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 völkisch collective past.... (read more)
Geordie Williamson reviews 'The Art of the Engine Driver' by Stephen Carroll and 'Summerland: A novel' by Malcolm Knox
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 ...... (read more)
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 ...... (read more)
To celebrate the best books of 2018, Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser... (read more)
Geordie Williamson reviews 'In Search of Mary Shelley: The girl who wrote Frankenstein' by Fiona Sampson
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 ...... (read more)
‘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 ...... (read more)
To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wyndham, James Ley, Geordie Williamson, Jane Sullivan, Tom Griffiths, Mark Edele, and Brenda Niall.... (read more)
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 ...... (read more)
An annual challenge: how to select essays which capture the moment but live beyond the immediate?
For some, rigour matters. The series editor for The Best American Essays invites magazine editors and writers to submit contributions to a Boston postal address. The rules are strict: an essay is a literary work that shows ‘an awareness of craft and f ...