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Peter Craven

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

July 2022, no. 444

Horse? Could that title sound familiar because it was a Richard Harris movie of the 1960s? Well, Geraldine Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for March (2005) and author of novels about everything from the characters in Little Women to the life of King David, is not one to be deterred by daunting precedents. She is a senior journalist who has gone on to use her capacity to master information and then spin it to spectacular effect in order to tell a story in which historical data and its artful arrangement yield an effect that is epical because of the way a many-voiced choir animates the chorales that underline the Passion that is dramatised.

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No contemporary Australian writer has higher claims to immortality than Gerald Murnane and none exhibits narrower tonal range. It’s a long time since we encountered the boy with his marbles and his liturgical colours in some Bendigo of the mind’s dreaming in Tamarisk Row (1974). There was the girl who was the embodiment of dreaming in A Lifetime on Clouds (1976). After The Plains (1982) came the high, classic Murnane with his endless talk of landscapes and women and grasslands, like a private language of longing and sorrow and contemplation.

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Whatever you think of Woody Allen, you will probably find his memoir, Apropos of Nothing, compelling. It’s likely to convince you that he didn’t molest his adoptive daughter Dylan all those years ago. The resurgence of this accusation, first aired in 1992, has caused such widespread concern that Hachette pulled this book because of vehement objections by Ronan Farrow, Allen’s biological son with Mia Farrow, sometime partner of Allen and the woman who accused him of molesting Dylan. This was in the wake of her discovery that Allen had begun a romance with Farrow’s twenty-one-year-old adoptive daughter Soon-Yi Previn, to whom he has been married since 1997. The immediate context was a widespread office rebellion at Hachette.

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Philip Pullman must be one of the weirdest figures to emerge from the sometimes dark woods of children’s writing. Not the least striking thing about him is that the woods can be very dark, Dante-dark, indeed. At the same time, he does not have the ballast of those two mutually despising inklings to whom he is routinely compared, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, in having the deeper comforts of anything like the Christian mythology that feeds into the Narnia books, or the way in which The Lord of the Rings summons up a universe of Gothic and Germanic ring-lore and then shows how it works with tremendous moral force and with snow-white magic against all the putative and primeval Nazism in the world.

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Julius Caesar, first performed in 1599, dates from the period when Shakespeare was leading up to Hamlet, and its central figure Brutus, the conscientious assassin, is a bit of a rough draft for the introspective side of the Prince of Denmark, whereas Richard II, four years earlier ...

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Originally published in German, Albrecht Dümling’s The Vanished Musicians: Jewish refugees in Australia (Peter Lang), a fascinating compendium of Jewish musicians who found refuge in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, is now available in Australian Diana K. Weekes’s excellent translation ...

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Everybody thinks they know about Tim Winton: the working-class hero from the West; the whale of a man who’s been writing since he was a boy; the master of one of ...

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The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa translated by Edith Grossman

June-July 2015, no. 372

Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the marvels of contemporary fiction. The Peruvian Nobel Prize winner not only bestrides it like a colossus, he is also a law unto himself. It is as if he takes the legacy of a realism that is only in his hands magical (because of the enchantment he creates from it) as a kind of blank cheque with which he can license any expense of narrat ...

Kate Grenville’s Lilian’s Story is one of the great Australian novels of the last thirty years. When it was first published in 1985, it was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. The original cover carried a recommendation by Patrick White, Nobel laureate and the greatest writer of any kind Australia has produced. White said ...

Last month in Melbourne, a group of book reviewers and literary editors took part in a conference organised by Monash University’s Centre for the Book. There were more than thirty short papers, or ‘provocations’, as they were styled. Our Editor lamented the low or non-payment of some reviewers ( ...

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