Gail Jones

Gail Jones’s beautifully crafted narratives invite and reward careful reading. All her work bears the mark of her formidable intellect. Yet her texts don’t show off: they assert the primacy of embodied experience and interpersonal relationships as much as the inner life of the mind. They provoke you to attend to their many layers of meaning, often requiring at least two readings (and some research) to fully grasp their complexity. But the reader’s reward is in the ‘ah’ moments when, for example, an image takes on particular resonance or an idea emerges from the text’s depths. It is to these intricacies that Tanya Dalziell’s monograph, Gail Jones: Word, image, ethics, turns its attention.

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Susan Sontag has identified in contemporary fiction what she calls an ‘impatient, ardent and elliptical’ drive. These are features, above all, of the well-wrought story, and they are also adjectives that well describe its inherent paradox: the story is contained but somehow urgent, intensified but working in a system of concision, suggestive but employing referential exorbitance. Four pages might betoken an entire world.

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In a recent feature article in the Guardian Review, William Boyd proposed a new system for the classification of short stories. He constructed seven stringently categorical descriptions and ended his article with a somewhat predictable – that is to say, canonical – list of ‘ten truly great stories’, among which were James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Spring at Fialta’ and Jorge Luis Borges’s ‘Funes the Memorious’. Most of the writers cited were male, and the classifications were confident demarcations in terms of genre and mode (‘modernist’, ‘biographical’). It is difficult to know, and no doubt presumptuous to speculate, what Boyd would make of Frank Moorhouse’s edited collection The Best Australian Stories 2004. Garnering them ‘at large’ by advertisement and word of mouth, Moorhouse received one thousand stories, from which he selected ‘intriguing and venturesome’ texts, many of which display ‘innovations’ of form. Of the twenty-seven included, six are by first-time published writers and twenty are by women. This is thus an open, heterodox and explorative volume, unlike its four predecessors in this series in reach and inclusiveness. It is also, perhaps, more uneven in quality: a few stories in this selection are rather slight; and the decision to include two stories by two of the writers may seem problematic, given the large number of submissions and the fact that the editor claims there were fifty works fine enough to warrant publication. A character in one of the stories favourably esteems the fiction of Frank Moorhouse over that of David Malouf: this too may be regarded as a partisan inclusion.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Dreams of Speaking' by Gail Jones

Kerryn Goldsworthy
Wednesday, 10 July 2019

If you can say immediately what you think a novel is ‘about’, then the chances are that it may not be a very good novel. Fiction as a genre gives writers and readers imaginative room to move, to work on a vertical axis of layers of meaning as well as along the horizontal forward movement of narrative development ...

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We invited some writers, film critics, and film professionals to nominate their favourite film – not The Greatest Film Ever Sold, but one that matters to them personally.

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Noah Glass is dead, his fully clothed body discovered floating face down in the swimming pool of his Sydney apartment block, early one morning. Born in Perth in 1946, father of two adult children, widower, Christian, art historian, and specialist in the painting of fifteenth-century artist Piero della Francesca, Noah has ...

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Let's start with the title. The act of reading is anything but simple, as Fiona McFarlane and Gabrielle Carey both point out. Eyes, brain, and mind cooperate to create from a series of symbols with no intrinsic representative value a coherent message, or some amusing nonsense, or a persuasive argument, or a boring anecdote, or a parade of transparent lies.

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Gillian Dooley reviews 'A Guide to Berlin' by Gail Jones

Gillian Dooley
Tuesday, 25 August 2015

I sit in a safe room with the winter sun on my back and read of violence and menace in an icy city. Gail Jones’s Berlin is so bleak and the novel’s dénouement so shattering that I need that brief benign warmth. This is not, I hasten to protest, a spoiler: the book begins by foreshadowing a scene of guilt, shoc ...

The missing novels: our critics nominate some overlooked classics

Debra Adelaide et al.
Monday, 24 August 2015

Early success is no guarantee of a book’s continued availability or circulation. Some major and/or once-fashionable authors recede from public consciousness, and in some cases go out of print. We invited some writers and critics to identity novelists who they feel should be better known.

Felicity Plunkett reviews 'Five Bells' by Gail Jones

Felicity Plunkett
Friday, 06 May 2011

At the heart of Gail Jones’s Five Bells is a hymn to Kenneth Slessor’s dazzling elegy of the same name, published in 1939.

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