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Alex Cothren

Alex Cothren is an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing at Flinders University. He is a winner of the Carmel Bird, William van Dyke, and Peter Carey Awards for short fiction, and he has writing published in Meanjin, Island, The Griffith Review, Ruminate, and Australian Book Review. He is the co-editor of Westerly’s South Australia Special Issue.

Alex Cothren reviews 'Why We Are Here' by Briohny Doyle

September 2023, no. 457 24 July 2023
Briohny Doyle’s third novel, Why We Are Here, threads together just about every literary, philosophical, and pop culture perspective on death and aftermath there is. But nothing represents the heart of the book better than its exploration of both/and thinking. Embraced by the fields of business, psychology, and beyond, both/and thinking is a method of overcoming paradoxes, not by solving them bu ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Terrible Event' by David Cohen

June 2023, no. 454 23 May 2023
Hassled by deadlines and stricken by illness, I made a very modern deal with the devil. I asked ChatGPT to help me review David Cohen’s new short story collection, The Terrible Event. For the past few months, this text generating tool has made news by using AI technology to write everything from A+ high-school essays to faux-Nick Cave lyrics. Surely, then, it could provide some scaffolding for a ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'Here Be Leviathans' by Chris Flynn, 'Everything Feels Like the End of the World' by Else Fitzgerald, and 'Cautionary Tales for Excitable Girls' by Anne Casey-Hardy

October 2022, no. 447 27 September 2022
There’s a theory that short fiction is the perfect panacea for modern life. As our attention spans grow weak on  a diet of digital gruel and as our free time clogs up with late-night work emails, enter the short story as an efficient fiction-booster administered daily on the commute between suburb and CBD. I love this theory, and I will forever resent Jane Rawson for exposing its flaws in a ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'Open Secrets: Essays on the writing life' edited by Catriona Menzies-Pike

July 2022, no. 444 25 June 2022
In her introduction to Sydney Review of Book’s latest anthology, Open Secrets: Essays on the writing life, Catriona Menzies-Pike quickly establishes what readers should not expect. ‘There are no precious morning rituals here,’ the editor promises, ‘no magic tricks for aspiring writers.’ It’s true that these essays, each a mix of disarming honesty and polymathic intelligence, hover far ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Good Captain' by Sean Rabin

May 2022, no. 442 23 April 2022
Just when you thought there wasn’t enough to worry about, along come bottom trawlers. While the fishing technique of dragging a heavy net along the bottom of the seabed is     nothing new – indeed, there was a British commission inquiry into the practice as far back as 1866 – the sheer size of modern super trawlers maximises their destructiveness. Centuries-old sea coral ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Sawdust House' by David Whish-Wilson

April 2022, no. 441 23 March 2022
In David Whish-Wilson’s new historical novel, The Sawdust House, it’s 1856 San Francisco, where the citizen-led Committee of Vigilance has convened to purge foreign undesirables from a city populace swollen beyond control by the gold rush. Of course, armed nativists ‘enthralled by their own performance’ are a common feature of U.S. history, from the Virginian lynch mobs of the late 1700s t ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Magpie Wing' by Max Easton

December 2021, no. 438 23 November 2021
In July 1999, ABC’s 7:30 Report ran a story on the Western Suburbs Magpies, an NRL club struggling financially and playing out its final season before a merger with the nearby Balmain Tigers. For that human touch, the story featured shots of a family decking out their children in the Magpies’ black and white, their relationship with the ninety-year-old club described as ‘something in the hea ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'Night Blue' by Angela O’Keeffe, 'Where the Line Breaks' by Michael Burrows, and 'The Speechwriter' by Martin McKenzie-Murray

August 2021, no. 434 26 July 2021
Writers seeking publication are often advised to have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready. These succinct book-hooks are designed to jag a trapped publisher in the wink between a lift door closing and reopening. Has this insane tactic ever actually worked? No idea. But it’s fun to imagine the CEO of Big Sales Books, on their way up to another corner-office day of tallying cricket memoir profits, blind ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'Grimmish' by Michael Winkler

April 2021, no. 430 23 March 2021
Have you ever noticed how boxing matches invariably deflate into two breathless people hugging each other? In pugilistic parlance, this is called a clinch. It is a defensive tactic, a way for fighters besieged by their opponent’s assault to create a pause and regain their equilibrium. And while it is beyond cliché for books to be hailed as knockouts or haymakers or other emptied expressions of ... (read more)

Alex Cothren reviews 'The Adversary' by Ronnie Scott

May 2020, no. 421 27 April 2020
One of the few details we learn about the unnamed narrator of Ronnie Scott’s début novel, The Adversary, is that he is fond of Vegemite. Although only a crumb of information, this affinity for the popular breakfast tar reveals much about our hero. Just as Vegemite ‘has to be spread very thin or you realised it was salty and unreasonable’, his human interactions give him a soupçon of a soci ... (read more)
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