WA contributor

Members of the general public are likely to recognise the names of some of the pioneering female aviators. There is of course Amelia Earhart, the American who became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Here in Australia, many would recognise the name Nancy Bird Walton, who is known for gaining her pilot’s licence at the age of nineteen, as well as for helping to establish a flying medical service in regional New South Wales. But what of the Australian female aviator who is the subject of James Vicars’s début, Beyond the Sky: The passions of Millicent Bryant, aviator? Millicent Bryant (1878–1927) has largely passed into obscurity, but in her day she was a sensation. Vicars would like his great-grandmother to become once again a household name, celebrated for her achievement as the first woman in Australia – indeed, the first in the Commonwealth outside Britain – to gain a pilot’s licence.

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‘Land isn’t always meant to be grasped any more than art is, or dust,’ writes Michael Farrell in the arresting opening sentence of the first essay of Kate Leah Rendell’s Randolph Stow: Critical essays. Stow’s writing shows just how provisional meaning and territoriality can be, and the statement is a fitting beginning to a new book about his work.

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The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen begins like a fable, the story of a poor family that wins the lotto and moves to a remote Queensland location to make fairy-tale characters for a tourist attraction called Dragonhall. There should be a happy ending, but there isn’t.

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Subtitled ‘Encounters with love, death and faith’, Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer takes on big themes. In this work of creative non-fiction that combines memoir, journalism, and philosophical inquiry, Krasnostein details her meetings with people whose beliefs she finds unfathomable but whom she is driven to understand. Her own guiding faith on this journey is that ‘we are united in the emotions that drive us into the beliefs that separate us’.

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The street entrance to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court is a scoop-hungry gauntlet of journos who spend the day jostling for soundbites, ever ready to give chase. As a rookie reporter, Louise Milligan used to be part of the Sydney court scrum, but when she arrived to give evidence in Australia’s ‘Trial of the Decade’, she had become the story. In her investigative work for ABC’s Four Corners – which begat the Walkley Book Award-winning volume Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell (2017)Milligan had been the first person to hear one of the criminal accusations against the Vatican’s disgraced treasurer

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The invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in 1941 caused massive destruction over a huge area. The number of deaths is uncertain, though a figure of around twenty-seven million is now widely accepted. The lives of many more millions were affected – as soldiers, as workers in war-related industries, as civilians in besieged and occupied territories, as refugees – and the experience of hardship and self-sacrifice in what is widely referred to in Russia as the ‘Great Patriotic War’ or the ‘Great Fatherland War’ continues to dominate the Russian historical narrative.

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‘Every last word that follows from here is a word I have tortured out of myself. If what I have written sometimes warbles towards the inarticulate, that is the price exacted by torture and the price of articulating ... at all.’ So warns the narrator of Daniel Davis Wood’s first novel, Blood and Bone (2014). He may well be describing Davis Wood’s second novel, At the Edge of the Solid World, which is, above all, deliberate. Davis Wood has written precisely the book he meant to write.

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Eugen Bacon’s début short story collection, The Road to Woop Woop, plays with the genres of speculative fiction and magic realism. Using familiar tropes such as time travel, shapeshifting, and prescient characters, the stories typically refuse formulaic outcomes. The title story, for example, confounds expectations about the horror of bodily disintegration. The ominous angel of death in the story ‘Dying’ turns out to be a true wit. The surreal is transformed by the blessing of love in the heart-warming story ‘He Refused to Name It’.

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Since the publication of her acclaimed first novel, Blood Kin (2007), Ceridwen Dovey has established herself as an intelligent author who typically probes what it means, and might mean in the future, to be human. Equally au fait with literary analysis, politics, and science, Dovey has since 2007 published several more books of fiction, two non-fiction books, and numerous essays, contributing regularly to The Monthly and The New Yorker. Now she has extended her range in fiction to a lighter mode, focusing on contemporary life and the pleasures of storytelling. Publishing in audio form has worked well in signalling Dovey’s new voice: Life After Truth was first published through the Australian and New Zealand Audible Originals program in November 2019, and her novel Once More with Feeling was released as an Audible Original in May 2020.

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More Than Mere Words edited by Paul Monaghan and Michael Walsh & Ethnographer and Contrarian edited by Julie D. Finlayson and Frances Morphy

by
December 2020, no. 427

Anthropology, in my experience, is commonly confused in the popular imagination with archaeology. ‘We study live people, whereas archaeologists study dead people,’ I have sometimes explained half-jokingly to the perplexed. Although public understanding of anthropology’s engagement with living human societies and cultures is at times sketchy, Australian anthropologists have in fact made significant contributions since the 1970s to the recognition of prior Aboriginal land ownership over vast tracts of the Australian continent. The essays in this two-volume Festschrift celebrate the multifaceted life and legacy of anthropologist and linguist Peter Sutton, perhaps the most significant exemplar of this ‘applied’ branch of Australian anthropology.

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