Carmel Bird

When Claude Monet lived in Argenteuil in the 1870s, he famously worked in a studio-boat on the Seine. He painted the river, he painted bridges over the river, he painted snow, the sky, his children and his wife, and, famously, a field of red poppies with a large country house in the background. Argenteuil is to Paris roughly what Heidelberg and Templestowe are to Melbourne. Once a riparian haven for plein air painters interested in capturing the transient optics of natural phenomena, it is now a suburban interface with a diminishing habitat for anything but humans.

Actually, Heidelberg and Templestowe are in good shape when compared to Monet’s old river haunt. When he was living in Argenteuil, the population was fewer than 10,000 people, most of whom were asparagus farmers, vintners, fishermen, and craftspeople. Now the suburb is home to more than 100,000, many of whom are commuters making the train trip into Paris every day to work. The only shimmering light of interest would probably come from their phones.

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In one of the reflective essays that complement her new collection of stories, My Hearts Are Your Hearts, Carmel Bird likens short story writing to the art of the conjuror who takes ‘coloured silk handkerchiefs, pull[s] them all in to make a ball, and then, with a flourish, open[s] them up as a full-blown rose’. This charming me ...

Dancing on his own

Carmel Bird


Reaching One Thousand: A Story of Love, Motherhood and Autism
by Rachel Robertson
Black Inc., $29.95 pb, 240 pp, 9781836955553


At some stage in every workshop on the art of memoir somebody raises the question of ethic ...

A book’s epigraph doesn’t often feel like a direct personal statement to the reader, but the one in Thought Crimes, drawn from Ionesco, is just that: ‘You got stuck in the mud of life. You felt warm and cosy. (Sharply) Now you’re going to freeze.’ Imagine the world as a jigsaw from which the author has removed some pieces, substituting them with his own pieces – but wh ...

Stories of the impact of European discovery, exploration, invasion, and settlement on Australia are naturally a source of fascination to novelists. The microcosm of the island of Tasmania, with its cruel yet beautiful landscape and its unforgiving weather, offers these stories with a special kind of eerie horror. Against this setting, the stories emerge both in concert and in counterpoint, desc ...

Jane Sullivan’s novel, which was runner-up in the 2010 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for a novel by a writer over thirty-five years of age, blends the powerful theme of ...

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Maris Morton’s novel is the winner of the Scribe CAL Fiction Prize for 2010...

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Bereft by Chris Womersley

September 2010, no. 324

World War I is lodged in the minds of Australians with mythic power. Chris Womersley, in plain and startling yet tender and lyrical prose, has constructed a moving narrative that opens up the wounds of war, laying bare the events that pre-date the conflict and reach forward into the collective memory. I was reminded of A.S. Byatt’s recent novel The Children’s Book (2009), which also foregrounds in poetic language the Great War and etches forever the horror of broken bodies and minds on the consciousness of its readers.

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Until I reviewed Marion Halligans novel Lovers’ Knots, I didn’t really know much about what a lover’s knot was. And now I know more than I used to know about the word ‘cockle’.

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And the fourteen are: Brian Castro, Sara Dowse, Joan London, Gillian Mears, Kim Scott, Brenda Walker, Marele Day, Tom Flood, Gail Jones, Beverley Farmer, David Brooks, John A Scott, Simone Lazaroo, and Carmel Bird, in the order anthologised. In summary: no contribution is less than satisfying, many are gripping, most are distinguished. It’s just that I have a problem with ‘risks’ as the postulated organising principle, though editor Brenda Walker might indeed take comfort in this exchange from Carmel Bird’s contribution, which might serve as epigraph to this review.

Too bad; I’ll risk it. This is a weird sort of writing, I have been told. It isn’t fiction; it isn’t essay; it isn’t poetry. What is it?

Ken wonders about this too. What do you actually think you’re doing here, writing this stuff! he says.

It is a slow search with words for the point where consciousness and understanding intersect with unconsciousness and confusion ...

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