Archive

Apart from Abbott’s booby (the gannet Sula abbotti, which now breeds only on Christmas Island), all entries on the first two pages of the Australian National Dictionary pertain to race and white foundation. Is this mere chance, or do we here have an instance of the knack of language to trap and reticulate human experience from its very springs? Probably a spot of both. Whatever: how apt that a dictionary of Australianisms based on historical principles should start with words such as Aboriginalabolition act, abscond, and absolute pardon. Absolute pardon is followed by acacia, whose bloom is the emblem of our national besottedness.

... (read more)

Desmond O’Grady is uniquely placed to interpret Australia for Italians and Italy for Australians. He grew up in suburban Melbourne, but as a journalist, biographer, and writer of fiction he has spent most of his working life in Rome.

... (read more)

Simon Patton reviews 'Translation' by John A. Scott

John A. Scott
Friday, 24 April 2020

This collection is an eclectic one. John A. Scott includes translations from Apollinaire, Ovid, John Clare (a translation from prose) and a little-known contemporary French poet by the name of Emmanuel Hocquard, together with a selection of his own work. This at first dauntingly disparate group appears to be united by the myth of Apollo’s son Orpheus in which creativity and the absence of the beloved are inextricably entwined (‘I come here for Eurydice, whose absence / filled my life – and more – could not contain’). Another aspect of this myth important to Scott is represented by Rimbaud’s A Season In Hell, in which spiritual suffering and occult experience are vital elements of artistic creation.

... (read more)

Vincent Buckley reviews 'Collected Poems' by Peter Porter

Vincent Buckley
Friday, 24 April 2020

It is a brave thing to publish your Collected Poems in your early fifties, braver when you are an Australian resident in England publishing there, and a loading might be put on for additional hazard when, like Peter Porter, you are poetry editor both for Oxford and for The Observer. For, when it comes to Collected Poems, it is your very influence that makes you vulnerable.

... (read more)

Bruce Pascoe reviews 'Rough Wallaby' by Roger McDonald

Bruce Pascoe
Friday, 24 April 2020

McDonald’s latest novel, Rough Wallaby, carves out a fascinating position in contemporary literature: an intricately constructed, fast paced yam drawing its narrative from a contemporary Australian myth, the Fine Cotton race horse switch. The intriguing aspect of Wallaby is that it makes no pretence at anything but a great big yam. The yam in Australia is in a position of disgrace, not among readers, but in the academic-critical club. The story is no longer literature, it seems. There have to be other surreptitious elements recognized and codified by the literary fraternity.

... (read more)

As the one hundred and sixteen years of their control of the Exhibition Building ends, its Trustees have prepared this splendid account of their stewardship. From diverse perspectives David Dunstan, who teaches public history at Monash University, and fifteen associates, demonstrate how deeply the building has entered into the everyday lives of Victorians. Dunstan b ...

Kate Finlayson’s first novel is a bumpy bronco ride, as exhilarating, confronting, and messy as the Northern Territory that she writes about so passionately. Finlayson’s protagonist, Connie, is stuck barmaiding in a rough city pub. Despite her street smarts and university degree, Connie is starting to go to the dogs along with the pub’s patrons. She decides to leave Sydney to pursue a post-adolescent obsession with Rod Ansell, the inspiration for the Crocodile Dundee films. Ansell (his real name) is hiding somewhere in the Territory, and Connie fantasises about finding him and turning him into her ideal lover, her longed-for soul mate.

... (read more)

The Shrine of Remembrance is such a familiar object in the landscape of Melbourne that we can easily be unaware of its singularity. This is, as far as I can tell, the largest purely monumental structure in the world commemorating the war of 1914–18, a great memorial to participants in the Great War. The duke of Gloucester inaugurated the Shrine before a crowd of more than three hundred thousand people – almost three times the largest number ever to attend a sporting event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – on 11 November 1934, Armistice Day, as it used to be called. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the duke placed a wreath from his father, George V, on the Stone of Remembrance in the Sanctuary at the centre of the Shrine, and at that moment, as planned by architect and engineer, a ray of light fell on the black granite of the Stone, lighting up the word ‘Love’ in the carved inscription ‘Greater love hath no man’. In 1934 more people than in 2007 knew those words and the words that followed them in the Bible: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

... (read more)

John Birmingham’s After America is the second book in what is clearly intended to be a trilogy of page-turners – a follow-up to his Axis of Time trilogy, the swashbuckling alternative history which saw a US carrier battle group transported back in time to the middle of World War II. After America, the sequel to Without Warning (2009), is set in a decidedly dystopian alternative present, the result of a mysterious energy wave that wipes out most of the human and animal life forms in North America in 2003. As one might expect, chaos ensues. A global ecological catastrophe has accompanied the human disappearance, a civil engineer from Seattle (the only big US city to survive the wave) has been elected president, Israel has launched nuclear strikes on its Middle East neighbours, and groups of well-organised pirates from Lagos have taken over New York City.

... (read more)

Michael Costigan reviews 'New Selected Poems' by Vivian Smith

Michael Costigan
Wednesday, 08 April 2020

In his 155-page essay on Australian poetry in The Oxford History of Australian Literature, Vivian Smith modestly makes only one passing reference to his own work, noting that he, with a number of other modern poets, had been influenced by university education.

... (read more)