and clear in their knowledge that, despite their age, these men are still boys at heart. Notwithstanding the pressures of life, what is endearing about all of Birch’s male characters is that they haven’t had the life squashed out of them.

Tony-Birch webTony Birch (photo supplied)

‘Birch’s younger male characters, immediately recognisable and authentic with their clipped voices and quick wit, are knocked off balance by the inevitable and casual mistakes of youth.’

Dealing by turns with heartbreak, grief, the mysteries of adolescence, anger, and loneliness, these are lives of quiet desperation illuminated by resilience, resourcefulness, but particularly humour and pathos. The strong sense begins to accumulate that some characters’ lack of awareness is in fact an understandable shield against the harsher realities of life. ‘Your life lacks perception,’ the worldly waitress in ‘The Lovers’ tells the young protagonist, who stubbornly chooses to believe in the possibility of romantic love. The narrator of ‘China’, Cal, a tough young man made vulnerable by love, searches for the imagined traces of his runaway girlfriend in the tracks by the side of a road. Similarly, in ‘Refuge of Sinners’, a grieving father, reading for traces in the world around him of his dead child, ‘examines a smudged Vegemite fingerprint on a kitchen door’ and wonders if it belongs to his son. This beautiful story reads like a prayer for absolution for an unnamed guilt, which is nothing other than taking on the ordinary but enormous responsibility of being a father. In the absence of the loved one, the world left behind is charged and mysterious, and when he sits, the narrator feels ‘the full weight of [his] body’.

In ‘After Rachel’, the narrator, bereft after his lover has abandoned him and alone in a house whose ‘loneliness’ can be physically heard, attempts to retrace the symptoms of his lover’s redacted reasoning, to little effect. This character’s honesty is endearing. After a confrontation, he ‘skulked away, embarrassed, and didn’t stop walking the streets until I suddenly realised that I’d managed to get myself lost’. He finds solace, not in the bottle, or in his cigarettes, but in the gifts of an odd stranger. ‘I unscrewed the top of the jar, reached in, took out an olive and rested it on my tongue. It tasted warm and fresh. I bit into it. The olive contained many flavours. But most of all it tasted – not like the sea – but of the sea. I ate a second olive, followed quickly by a third.’ It’s a small and quiet moment in the story, but what ensues conforms to the perfect and peculiar logic that illuminates so many of the stories in this terrific collection.

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  • Custom Article Title Tony Birch's 'The Promise'
  • Contents Category Short Stories
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    David Whish-Wilson reviews Tony Birch’s new collection of twelve short stories which display his characteristic humour, laconicism and charm.

  • Grid Image (300px * 250px) Grid Image (300px * 250px)
  • Book Title The Promise
  • Book Author Tony Birch
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  • Biblio University of Queensland Press, $22.95 pb, 232 pp, 9780702249990
Friday, 28 February 2014 09:53

The missing

Stephen Orr’s previous novel, Time’s Long Ruin (2010), which was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and long-listed for the Miles Franklin, explored the repercussions within a quiet Adelaide community of the disappearance of three of its most vulnerable members, closely related to the disappearance and presumed murder of the Beaumont children in 1966. It was a languid and thoughtful study of character and place, important in a novel that was never going to achieve any real resolution. Especially well drawn was the relationship between Henry, the narrator, and his detective father. One Boy Missing similarly explores the relationship between sons and fathers, and also has at its centre the generative mystery of children gone missing, although this novel is deceptively clothed in the tropes of a standard police procedural.

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  • Custom Article Title David Whish-Wilson reviews 'One Boy Missing'
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title One Boy Missing
  • Book Author Stephen Orr
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  • Biblio Text Publishing, $29.99 pb, 288 pp, 9781922147271