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News from ABR

November 2020, no. 426

News from ABR

November 2020, no. 426

Calibre Essay Prize

For the fifteenth time, we seek entries in the Calibre Essay Prize – the country’s premier prize for an unpublished nonfiction essay. The Prize is worth a total of $7,500, of which the winner will receive $5,000 and the runner-up $2,500. Calibre is open to anyone writing in English around the world. We welcome all kinds of essays – from the literary and the political to the experimental and the highly personal.

Guidelines and the entry form are available on our website. Entries close on 15 January 2021. The two winning essays will appear in successive issues of the magazine in the first half of 2020.

The judges on this occasion are Sheila Fitzpatrick, Billy Griffiths, and Peter Rose.

We thank Colin Golvan AM QC, Peter McLennan, and Mary-Ruth Sindrey for enabling us to present Calibre in this lucrative form.


Porter profusions

When the Peter Porter Poetry Prize closed on October 1, we had received a total of 1,330 entries, twenty per cent more than last year, and the biggest field in the competition’s seventeen-year history.

Judging is now underway. We look forward to publishing the five shortlisted poems in the January–February 2021 issue.


Covid and the light

The seemingly endless lockdown has been good for one thing at least: literacy, with the odd libation. What else has there been to do – especially in cloistered Victoria – but to read and write (and replenish one’s cellar)?

Book dedications can be wonderfully saccharine (Advances boggles at authors’ mawkish effusions), but Geoff Raby, ambassador to China from 2007 to 2011 and author of the new book China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order (Melbourne University Press), is admirably direct. He dedicates his book to Covid-19, ‘without which it would not have been finished’. Raby does, however, remember to thank his mother, who, we learn, has reached her centenary, and ‘little Alana, who is the light’.


Sydney bounty

The University of Sydney got seriously lucky last month with two remarkable donations from philanthropists. The first was a copy of Ben Jonson’s Folio, donated by Charles Littrell and Kimberley Cartwright and described as ‘one of the most important books published in English’ by Dr Huw Griffiths, Chair of the Department of English.

Dr Harry Melkonian, from the University’s United States Studies Centre, has gifted several novels and collections of short stories by William Faulkner, along with seventy volumes of literary criticism relating to the American writer. What a trove for future scholars and students.

As it happens, Paul Giles (our Critic of the Month in the December issue) is reviewing Michael Gorra’s new book, The Saddest Words: William Faulkner’s Civil War (Liveright), for the same issue. Gorra, an English professor at Smith College, considers Faulkner to be the most important novelist of the twentieth century, and he’s not alone. In The Saddest Words – part biography, part literary history – he re-evaluates Faulkner’s life and legacy and re-examines the junctures of race and literature in works such as The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Absalom, Absalom!

Jamesians will recall Professor Gorra’s previous book, Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the making of an American masterpiece, a masterly study (so to speak) of James’s great novel The Portrait of a Lady.


ABR Arts returns

Warily, distantly, with masks and perspex aplenty, theatre is beginning to emerge again after these plague times. How good it is to be able to run Ian Dickson’s review of the new production of Angus Cerini’s play Wonnangatta (Sydney Theatre Company). While nothing is possible as yet in Melbourne, elsewhere we hear of tentative plans for stagings with restricted capacities. We’ll get used to the new protocols, the distancing – anything for some live theatre and music.

Opera returns to Adelaide this month with a welcome revival of Richard Mills’s opera Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, with a libretto by Peter Goldsworthy and a new production by Joseph Mitchell. Advances fondly remembers the Victoria State Opera production back in 1996. The cast includes Dimity Shepherd, Antoinette Halloran, and Elizabeth Campbell. Richard Mills will conduct the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Half the seats in the brand-spanking-new Her Majesty’s Theatre will be filled – an audience of five hundred.

Ben Brooker will review Summer of the Seventeenth Doll for ABR.

Meanwhile, the plethora of television drama is unchecked. In our back pages, Dennis Altman reviews the tense-making new Netflix adaptation of Mart Crowley’s lacerating play The Boys in the Band, while Tim Byrne revisits Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and appraises the gory new miniseries Ratched.


Ania Walwicz (1951–2020)


Vale to the highly individual poet, writer, and teacher Ania Walwicz, who died recently on 29 September, aged sixty-nine. Walwicz published seven books, including Boat, which won the 1990 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Born in Poland, she emigrated to Australia in 1963, where she would go on to inspire a generation of writers through her writing, performances, and the thirty years she spent teaching students at RMIT.