Susan Lever reviews 'Men On Women' by Kevin Childs

Susan Lever
Friday, 20 November 2020

Reading Kevin Child’s book, Men on Women, creates the irresistible temptation to answer on behalf of the women. I can imagine them offering the following kind of replies to their sons and lovers.

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In the early 1970s, Patrick White began to achieve a new public identity. His support for the fight to save Centennial Park from Olympic developers, his endorsement of the Whitlam government, and, of course, his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973 transformed a writer aiming ‘to people the Australian emptiness in the only way I am able’ into a personality able to persuade (and irritate) merely by his presence. The outsider suddenly became an insider – in 1973 he was ‘unanimously chosen’ as Australian of the Year – and, to his mingled dismay and delight, he discovered that Australia was already peopled.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Sisters' edited by Drusilla Modjeska

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Tuesday, 17 November 2020

A few years ago, there was a great song on the radio, a song about remembering riding with an assortment of brothers and sisters in the back seat of the car. I don’t even recall the name of the song, much less the name of the band, but there was a line in the chorus that used to wipe me out: ‘And we all have our daddy’s eyes.’

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David Malouf, one of the subjects interviewed by Margaret Throsby in Talking with Margaret Throsby, recounts his childhood experiences as an eavesdropper. He reveals that by listening in on conversations between his mother and her women friends he learnt about a world that was otherwise off-limits to him. For devotees of Mornings with Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM, the experience might sound familiar as they tune in to live conversations between the host and her distinguished guests; conversations which, although obviously public in that they are broadcast on national radio, frequently open a window onto the private world of the subject. Paul Keating, in Talking with Margaret Throsby, reveals that he would often prepare for cabinet sessions by listening to music (‘Start off slow, you know, and finish on something big’), conductor Jeffrey Tate discusses the ways in which he has coped with spina bifida, and writer and restaurateur Pauline Nguyen, who arrived in Australia as a ‘boat person’, talks about the difficulties of growing up in a household marked by fear and violence.

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Anthony Lynch reviews 'To Sculpt the Moment'

Anthony Lynch
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Despite the deadly title, this anthology of twenty-eight poems from the 2008 Newcastle Poetry Prize is replete with gems. Assembled from 423 entries by judges Jan Owen, Philip Salom, and Richard Tipping – effectively the anthology’s editors – it is a brilliant sampler that few anthologies can match for the legroom offered to the longer poem and poetry sequence.

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The title of The Half-Open Door implies questions relating to the lives of modern professional women in Australia, and bears on the current attention, political and academic, being given to women’s matters. These questions are made explicit in the book’s Preface, which asks why women enter the demanding areas of the professions and the arts, and why so few achieve positions of high status in these fields. Contemporary evidence, formal and informal, of the ambiguity of opportunity for women in Australia is commonplace. For instance, the typical composition of academic humanities departments is like that in which the reviewers work: sixty-four per cent of the student body yet only twenty per cent of the full-time academic staff are female. Why the door – which was opened relatively early for women in Australia by university admittance, emancipation and equal job-opportunity –remains half-closed is a question that needs to be asked. Regrettably, this volume goes only half-way to suggesting an answer.

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Richard Walsh – former OZ co-editor, A&R, ACP and PBL director – has proven again that he has keen eye for what fixates Australians. To be remembered is of course an enduring human obsession, while the ability to send off (or send up) a friend or family member is more often an afterthought, a stepping into the breach.

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Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'HEAT 19: Trappers Way' edited by Ivor Indyk

Jay Daniel Thompson
Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The key theme of HEAT 19 is death. In 224 pages, a collection of Australian writers and academics pay homage to the departed in a range of essays, poems and short stories. The journal opens with Judith Beveridge’s moving and personal tribute to the poet Dorothy Porter. According to Beveridge, ‘Dot’ (as she was known to her friends) was a ‘consummate professional and her public performances were unfailingly polished’. However, Porter ‘also had a very fragile side, vulnerable to the pain of exclusion and rejection’. The title of Beveridge’s piece is ‘Trapper’s Way’, which is the name for a strip of land in the New South Wales suburb of Avalon where Beveridge once lived with Porter.

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While many journals and anthologies are moving away from themed editions, the theme of this anthology is urgent and worthy. The royalties from Thanks for the Mammaries will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). Editor and NBCF ambassador Sarah Darmody writes eloquently in both the introduction and her autobiographical piece, ‘Frankenboob’, about her decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy after discovering that she carried the gene that gave her an eighty-five per cent chance of developing breast cancer.

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Acknowledging the limits of Acknowledgments of Country, the Wiradjuri artist Jazz Money once wrote:

whitefellas try to acknowledge things
but they do it wrong
they say
           before we begin I’d like to pay my respects
not understanding
that there isn’t a time before it begins
it has all already begun

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