News from the Editor's Desk - December 2017

Australian Book Review

Rainbows and bad losers

The mood outside the State Library of Victoria on 15 November 2017 was exultant – once the precarious line from Canberra had been restored and the ABS’s expatiatory chief statistician, David Kalisch, finally announced that 61.6 per cent of Australians had voted Yes in the postal survey. The feeling was one of relief and euphoria. It was over, at last, and the democratic rights of all Australians had been ratified by a substantial majority of Australians.

Elsewhere, there were recalcitrants. Later that morning I appeared on The Conversation Hour with Jon Faine and Karina Okotel, a prominent opponent of marriage equality. Ms Okotel lamented the likely challenges to archbishops and businesses and civil celebrants – totally ignoring the feelings of a class that has been persecuted for centuries. The right, as Dennis Altman wrote in The Guardian, are bad losers.

State Library of VictoriaCelebrations at the State Library of Victoria (photograph by Peter Rose)

 

Congratulations to everyone who organised, lobbied, debated, written, and signed letters (including our own). This is a famous result, and surely a turning point from the nation. There is an exquisite irony in all this: Tony Abbott and his ilk have succeeded in unifying liberal-minded Australians in a way we haven’t seen in two or three decades. Ed.

My fuller comment on the result itself was published last month.

Liveable palaces

There are some outstanding art exhibitions on offer at present, especially the elegantly installed Mapplethorpe show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which Helen Ennis reviewed for ABR Arts (we will also run this in our January–February double issue).

The National Gallery of Victoria has several linked exhibitions at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. They are: The Highway is a Disco (Del Kathryn Barton); Our Knowing and Not Knowing (Helen Maudsley); Palace of the Republic (Louise Paramor); Ensemble (Mel O’Callaghan); and Transformer (Gareth Sansom). Sophie Knezic is our reviewer.

The NGV exhibitions were launched on 16 November by the Victorian governor, Linda Dessau, who, in a cringe-making address, presented like a junior minister in the state government, extolling the ‘liveability’ of Melbourne and the ‘caring’ nature of all art (tell that to Francis Bacon). Her Excellency even tried to revive the old Sydney –Melbourne divide. It felt like marketing at its most banal. If we must have these expensive vice-regents in their palaces, they should do better than that.

Prizes galore

Poets don’t have much time to enter the Peter Porter Poetry Prize, now worth a total of $8,500. It closes on 3 December. Essayists have longer: the Calibre Essay Prize (now worth $7,500) doesn’t close until 15 January 2018.

Meanwhile, we look forward to announcing details of the 2018 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize in the next issue.

Published in December 2017, no. 397

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