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  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'The Yellow House' by Emily O’Grady
  • Contents Category Fiction
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    Cub lives next door to the yellow house. The girl also lives in the shadow of her grandfather, Les, who once owned that property, and who died years ago, after doing ‘ugly things’ to women. Indeed, Les’s crimes seem to cast a pall over Cub’s entire family. This is a family where warmth ...

  • Book Title The Yellow House
  • Book Author Emily O'Grady
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Allen & Unwin, $29.99 pb, 314 pp, 9781760632854

Bani Adam wants to be a ‘chivalrous poet’ or a great writer. These aspirations make the Lebanese-Australian teenager feel like an outsider at the testosterone-fuelled, anti-intellectual high school that he attends. Until he finishes school, Bani bides his time with a group of mostly Muslim and Lebanese young men. ‘The Lebs’, as they refer to themselves, while away the hours discussing religion and politics, fantasising about or insulting teachers, and forging something like a friendship with one another.

The Lebs is the latest novel for Sydney writer and community arts worker Michael Mohammed Ahmad. The author sketches his characters with precision and with a refreshing lack of moralising about their lives. Some of the young men spout misogynist and anti-Semitic opinions. These sentiments are disturbing, but there is no suggestion that they are being endorsed.

The novel shifts from witty to bleak and confronting, and then back, sometimes in the space of a few paragraphs. Ahmad traverses a number of issues – sex, gender, race, and religion – without being didactic. The book is divided into sections with titles such as ‘Drug Dealers and Drive Bys’. These titles could have been lifted from tabloid reports about the supposed horrors of multicultural suburbia. They contrast nicely with the unsensational, though always compelling, events in Bani’s life.

The Lebs’ sense of historicity is fuzzy. At one point, for example, Bani observes his classmates’ reactions to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which, we are told, have just occurred. This would suggest that the novel is set in 2001, but there are also references to Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road (2006) and to a 2009 incident featuring radio personality Kyle Sandilands. This aside, The Lebs provides a confronting and admirably frank examination of one young man’s coming of age in contemporary Australia.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'The Lebs' by Michael Mohammed Ahmad
  • Contents Category Fiction
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    Bani Adam wants to be a ‘chivalrous poet’ or a great writer. These aspirations make the Lebanese-Australian teenager feel like an outsider at the testosterone-fuelled, anti-intellectual high school that he attends. Until he finishes school, Bani bides his time with a group of mostly Muslim and Lebanese young men. ‘The Lebs’ ...

  • Book Title The Lebs
  • Book Author Michael Mohammed Ahmad
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Hachette, $27.99 pb, 265 pp, 9780733639012

Dancing Home opens in forthright fashion. The author, Paul Collis, urges readers to ‘[t]ake sides. Be involved in the ideas I’ve written into this book.’ The novel offers an uncompromising examination of some of the injustices faced by Indigenous Australians.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'Dancing Home' by Paul Collis
  • Contents Category Fiction
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    Dancing Home opens in forthright fashion. The author, Paul Collis, urges readers to ‘[t]ake sides. Be involved in the ideas I’ve written into this book.’ The novel offers an uncompromising examination of some of the injustices faced by Indigenous Australians. The plot focuses on three men – Blackie, Rips, and Carlos – who have embarked on a ...

  • Book Title Dancing Home
  • Book Author Paul Collis
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio University of Queensland Press, $29.95 pb, 206 pp, 9780702259753

The tagline of Wimmera is ‘Small town. Big secret’. Mark Brandi’s first novel does indeed feature a secret (and a grim one, at that), but it also offers a disturbing insight into Australian masculinity. The book opens in the country circa 1989. Ben and Fab are primary school students who, both misfits, while away the hours catching yabbies, playing cricket, and watching The Wonder Years. Fab’s father is abusive, but they find solace in their friendship. Then Ronnie Bellamy appears in their lives. Ronnie is a ‘tall, muscular’ man who works in the nearby mines. He charms the boys with his friendly demeanour and stash of porn magazines, but he has ulterior motives. Fast-forward to 2006: Fab remains in his childhood town, working menial jobs and drinking excessively. He seems reluctant to confront his past, though a gruesome discovery forces him to do just that.

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  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'Wimmera' by Mark Brandi
  • Contents Category Fiction
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    The tagline of Wimmera is ‘Small town. Big secret’. Mark Brandi’s first novel does indeed feature a secret (and a grim one, at that), but it also offers a disturbing insight into Australian masculinity. The book opens in the country circa 1989. Ben and Fab are primary school students who, both misfits, while away the hours catching ...

  • Book Title Wimmera
  • Book Author Mark Brandi
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Hachette, $29.99 pb, 272 pp, 9780733638459

William Yang is one of Australia's best-known and most prolific photographers. In William Yang: Stories of love and death, Helena Grehan and Edward Scheer interrogate the political and aesthetic themes running through this artist's output.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'William Yang: Stories of love and death' by Helena Grehan and Edward Scheer
  • Contents Category Photography
  • Book Title William Yang
  • Book Author Helena Grehan and Edward Scheer
  • Book Subtitle Stories of Love and Death
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio NewSouth $49.99 pb, 191 pp, 9781742234601

Emily Maguire's An Isolated Incident explores the media's fascination with beautiful, murdered women. The novel also interrogates the experiences of those who find themselves involved in murder cases.

The novel is set in Strathdee, a fictitious rural Australian town. This 'lovely little' hamlet has been unsettled by the slaying of Bella Michaels, a 'photogenic' young resident. Bella's older sister, Chris, finds herself in a particularly nightmarish situation. She must deal not only with her own grief, but also the hostility of the local police force. This hostility is due in no small part to the fact that Chris dabbles in sex work.  An Isolated Incident cuts between Chris's travails and the media reportage of her sister's murder. This reportage is produced by May Norman, a small-time crime journalist whose career ambitions take a back seat to her obsession with the case.

Maguire's novel merges feminist media analysis with fictional narrative. This merger is confident, save for a few overly polemical passages, for example: 'Homicide investigations ... open up private lives in an unprecedented way.' Chris's raw emotions and salty language are effectively juxtaposed with May's trite, tabloidesque accounts of Bella's death. Much of the novel focuses on May's escalating obsession with the murder. This obsession is convincingly and sensitively depicted. The transcripts of her interviews with Strathdee locals reveal an earnest but naïve individual who has failed to grasp the human dimensions of Bella's death.

The only real problem with An Isolated Incident concerns Maguire's failure to adequately draw out the implications of the title. Femicide cases are often framed as isolated bursts of misogynist violence in an otherwise peaceful society. (Think, for example, of the media coverage surrounding the 2012 death of Jill Meagher.) Otherwise, this is a taut and timely text.

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  • Free Article Yes
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'An Isolated Incident' by Emily Maguire
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title An Isolated Incident
  • Book Author Emily Maguire
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Picador $32.99 pb, 379 pp, 9781743538579

The threesome in Trio is a group of friends who meet in the United Kingdom around 1966. Celia, Marcia, and Mickey bond one ‘pea-souperof a London evening’ and soon move in together. They become extremely close, and socialise in the same (largely theatre-based) circles. Their closeness has its limits; the protagonists draw the line at ‘threefold sex’.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'Trio' by Geraldine Wooller
  • Contents Category Fiction
  • Book Title Trio
  • Book Author Geraldine Wooller
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Transit Lounge, $27.99 pb, 270 pp, 9781921924781
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 16:46

Transnational Literature

Transnational Literature is an online, open-access journal that is published by Flinders University. The May 2014 edition certainly lives up to the title. This edition provides an overview of literary texts and theories from across the world.

The academic contributions explore a diverse range of topics. These include the work of Marion Halligan, literary representations of Islam and the veil, and the notion of ‘home’ as this is invoked in Shani Mootoo’s novel Cereus Blooms at Night (1996). There is a review essay on a selection of books dedicated to the theme of ‘world literature’, plus the paper delivered by Satendra Nandan at the December 2013 launch of Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally’s edited collection A Country Too Far (the latter is reviewed in this edition). Readers will also find poems, short stories and life narratives.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson: 'Transnational Literature'
  • Contents Category Journals
  • Book Title Transnational Literature
  • Book Author Gillian Dooley
  • Book Subtitle Vol. 6, No. 2
  • Author Type Editor
  • Biblio Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities Free online journal, published twice p.a., ISSN 18364845
Sunday, 19 January 2014 18:24

Crazy Little Heaven

Crazy Little Heaven provides an account of Mark Heyward’s life in Indonesia. The book offers readers an affectionate insight into this nation and its diverse culture. In 1992, Heyward travelled from Tasmania to East Kalimantan to work as a teacher. He was initially blinded by fantasies of Indonesia as the stomping ground ‘of Joseph Conrad, of the White Rajas of Sarawak … of Tom Harrison, King of the Headhunters’. With time, Heyward gained a more accurate – and more exciting – perspective on his new home. Heyward, travelling around the country by boat, became entranced with Indonesia’s wildlife. He grew accustomed to meals of nasi putih and egg. He also fell in love, and this love played a significant role in his conversion to Islam.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'Crazy Little Heaven'
  • Contents Category Indonesia
  • Book Title Crazy Little Heaven
  • Book Author Mark Heyward
  • Book Subtitle An Indonesian Journey
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Transit Lounge, $29.95 pb, 268 pp, 9781921924507
Sunday, 19 January 2014 16:38

Circus and Stage

In Circus and Stage, Mimi Colligan revisits the careers of stage performers Rose Edouin and and her husband, George Benjamin William Lewis, who were significant figures in nineteenth-century Australian theatre but are now ‘largely forgotten’.

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  • Free Article No
  • Custom Article Title Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'Circus and Stage'
  • Subheading The Theatrical Adventures of Rose Edouin and G.B.W. Lewis
  • Contents Category Theatre
  • Book Title Circus and Stage
  • Book Author Mimi Colligan
  • Book Subtitle The Theatrical Adventures of Rose Edouin and G.B.W. Lewis
  • Author Type Author
  • Biblio Monash University Publishing, $34.95 pb, 253 pp, 9781922235022
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