Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Letters to the Editor - March 2024

March 2024, no. 462

Letters to the Editor - March 2024

March 2024, no. 462

noun Letter 862038 000000Want to write a letter to ABR? Send one to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


A cornerstone of our democracy

Dear Editor,

The world of Australian letters is incestuous. Friends routinely review and promote each other, sullying the critical waters and making it difficult for readers to know what is worth their money and time. Occasionally, this inbred criticism sparks a feud between warring literary clans (see Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s recent Sydney Review of Books piece on The First Time podcast). More often than not, it produces criticism that reads like vanilla ice-cream, sweet and soft.

Kevin Foster’s review of David McBride’s memoir, The Nature of Honour, is anything but vanilla (ABR, January–February 2024). Foster has an opinion of the author and his book, and he prosecutes that opinion. Speaking as a reader, it is informative. Speaking as a reviewer, it is measured. Speaking as an author, it is tough.

I’m not saying I agree or disagree with the Foster review, by the way. What I’m saying is that critical takes such as Foster’s review of McBride’s book are essential points of reference for informed, interrogative reading. 

As for McBride, his social media temper tantrum over the review is juvenile. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why he’s upset about the review; I’ve received bad reviews, too. But here’s the thing: a free and fierce critical culture is, like corruption bodies and whistleblower protections, a cornerstone of our democracy. 

The bottom line is that we can’t have a vigorous literary culture without vigorous critics. That’s why I’m glad that Kevin Foster wrote, and that ABR published, this review. 

Joel Deane

From the New Issue

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.