Sydney University Press

Patrick White’s plays are conventionally assigned a marginal place in the landscape of his writing. Historically, they have either been regarded as poetic but unconvincing extensions of the performative dimensions of his prose, or as fundamentally misconceived exercises in contempt. Tim Winton spoke for the latter camp when, writing in the London Review of Books (22 June 1995), he dismissed White’s dramatic work as a ‘long and wasteful engagement with the theatre and its poisonous hangers-on’. Winton’s judgement is informed by a solitary model of authorship that can be applied to the rural metaphysics of White’s Castle Hill novels but that is increasingly inapplicable to the urbane satires his work became following his move to inner-Sydney in 1964.

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Four kangaroos recently moved into the paddock that adjoins the house on Peramangk Country in the Adelaide Hills where I live. For weeks I had been conscious of distant gunfire, not the usual firing of the gas guns that wineries use to keep birds off their vines. I concluded that the kangaroos had been driven here by a cull. The goats, Charles and Hamlet, and the sheep, Lauren and Ingrid, who call the paddock home, seemed unperturbed by the roos’ presence. But what, I wondered, did all these animals think about one another? What, indeed, did they think about me?

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After My Brilliant Career appeared in 1901, Miles Franklin spent a few years living in Sydney, where she enjoyed being fêted as a new literary sensation. Her attempt to earn a living by writing fiction and journalism about women’s issues was less than successful; even the timely and witty suffrage novel, Some Everyday Folk and Dawn (1909), was knocked back at first. In 1906, at the age of twenty-six, she left Australia for the United States. She spent the next nine years living in Chicago and working for the Women’s Trade Union League, secretary to its wealthy patron, Margaret Dreier Robins, and editing its journal, Life and Labour, with her compatriot Alice Henry. The two Australians enjoyed recognition as enfranchised women, a status that American women were still fighting for.

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Gail Jones’s beautifully crafted narratives invite and reward careful reading. All her work bears the mark of her formidable intellect. Yet her texts don’t show off: they assert the primacy of embodied experience and interpersonal relationships as much as the inner life of the mind. They provoke you to attend to their many layers of meaning, often requiring at least two readings (and some research) to fully grasp their complexity. But the reader’s reward is in the ‘ah’ moments when, for example, an image takes on particular resonance or an idea emerges from the text’s depths. It is to these intricacies that Tanya Dalziell’s monograph, Gail Jones: Word, image, ethics, turns its attention.

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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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Humans cannot imagine avian perspectives, Joshua Lobb admits, but his stories explore what we might learn from the attempt. Some of Lobb’s strategies are familiar from much recent fiction with ecological themes, such as the use of an educated, intellectually curious narrator-protagonist whose wide reading provides a convenient means of introducing diverse facts and anecdotes about birds into lyrical, richly figurative prose. Others are more adventurous, including shifts in grammatical person and tense. Far from being gratuitous, they foreground substantive questions of intergenerational responsibility.

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‘Climate change is coming,’ fourth-generation farmer Charlie Prell told an Independent Planning Commission hearing on a proposed expansion of the windfarm near his Crookwell property on 6 June 2019. He and his family constantly hear the noise of the turbines spinning five hundred metres away, generating electricity. They hear the sounds of traffic from the road, ...

While working in the London advertising world in the late 1960s, Peter Carey sent his stories to a leading New York literary magazine, Evergreen Review, only to be unimpressed by another rejection ...

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We do nothing alone,’ writes Alex Miller, in his brief memoir ‘The Mask of Fiction’, where he gives an account of the generative processes of his writing. Art, according to Miller, comes from the capacity of the writer to ‘see ourselves as the other’. Early in his career, Miller’s friend Max Blatt woke him, in his farmhouse at Araluen, in order to dismiss the weighty and unsuccessful manuscript that Miller had given him to read. Blatt’s urgent and unsociable rejection of the manuscript may have saved Miller’s work, establishing a new emotional basis for his writing. ‘Why don’t you write about something you love?’ Blatt asked. That night, Blatt told Miller a true story of personal survival and Miller began to write afresh. In the morning, Blatt accepted Miller’s version of the story he had told with the words: ‘You could have been there.’

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Animal Death edited by Jay Johnston and Fiona Probyn-Rapsey

by
June–July 2014, no. 362

As Carol Freeman notes in a footnote to her chapter in Animal Death, ‘what the term “animal studies” defines is still being debated’. The seventeen chapters of this edited volume range across historical, scientific, cultural, and artistic animal-related subjects. They reflect a self-conscious commitment on the part of editors Jay Johnston and Fiona Probyn-Rapsey to the transdisciplinary nature of this inchoate field of scholarship. Although the title and unifying theme of Animal Death might seem to betoken a narrow focus on confrontational questions surrounding the killing of animals by humans – which are at times addressed unflinchingly – in actuality the book’s compass is far wider. It is a text that will be of great value to novices and experienced animal studies scholars alike: the kind of book a reader should be wary of opening with a pencil in hand, lest she find herself underlining the whole thing.

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