Allen & Unwin

In his third novel, Steven Carroll continues to work on those questions, obsessions, scenes and images that preoccupy him as a writer – the characters and personalities of women, and in particular that figure of a sexually charged and sophisticated young woman so disturbing to Helen Garner in The First Stone; the language of infatuation; the placement of characters in their particular city; mismatched lovers as the centre of a love story; and a certain trick Carroll has of overlaying the inner lives of characters with the narrative of events in the story being told. It is as though his characters swim, groggily, up out of their fantasies into the harsh, ironic events that have been provoked by their inner dreams. Life in his novels operates as a merciless commentary on the evasions and hubris of each character's consciousness.

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A nation at war is a less than gripping tide, although it is suggestively ambiguous. Australia was at war in Vietnam for most of the decade covered in Peter Edwards’s book. In senses chiefly, but not wholly, metaphorical, it was also a society ‘at war’, divided over conscription and the commitment of troops to Vietnam. The excellent cover photograph illuminates the latter implication of Edwards’s title, as well as the importance of media coverage of both overseas conflict and domestic protest against it. A newsreel photographer looks back into another camera, and away from the policeman who is struggling to shift an inert demonstrator.

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Political Lives edited by Judith Brett

by
November 1997, no. 196

The photo is opposite page eighty. I suspect from the faint fluff in the hair that it’s late 1972. It was taken in the office by a photographer from the Australian News and Information Bureau, a group who were not your art-portrait photographers. The sitting would have been over in a minute; the subject didn’t spend time posing.

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‘Ken Wark,’ says Linda Jaivin on this jacket, ‘makes postmodernism sexy.’ First cabbages, now postmodernism! Where can she take us from here? The trouble is I don’t believe her. Now that’s too easy a write-off. I’m not instinctually warm to The Virtual Republic, and I think Linda Jaivin’s line is a more than normally meretricious blurb, but Wark’s enterprise is essentially a request for conversation and why not accede to that. Still I want to protest even as I converse. The book is an olive branch masquerading as a polemic. Or, like Lindsay’s parrot who was a swagman, is it the other way round?

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Snake Cradle: Autobiography of a black woman is the first published volume of a three-part life story from Australia’s renowned black rights activist Dr Roberta Sykes. In Snake Cradle, Sykes chronicles the first seventeen years of her life in Queensland and gives us a generously open story in her legendary powerful and thought-provoking style.

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Here’s the first in a new series from the indefatigable pen of Jennifer Rowe. Verity Birdwood is still going strong, at last check: it wasn’t so long ago that I reviewed Lamb to the Slaughter in these pages. And, of course, as Emily Rodda, Rowe has turned out a couple of dozen Teen Power books, attracting several Children’s Book Awards. She is every inch a professional writer.

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As Tim Bowden would well remember, the ties of Hobart to the Antarctic have been visible long before the transfer of the Antarctic Division from Melbourne to Kingston, south of Hobart, in 1982, and the establishment of the Institute of Antarctic and Oceanic Studies at the University of Tasmania six years later. From the 1950s, the chartered Scandinavian vessels that carried members of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions, Nella, Kista, Magga and other Dans, set out from Hobart early each summer. To look south down the Derwent was to know that one was truly at the end of the inhabited world. Yet if no permanent settlement has ever been created in Antarctica, thousands of Australians have worked and wintered there. The Silence Calling is Tim Bowden’s exemplary record of their achievements in this, the golden jubilee year of the ANARE.

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Nuns supply the world with a wonderful source of all-singing, all-dancing, laughing or weeping material, from The Abbess of Crewe to A Nun’s Story, from The Sound of Music to Nunsense. Where would novelists and filmmakers be without the sisterhood? Catholic girls have strong feelings about nuns ...

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The way we organise our deaths offers insight into the meanings and significances we attribute to life. The sidelining of organised religion has allowed Australians to voice our own ideas about the muddles of existence through the choice of music for funerals. The regularity with which ‘I did it my way’ is heard at wakes is a reminder of how much more pertinent that song is for individuality than are newspaper columns by Bettina Arndt or Hugh Mackay, still less from Andrea Dworkin or the late Christopher Lasch.

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For over twenty years Bob Connell has been a leading figure in the development of an Australian sociology, and his move from Macquarie University to the University of California several years ago was a significant loss to Australian academic life. I wish I could write Australian public life, but our press, which is fond of academics with far less to say than Bob Connell, has largely ignored his work. Nonetheless Connell’s work in class, sexuality, gender, and education is arguably the most distinguished body of social theory written in this country, and deserves far greater acknowledgment.

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