The American writer Jack Matthews had no time for what he called ‘a discontent’ with the brevity of the short story. ‘Ask a coral snake,’ he declared, ‘which is as deadly as it is small.’ The claim for ‘deadliness’ certainly applies to four recent début collections; in the tight spaces of the short story, each one presents confronting ideas about contemporary Australia.... (read more)
These are exciting times when the new normal for Australian crime fiction is strong domestic interest and sales, but also international attention in the form of Australian-only panels at overseas writers’ festivals, plus regular nominations and awards in Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Whether this is a literary fad or sustainable in the long term – with Australian crime fiction becoming a recognisable ‘brand’ in the manner of Scandi-noir or Tartan-noir – will depend largely upon the sustained quality of the novels produced here.... (read more)
In their earliest incarnations, fairy tales are gruesome stories riddled with murder, cannibalism, and mutilation. Written in early seventeenth-century Italy, Giambattista Basile’s Cinderella snaps her stepmother’s neck with the lid of a trunk. This motif reappears in the nineteenth-century German ‘The Juniper Tree’, but this time the stepmother wields the trunk lid, decapitating her husband’s young son. In seventeenth-century France, Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard kills his many wives because of their curiosity, while in his adaptation of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, the Queen’s appetite for eating children drives her to commit suicide out of shame. Jealous, Snow White’s stepmother (and in some versions her biological mother) wants to kill the girl and eat her innards, but is ultimately thwarted; her punishment is to dance herself to death wearing red-hot iron shoes.... (read more)
Australia’s energy transition has been hotly debated for a decade, and it doesn’t look set to cool anytime soon. Blackout: How is energy-rich Australia running out of electricity? offers readers the chance to be an informed participant in the debate. For more than a century, decisions about our electricity system have been left to the experts ...... (read more)
The American writer bell hooks had characterised the 1990s as a period of ‘collusion’ between well-educated white women and the capitalist patriarchy (Where We Stand: Class matters, 2000). The new workplace gave these women greater economic power but curbed their ...... (read more)
Unusually for literary fiction, Alice Robinson’s The Glad Shout opens right in the thick of the action: Jostled and soaked, copping an elbow to her ribs, smelling wet wool and sweat and the stony creek scent of damp concrete, Isobel grips Shaun’s cold fingers and clamps Matilda to her hip, terrified of losing them in the roiling crowd ...... (read more)
A marble statue of a crouching Venus disfigured by age and circumstance appears on the cover of Lee Kofman’s Imperfect. The goddess of love and beauty is a ruin, although one capable of radiating an uncertain allure. Through a deft trick of typography, the emblazoned title can be read as either ‘Imperfect’ or ‘I’m Perfect’ ...... (read more)
Any attempt to write a novel that covers three generations, two centuries, and two continents is undeniably ambitious. Include subject matter that ranges from Jewishness and gemstones to the occult, and set the story in a vibrant and sometimes turbulent time in the history of Melbourne and Victoria, from the 1850s gold rushes to the early 1900s, and the possibilities are exciting. Whether A ...