Hilary McPhee

In the spring of 2003, a person from Hilary McPhee’s past got in touch with her. McPhee did not remember the woman’s name but recognised her immediately when they met for coffee. At high school they had played hockey together for a team called the Colac Battlers. The woman had been working for years as a personal assistant at a palace in Jordan ...

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Beth Yahp's beautifully crafted memoir of her ancestors, her parents, and herself is shaped around journeys criss-crossing the Malay Peninsula where her Siamese-speaking Eurasian mother and her Hakka Chinese father met and married in 1961. A photograph seems to have triggered the project – perhaps the lovely sepia cover shot of her parents on their honeymoon, sitt ...

CHILDHOOD SEX!

Dear Editor,

Shannon Burns’s splendid ABR Patrons’ Fellowship essay, ‘The Scientist of His Own Experience: A Profile of Gerard Murnane, is rich in insights and pithy observations, plus some rather fine photographs (August ...

With Tim Burstall’s death in 2004, Australia lost a key figure in the rebirth of a distinctive and energetic national film industry. While critics disdained his rough ocker populism, Burstall’s Stork (1971), Alvin Purple (1973), and Petersen (1974) were significant commercial successes and demonstrated the viability of a product willing to show Australians to themselves. Burstall argued that a film industry without artistic standards was undesirable, but that so too was an industry cut off from market considerations.

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The Wheeler Centre recently hosted ‘four provocative nights’ based on the assertion that Australian criticism of film, theatre, books and the visual arts is, in its own words, ‘failing us all’. The series was entitled ‘Critical Failure’. For ABR readers unable to attend, here is one person’s account of the books-related panel.

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‘The characters which survive,’ wrote Hilary McPhee at seventeen in the copy of Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native that she studied in her tiny matriculation class at Colac High in 1958, ‘are those who make some compromise with their surroundings ...

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Kylie Tennant hasn’t taken the task of telling the story of her life seriously – and that is one of the real pleasures of this rough and ready autobiography. Her ten novels and many short stories, as well as being piercingly accurate social documentaries, are carefully constructed to work as good yarns should. But Tennant’s autobiography is not well put together. It reads as if she is nattering with a friend and laughing at herself a lot. She rambles a bit, avoids any semblance of self-analysis, is engagingly matter-of-fact about her achievements and her failings.

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Books flow steadily from the northern to the southern hemisphere through the traditional conduits of empire. To get them to flow back the other way is difficult but it can be done. The real task though, it seems to me, is to overhaul the plumbing so that writing and writers can flourish, and that’s a long haul.

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Eric Rolls begins his Celebration of the Senses with an image of his wife’s left buttock shining through a split in an old blue sheet ‘like an early morning moon’. He ends the book with the smells of his semen and her cunt as the warm sheet is lifted and the day begins. He shares his delight in his partner (‘I will not name her. A name both exposes and confines her’) as he shares all the sensual pleasures that give him his being and inform his work.

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