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Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson

Geordie Williamson is the author of The Burning Library: Our greatest novelists lost and found (2011).

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Wanting' by Richard Flanagan

November 2008, no. 306 01 November 2008
For the inhabitants of mainland Australia, ‘history’ is often complicated by the sheer fact of geography. Instead of one central node, European colonisation expanded from multiple centres, each isolated in space and founded on differing socio-political premises over staggered periods of time, and each with populations too various in background to allow much in the way of agreement about some v ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Art of the Engine Driver' by Stephen Carroll and 'Summerland: A novel' by Malcolm Knox

November 2001, no. 236 01 October 2001
If history is a graveyard of dead aristocracies, the novel is their eulogy. It is now, for instance, a critical commonplace to explain the young Proust’s entry into the closed world of France’s nobility as an occurrence made possible by its dissolution. Close to death, holding only vestigial power, the fag ends of the ancien régime lost the will or energy to keep their secrets. Proust’s soc ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Diary of a Bad Year' by J.M. Coetzee

September 2007, no. 294 01 September 2007
In 1880, Turgenev visited Tolstoy at his country estate after a long period of estrangement, only to discover that the great novelist had, in the interim, renounced art in favour of ethical enquiry. Turgenev was appalled, and dashed off a letter complaining that I, for instance, am considered an artist. But what am I compared to him? In contemporary European literature he has no equal … But w ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'In Search of Mary Shelley: The girl who wrote Frankenstein' by Fiona Sampson

August 2018, no. 403 26 July 2018
A healthy suspicion should surround books that arrive neatly on some commemorative due date – in this case, the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It is not that biographer Fiona Sampson is less than able and diligent in her efforts to celebrate a novel which has resonated like few others during the long modernity inaugurated by the European Romantics. Nor is it wrong that she should ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Last Stories' by William Trevor

June-July 2018, no. 402 24 May 2018
‘In nearly all Trevor’s stories,’ wrote V.S. Pritchett almost four decades ago, ‘we are led on at first by plain unpretending words about things done to prosaic people; then comes this explosion of conscience, the assertion of will which in some cases may lead to hallucination and madness.’ Even here, in this collection drawing together those final stories left after William Trevor’s d ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Passage of Love' by Alex Miller

November 2017, no. 396 25 October 2017
Every author has some version of origin story: a narrative describing what it was that first compelled him or her to write, or at least what attracted them to the role. You can hear the tale harden into myth as an emerging author shapes themselves to those obligatory rubrics of self-disclosure required by writers’ festivals. Sometimes the transition from would-be novelist or short story writer i ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'Poetry Notebook 2006–2014' by Clive James

January-February 2015, no. 368 01 January 2015
Poetry ‘cannot be an ark to help us survive the flood’, wrote Zbigniew Herbert in 1948: ‘It has to be our daily bread, an article of primary need.’ Nothing could be more truly said of Clive James’s approach to poetry. His latest assemblage of essays, reviews, and miscellanea, collected over the years that straddle his diagnosis of leukemia, feel necessary as oxygen. There is a quiet rest ... (read more)

Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Best Australian Essays 2010' edited by Robert Drewe

December 2010–January 2011, no. 327 06 December 2010
Michel de Montaigne thought little of constancy. It was change in slow motion, he said – ‘a more languishing movement’. The first and still the most miraculous exponent of the essay form instead bragged about his embrace of all that fluctuates: ‘I do not portray being; I portray passing; not a passage of one age to another ... but from day to day, from minute to minute.’ ... (read more)
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