Anne Pender

In spite of the hundreds of scholarly articles, dozens of monographs, and two biographies on the life and work of Christina Stead (1902–83), critics, curiously, have not generally sought to divide up Stead’s career into her Australian, European, and American periods for the purposes of their analysis. Most of them have regarded her career as more integrated, recognising the fact that Stead responded to all the places in which she lived and that her interest in the people around her drove her approach to her work, informed her settings, and nourished her understanding of ideology and its impact on human behaviour. In this compact study of five of Stead’s novels, Fiona Morrison seeks to explore Stead’s particular interest in American politics and culture and their specific influence on her writing.

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Nowadays every second young person seems to want to be a stand-up comic, an occupation that perfectly represents the ‘gig’ economy in its precariousness and occasional nature. Anne Pender gives us mini-biographies of seven Australians who succeeded, often spectacularly, in the risky business of being a comic long ...

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On those twin Titans of the twentieth-century English stage, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, fellow-actor Simon Callow recently reflected: ‘We tell stories about them … because they filtered life through the medium of their souls to create new and rich variations on the human condition: they lived their art to the fullest extent possible. Of whom shall we be telling stories now?’

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Teresa Petersen’s study of Christina Stead’s fiction is littered with startling assertions about Stead’s sex life. Petersen suggests that Stead did not actually love her life partner, Bill Blake, in a sexual sense and that a yearning for fatherly love drove her forty-year relationship with him. She maintains that Stead struggled with her own lesbian desires throughout her life, and, unable to come to terms with her homosexuality, recreated herself in her fictional characters. While Petersen stops short of saying that Stead engaged in lesbian relationships, she contends that Stead’s novels are infused with lesbian eroticism in a displacement of Stead’s own desires onto her women characters. If Stead’s life with Bill was so happy, as Stead consistently maintained, why, Petersen asks, didn’t she portray positive heterosexual relationships between men and women?

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