I grew up with The Sydney Morning Herald. In spite of enforced years in Melbourne and Canberra and sojourns overseas, I still regard it as my paper. So my business being writing and Sydney my town, it’s a matter of identity that The Herald’s reviews are the primary ones for me. But my tribal instincts are faltering. The problem is The Herald’s book coverage. My quarrel isn’t with the choice of books nor the quality of the reviews. It’s the prior matter of quantity. Over the three Saturdays of the 11, 18, 25 April, The Herald ran a total of ten full-scale book reviews. The Australian over the same period ran seventeen, and they were generally longer.... (read more)
It is comparatively rare for a new writer to bring out his first two collections in the one year, and even more rare that one should be a collection of verse and the other of short stories. Yet this is exactly what Peter Goldsworthy has done. His name will be unfamiliar to many, but those who regularly read literary magazines will have come across his stories and poems before and he will undoubtedly be heard of again.... (read more)
Collected Stories is a misleading title for Louis Nowra’s new publication. It’s nothing as uniform as that. Apart from poetry, is there any genre in which Nowra has not made his mark? He’s a playwright, screenwriter, novelist, memoirist, local historian, essayist, reviewer, feature journalist – and the author of one enduring Australian gem in Così (1992), in all its multiple forms. Yet he has scouted out other territories and the results jostle together in Collected Stories. Such a title conjures up a lifetime’s labour in the genre – gatherings of Anton Chekhov or John Cheever or Alice Munro. But Nowra’s volume is essentially a ragbag of disparate writings.... (read more)
The Plains is a book for the critic, not the mere reviewer. It is a strange creature, to be approached with care. Several omens made me cautious. My review copy reached me three months after the date of posting.... (read more)
The current literary enterprise of this country is greatly indebted to Peter Goldsworthy. Yet his name is not one of those that trip off the reflex tongues of journalists, and not only journalists. He has only recently started to appear in the anthologies. He is granted all of two lines in Ken Gelder and Paul Salzman’s jerky traverse of our recent fiction. Yet his accomplishment in a diversity of genres is unique.... (read more)
Initial appearances notwithstanding, The Great World is not a grand, epic title. It is a phrase of the wide-eyed naäf, gaping at the wondrous, which is anything beyond his experience, especially any tawdry, flashy concoction. In fact, David Malouf’s primary ‘great world’ is an entertainment park of that name in Singapore where ...... (read more)
For more than thirty years, Paul Collins has been His Holiness’s loyal opposition. Absolute Power is the latest round in his spirited debate with the Vatican, the government which has the largest constituency of any in the world. Collins’s interest, in fact obsession, is in the nature ...... (read more)
This book came my way at the right moment. I read it in the week that the Royal Commission enumerated the fact that, so far, 4,444 individuals have brought cases of sexual abuse against Catholic institutions in Australia – a staggering number. I know of others who are still struggling to come forward and tell their story. The archbishop of Sydney described the res ...