Susan Lever

Late in 2013, the Griffin Theatre in Sydney revived John Romeril’s The Floating World as its annual production of an Australian classic. The play is now forty years old, and unfamiliar to contemporary audiences who would have been lucky to see its first performances in the tiny Pram Fa ...

Susan Lever reviews Merciless Gods, a new collection of short stories by Christos Tsiolkas, and concludes that, though admirable, the work amounts to confined literary art.

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Forty years ago next Christmas, a cyclone devastated Australia’s northernmost city, Darwin. It is a disaster still clear in the living memory of most Australians over fifty, but it also belongs to the past, the time before we had become aware of climate change. At the time, it was the kind of natural disaster to be expected in summer in the Top End, even if its fe ...

Australia was colonised in the period of modernity, with the Industrial Revolution driving much of its development and a belief in improving technology and political progress underlying its public institutions. The society may have been modern but its culture, in particular its art and literature, has borne the recurrent charge of backwardness. The centres of innova ...

In his introduction to this selection of prose engagements with the world, Robert Manne tells us he was looking for the ‘presence of a distinctive voice’ as a sign of what he calls a good essay. Some of these pieces are conventional essays, but others are memoirs, newspaper columns, sketches, ‘true’ stories – there’s even a speech and an article from Man ...

Telling Stories is a great brick of a book full of diverting bits and pieces about Australian culture over the past seventy-seven years. It is hugely entertaining – a sort of QIin book form, with seventy-nine authors offering their brief observations on aspects of Australian cultural life. No one will read it cover to ...

No matter what the state of local publishing of Australian literature and criticism, twice a year the loyal members of AAALS continue to produce the readable and enlightening Antipodes. The June 2013 issue includes some splendid poetry by Tom Shapcott, Jan Owen, and Ali Alizadeh, and several less well-known names, and a mix of stories that move beyond f ...

David Foster’s earlier Dog Rock novels came out of his experience as a Bundanoon postman in the 1980s. A recent brief return to his old run has provided irresistible material for a further comic foray into rural life. Dog Rock: A Postal Pastoral (1985) and The Pale Blue Crochet Coathanger Cover (1988)observed the changes in a country village under th ...

Katherine Gallagher, who has lived in London since the 1970s, has now published six books of poetry, all but two of them with British or American publishers. This book selects poems from her earlier books, together with twelve new poems. As a whole, it gives the sense of a writer’s development over a period of thirty-five years, with some slight shifts of style over that time.

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Travelling to the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) conference on the morning tram, I marvel at Melbourne’s sophistication and self-regard. In Swanston Street, new sculptures honour John Brack’s satire of Melbourne’s regimented workers, while in front of the State Library there’s a classical portal half buried in the pavement, as if the ancient world lies below. At the Trades Hall in Carlton, the framed wall directory is ‘Heritage Only’, so I follow the photocopied paper arrows to the conference venue. There’s more historical self-consciousness here than in the new National Museum in Canberra. Banners assert the importance of eight hours’ work, recreation and rest, and there is a massive socialist realist representation of good Australian workers toiling to keep the country alive. We’re in the sacred place of the Left: Frank Hardy, Stephen Murray-Smith, Judah Waten surely haunt us here. 

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