Paul Dalgarno

We routinely think of the past as a subtext of the present, but in The Women of Little Lon Barbara Minchinton flips this around. She aims not only to ‘dismantle the myths and counter misinformation and deliberate distortions’ about sex workers in nineteenth-century Melbourne, but – in an explicitly #MeToo context – to ‘reduce the stigma attached to the work today’ while heightening our ‘understanding of and respect for the lives of all sex workers’.

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Ambiguity, done well, has a bifurcating momentum that can floor you. The late Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar, a master of unsettling short stories shot through with ambiguity, knew this and used it to pugilistic advantage, declaring that ‘the novel wins by points, the short story by knockout’. Ambiguity is likewise central to S.J. Norman’s début collection, Permafrost, seven eerily affecting stories that traverse and update gothic and romantic literary traditions, incorporating horror, queer, and folk elements to hair-raising effect. No matter how often you read these spectral tales, they simply refuse to resolve themselves definitively. It could be that things have gone spectacularly wrong and that, simultaneously, everything is okay – a see-saw in constant motion, made all the creepier by the fact nobody is sitting on either side.

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Wanting to belong forms the root system of Belinda Probert’s Imaginative Possession, marking the terrain – how can she, as an immigrant, ever feel at home in Australia? – and producing shoots of longing for the landscapes of her English childhood. Even now, forty-five years after arriving in Perth to take up a teaching position at Murdoch University, after which she lived briefly in Adelaide before raising a family in Melbourne, that question lingers. Specifically, given that she feels at ease with the people and culture, why does she still feel needled by the natural environment?

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In Creating a Character (1990), acting coach Moni Yakim urges students to explore their vulnerability, arguing that, while we admire Superman for lifting buildings, we become emotionally invested only when he’s faced with Kryptonite. It’s ironic, Yakim writes, that vulnerability is simultaneously ‘the one quality a person is most likely to conceal’ and the one that ‘most allows an audience to identify’. This is the terrain Rick Morton traverses in My Year of Living Vulnerably, a mix of memoir, cultural history, reportage, and witness testament. How can we be at peace with our vulnerabilities when, like the dinosaurs Morton used to obsess over, they could eat us alive?

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Paul Dalgarno’s fiction début, Poly, charts a romp through the romantic and sexual lives of married couple Chris and Sarah Flood. When the sexual intimacy in their relationship dies, Sarah opts to sleep with, as Chris describes it, ‘all but the worst of Melbourne’s walking wounded’, and takes her woebegone husband along for the proverbial ride. A reluctant Chris eventually finds his polyamorous feet with the understanding artist Biddy. True to the logistics of polyamorous lives, almost the entire book is in the form of communication – either conversations between lovers and friends or Chris’s internal machinations (the story is told from his perspective). Indeed, Poly might well be a masterclass in how to write dialogue.

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Australian journalist and author David Leser’s 2018 Good Weekend article, ‘Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing’, sparked a wildfire of commentary, confession, and praise. Written in the early white heat of the #MeToo movement, the Harvey Weinstein exposé, and Oprah Winfrey’s 2018 Golden Globes speech in which she spoke out on behalf of the Time’s Up campaign ...

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Writing about masculinity is difficult. But Paul Dalgarno, a founding editor at The Conversation, accepted the challenge. In And You May Find Yourself, he expresses truths which never seem trite or indulged.

The book describes the author's relationship with his father, as well as the flaky bond he shares with his wife and sons. These anxiet ...