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James Ley

James Ley

James Ley is an essayist and literary critic who lives in Melbourne. A former Editor of Sydney Review of Books, he has been a regular contributor to ABR since 2003.

James Ley reviews 'Silence' by Rodney Hall

November 2011, no. 336 25 October 2011
Isaiah Berlin famously divided people into two categories: hedgehogs and foxes. The former know one big thing with absolute certainty; the latter know many small things. When it comes to writers of fiction, a parallel distinction might be made on stylistic grounds. There are some writers who cultivate a finely attuned personal style – a style that becomes unmistakably their own. Others prove to ... (read more)

James Ley reviews 'James Joyce: A biography' by Gordon Bowker

September 2011, no. 334 23 August 2011
Literary biography is an often derided genre. Writers, in particular, tend to be suspicious, if not openly hostile, toward what they are apt to regard as a secondary or parasitic form. And there are valid reasons for this wariness. The assumption behind a biography is, reasonably enough, that the writer’s life informs the work, but establishing the precise relevance of the life to the work is a ... (read more)

'That’s it for now from HEAT' by James Ley

March 2011, no. 329 01 March 2011
A declaration of interest is in order. I have twice appeared in the pages of HEAT. I am also in the latter stages of a doctorate, which I have been writing for the past few years under the supervision of HEAT’s editor, Ivor Indyk. Under normal circumstances, I would decline to review a new edition of the journal for these reasons. The latest edition is, however, of particular significance, for i ... (read more)

James Ley reviews 'Freedom' by Jonathan Franzen

December 2010–January 2011, no. 327 07 December 2010
In 1996, with two well-received but not widely read novels to his credit, Jonathan Franzen published a long essay in Harper’s magazine in which he aired his concerns about the novel’s waning cultural authority. As Franzen later admitted, the essay was not a particularly cogent piece of writing. Even in the clarified version that appears in How to Be Alone (2002), lumpenly retitled ‘Why Bothe ... (read more)