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Brenda Walker

Brenda Walker is Emerita Professor of English and Literary Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her book Reading by Moonlight is a study of reading during illness.

Brenda Walker reviews 'Jumbo' by Gabrielle Lord

October 1986, no. 85 01 October 1986
Gabrielle Lord’s novels – Fortress, Tooth and Claw and now, Jumbo, are all topical, readable, and (I expect) highly marketable. Lord is a scriptwriter as well as a novelist and each of these books seems like a transit point between a great idea and the kind of film which makes you lean forward in your seat and temporarily abandon regular breathing. There is, however, much to be said for them, ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'What Are You Going Through: A novel' by Sigrid Nunez

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
In 1976, Sigrid Nunez moved into an apartment on Riverside Drive in New York with her then boyfriend, David Reiff, and his mother, Susan Sontag. Nunez is a person who cherishes solitude. In Sempre Susan, her tribute to Sontag, she describes the strain of living with extroverts when her dream, from her teenage years, had been: ‘A single room. A chair, a table, a bed. Windows on a garden. Music. B ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'The Walls of Jericho' by Julie Lewis and 'The Wild Dogs' by Peter Skrzynecki

August 1987, no, 93 01 August 1987
At various times in its history, the Australian short story has been predictable, as editorial and public appetites have limited experimentation. I am glad to be reading now, when approval can be conferred on collections as different and as variously excellent as Julie Lewis’s The Walls of Jericho and Peter Skrzynecki’s The Wild Dogs. Lewis’s work is more formally experimental than Skrzyneck ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Company of Images' by Janine Burke

May 1989, no. 110 01 May 1989
Janine Burke’s Company of Images is a funny and socially astute book about painters and their promoters in contemporary Melbourne. The humour comes from sharp observations and deft characterisations. Burke’s minor figures are like good caricatures, but her major characters are a complex blend of impulses and emotions, which can be funny or sad. She takes the opportunity to send up predictably ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'The Returns' by Philip Salom

September 2019, no. 414 27 August 2019
A bookseller, Trevor, sits in his shop in Melbourne making conversation with his customers: an exasperating mixture of confessional, hesitant, deranged, and disruptive members of the public. One man stalks him, armed with an outrageous personal demand; another tries to apologise for assaulting him. The apology is almost as unnerving as the attack. The bookshop is a kind of theatre, with a ceiling ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'A Lovely and Terrible Thing' by Chris Womersley

May 2019, no. 411 21 April 2019
In Chris Womersley’s collection of short fiction, A Lovely and Terrible Thing, a man is caught in a fugue moment. Just after unexpectedly discharging a gun into the body of a stranger, he gazes at his reflection in a darkened window pane: ‘I saw someone outside looking in, before realising it was, in fact, my own reflection hovering like a small, sallow moon in the darkness.’ He stands for s ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'The Year of the Farmer' by Rosalie Ham

October 2018, no. 405 25 September 2018
‘In time and with water, everything changes,’ according to Leonardo da Vinci, who worked with Machiavelli on a strategic and ultimately doomed attempt to channel the flow of the Arno. Large-scale water management has had some notable successes in parts of Australia, but as poor practices and climate change put river systems under near-terminal stress, we face irreversible and potentially catas ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Old Growth' by John Kinsella

April 2017, no. 390 24 March 2017
John Kinsella’s short stories are the closest thing Australians have to Ron Rash’s tales of washed-out rural America, where weakened and solitary men stand guard over their sad patch of compromised integrity in a world of inescapable poverty, trailer homes, uninsured sickness, and amphetamine wastage. Poe’s adventure stories and internally collapsing characters lightly haunt the short fictio ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'The Simplest Words' by Alex Miller

March 2016, no. 379 26 February 2016
In The Simplest Words, Alex Miller's recently published work on his own journey through country, writing, love, friendship, and fatherhood, there is a remarkable scene of levitation. Miller describes his young daughter soaring up his own bookshelves, past the spines of The Heart of Europe, The Cambridge History of English Literature, A Dream of Red Mansions, Voss. This is not magic realism; his ch ... (read more)

Brenda Walker reviews 'Shirley Hazzard' edited by Brigitta Olubas

April 2015, no. 370 26 March 2015
Shirley Hazzard is probably the most elegantly polished writer in the Australian canon: her novels and stories use traditional structures with great assurance, she writes from a thoughtful moral position, she is outspokenly engaged with the fine and the less fine elements of the Australia she once lived in, and she can be dry and funny. She spent most of her life in New York and Italy. This remind ... (read more)
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