UWA Publishing

‘A MISSIONARY ARRESTED! A LONDON MISSIONARY ARRESTED!!’ These alarming words were trumpeted in the Sydney Gazette in 1828, and they shout from the back cover of Anna Johnston’s The Paper War. Readers might be forgiven for assuming that this book is about scandals in early colonial Australia – all the more entertaining for involving clergymen. And in a way it is, for the man arrested, Reverend Lancelot Threlkeld, is the book’s central character. His endless battles with his peers and superiors via the printed, written, and spoken word are a major focus of this book.

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A cluttered portrait inevitably diminishes its subject. I am thinking, in particular, of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his gallery in Brussels, by David Teniers the Younger, in which the Habsburg aristocrat is like an ant among his scores of pictures. This happens with biographies, too. A satisfying example is far more than an expansion of the subject’s curriculum vitae or a thorough examination of his appointment diary. When the author has strong feelings (as a widow inevitably does), the problem is aggravated. This new biography – of an extraordinary musician who might, in different circumstances, have contributed far more to Australia than he was allowed to do – is both partisan and prolix, and is as littered with quotidian details as the Teniers painting is with canvases. In both cases, these objects and details are too small to engage our attention usefully or thoroughly.

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For historian Katie Holmes, researching and writing Between the Leaves was a journey of discovery and interpretation. In her examination of the records left by nine women – through their words and the signatures they left on the land – the author discovered some of the meanings that writing and gardening held for them. Holmes was also drawn to ways an individual’s story can illuminate a larger picture. Sites of women’s stories are also places where the nation’s stories can be found: ‘Within this book, women’s home and garden belong in history, rather than as a mere adjunct to it.’

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The painter and outdoor draughtsman John Wolseley is utterly unusual among artists in this country. Marvellously accomplished yet old-fashioned, he could be seen as an artist who cheekily leapt from  traditional to postmodern without passing through any of the intermediate stages. His deeply natural pictures can’t be categorised easily, for all that they are entrancing. In Lines for Birds, they are reproduced side by side with the comparably responsive poems of Barry Hill.

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A few months after the 2010 federal election, Geoff Gallop delivered the annual Hawke Lecture at the University of South Australia. In an address focused upon political engagement, he canvassed some possible reforms to the Australian political system. Among a number of other proposals ...

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The deeply troubled Francis Webb, a magician with language, is still one of the two or three most remarkable poets Australia has produced, if nation-states can be said to produce creative artists. His life proved dark and painful, wherever he was located, but he worshipped language, in parallel with his worship of the Christian trinity ...

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Australia’s feisty first female High Court judge

John Bryson

 

From Moree to Mabo: The Mary Gaudron Story
by Pamela Burton
UWA Publishing, $49.95 pb, 511 pp, 9781742580982

 

H.V. Evatt, on the hustings during an election campaign, was asked by an eig ...

Dorothy Hewett is a vivid presence in all her poetry. This selection from her life’s work opens with a poem written in her last year at school.

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Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh & Gaza edited by Raimond Gaita

by
October 2010, no. 325

It is a great pity that Efraim Karsh could not have read Raimond Gaita’s new collection of essays before completing his own. The essays might have prompted him to reflect that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not nearly as straightforward as he would have us believe.

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Emily Ballou’s first book of poems opens with a quotation from Coleridge’s Definitions of Poetry: ‘Poetry is not the proper antithesis to prose but to science. Poetry is opposed to science.’ A book of poems on the life of Charles Darwin must be a refutation of this idea, though I had expected a more direct return to the comment which, two hundred years after Coleridge wrote it, has accrued greater meaning. In Coleridge’s time, the dazzling and potentially alienating specialisation of the sciences had not occurred, and C.P. Snow had never hailed the ‘two cultures’. Anti-intellectualism had not yet colluded with postmodern suspicion of reason to decry the malign, hegemonic nature of Western science. Coleridge, like many educated men of his time, was conversant with the latest advances in most branches of the sciences. He enjoyed a close friendship with Humphry Davy, the foremost scientist of the day, who also wrote poetry.

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