What we read at difficult times in our lives – plague, insurrection, divorce, major root canal work, etc. – is always telling. Carlyle, miserable and unwell at Kirkcaldy, read the whole of Gibbon straight through – twelve volumes in twelve days – with a kind of horrified fascination. I recall one friend who, at a time of ineffable tension, calmly read Les Misérables, one thousand pages long, in a single week. (I would have been incapable of reading a tabloid.) Another time, lovelorn in Siena, I stayed in my ghastly hotel room and read The Aunt’s Story right through while the handsome Sienese sunned themselves in the companionable Campo.... (read more)
I am in Louisiana with the dogs,
my lost generations of dogs.
How I got there, what budget tour I’m on,
whether my papers are in order,
my visa credible, is a total mystery.
ABR asked a few colleagues and contributors to nominate some books that have beguiled them – might even speak to others – at this unusual time.... (read more)
What a difference a month makes! In late March, as we were sending the April issue to press, how bleak the outlook was here in Australia, but especially overseas. Future print editions seemed doubtful because of the scale of the threat and the imminent lockdown.... (read more)
I think of you now for the first time
in about five times as many years
as you actually lived, so uncomplainingly,
they always said, as they do of the dead.
Philip Salom reviews 'Children’s Games' by Geoffrey Lehmann and 'The House of Vitriol' by Peter Rose
How different can two books be? Peter Rose’s first book, The House of Vitriol, is one of the first off the rank for the new Picador poetry series – and a sign of things to come. It is mercurial where Lehmann is mild. Rose’s style is very distinct: gaudy and revved up from the start.... (read more)
Gale Edwards’s production of La Bohème is back for an extended summer season – sixteen performances no less. This production has been filling theatres since its creation in 2011. It may not run for as long as Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 extravaganza, still an annual fixture at the Metropolitan Opera, but it probably has another good decade to go. Revived here by Liesel Badorrek, it works considerably better in the tiny Joan Sutherland Theatre than it did in the State Theatre in 2018; the latter is too palatial for bohemian confinement and privations.... (read more)
Anyone who keeps a diary day in, day out for decades knows why Helen Garner, a few years ago, destroyed her early ones, deeming them boring and self-obsessed. Incineration has a long, proud history: think of Henry James, late in life, at his incinerator in Rye, burning all his letters and private papers – that lamentable blaze. The sheer misery and tedium of our early journals can be dejecting. ‘What is the point of this diary?’ Garner asks herself in 1981. ‘There is always something deeper, that I don’t write, even when I think I’m saying everything.’... (read more)
With certain artists – the luminaries, the abiders – it’s tempting to assign a kind of inevitability to their oeuvres. The musicals of Cole Porter, the satires of Jane Austen, the exiguous poems of T.S. Eliot have a kind of perfection that make them seem nonchalant. But here we run the risk of overlooking the sheer chanciness of most artistic careers – not to mention the false starts and tribulations.... (read more)