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Jeffrey Poacher

Jeffrey Poacher

Jeffrey Poacher has written about Australian fiction and literary criticism for ABR since 2008. His essays, reviews, and other writing have appeared in HEAT, The Times Literary Supplement, Jacket, and various academic journals. He lives in Brisbane.

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'The Rip' by Robert Drewe

October 2008, no. 305 01 October 2008
In Robert Drewe’s latest collection of stories, people often find themselves caught in rip tides of ill fortune. Snake bites, car accidents, marauding dingoes, unexpected adulteries – these are all part of the rough seas of circumstance that crash without warning over the lives of Drewe’s characters. The dominant note of the collection is this quality of suddenness: out of the blue, bad thin ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'Australian Literature and the Symbolist Movement' by John Hawke

October 2009, no. 315 01 October 2009
In one of Kenneth Slessor’s surviving notebooks now held in the National Library, there is a curious entry consisting of approximately eighty names. This appears to be a list of those people the poet counted as friends over his lifetime; many of the names are marked in pencil with the forlorn abbreviation ‘d’. What might a literary historian make of such a list? It might be evidence of a rom ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'The Right' by Matthew Karpin

November 2009, no. 316 01 November 2009
After abandoning its ideals, the Australian Labor Party ‘degenerated into a vast machine for capturing political power’: that was the diagnosis of Vere Gordon Childe, the polymathic party insider, and he was writing in 1923. The brutality of Labor machine politics is hardly news, but it remains relatively unexplored territory in Australian fiction. Matthew Karpin’s latest novel gives us the ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'The Best Australian Stories 2008' by Delia Falconer (ed.)

December 2008–January 2009, no. 307 01 December 2008
‘I like sad girls,’ confesses the creepy narrator of ‘His Blue Period’, the story by Deborah Robertson that opens the latest anthology of short fiction from Black Inc. It is never entirely clear what form this liking took. The narrator’s intentions were undoubtedly sexual, but not just that. What he seemed to desire most of all was the story of each girl’s sadness – the telling of he ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'Southerly, Vol. 69, No. 2: Southerly At Seventy' edited by David Brooks and Elizabeth McMahon

March 2010, no. 319 01 March 2010
It is time to raise our glasses: Australia’s oldest literary magazine is now a sprightly septuagenarian. The latest number of Southerly marks the occasion by encasing itself in what appears to be a reproduction of one of its covers from the middle of the last century, complete with foxing and a pencil notation of its pre-decimal price. This retro jacket should serve as a reminder of the journal ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'Meanjin, Vol. 69, No. 1' edited by Sophie Cunningham

April 2010, no. 320 01 April 2010
There is something to offend everyone in the latest issue of Meanjin. Several contributors boldly tackle religious questions – always plenty of kindling for the fire there. Jeff Sparrow takes on the so-called ‘New Atheists’, in the process throwing a few Marxist haymakers at Bush, Rudd and ‘the Israeli apartheid state’. The ‘religious undergirding’ of secular thought is considered by ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'The Bath Fugues' by Brian Castro

July-August 2009, no. 313 01 July 2009
Living as a displaced person in Berlin during the early 1930s was no picnic, especially if you happened to have a Jewish wife. This was the situation Vladimir Nabokov found himself in, so it is hardly surprising that at one point he considered emigrating to Australia. Had he done so, how different would our literature look today? Perhaps we would have more novels like Brian Castro’s latest, for ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'Black Mountain' by Venero Armanno

October 2012, no. 345 26 September 2012
Venero Armanno’s latest novel begins implausibly. A young man is troubled by a recurring dream about a faceless, one-armed, blob-like creature being throttled by someone wearing a pale blue shirt. This troubled dreamer is Mark Alter (the unsubtle last name underlines one of the book’s central concerns), a university drop-out estranged from his parents and now leading a grungy existence in a se ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'Welcome to Normal' by Nick Earls

July–August 2012, no. 343 09 July 2012
Wheen asked why his later writing had taken on such a different character, Eugenio Montale explained that this was because it came from la retrobottega – literally, from the back of the shop – that place where an artist might unhurriedly conduct a private experiment or two. Something similar might be said of Welcome to Normal, the first collection of stories by Nick Earls in more than a decade ... (read more)

Jeffrey Poacher reviews 'The Magic of It' by Michael Wilding

November 2011, no. 336 25 October 2011
Declarations of loathing for the other members of one’s species tend to be tedious in reality but hilarious in fiction. The characters in Michael Wilding’s latest novel repeatedly prove this point with their mock-serious diatribes against, among others, the habitués of Sydney coffee shops (‘black-clad, metal-pierced creatures’), the patrons of English pubs (‘maggots … a rabble’), an ... (read more)
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