Penguin

The Glass Whittler by Stephanie Johnson

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April 1989, no. 109

Stephanie Johnson writes short stories and writes mainly about women. It’s as though there’s a specific genre in current writing that ties together these two kinds of writing, for women writing about other women in short prose pieces make up a distinct category that includes almost all of the familiar names of women writing in Australia now. These women writers include migrants who have made their homes in Australia and write from that position. Johnson, for instance, is a New Zealander.

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What Revolution? The title’s a teaser! Echoes of Lefty/Godot? You’ll understand if I’m infected by Noel McLachlan’s prose. On page after page, sentences and semi-sentences addressing the reader informally/colloquially (even verblessly!), rich in apostrophes, italics, parentheses, sloping lines between pairs/triads, even quartets/quintets, of words, ending often with exclamation marks and (nine times on one page I’ve counted!) question marks.

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I have often found myself feeling a little frustrated after reading a David Foster novel. While never doubting his ability as a writer, the convolutions of his narrative have, more than once, overshadowed his undeniably fine prose. His latest book, Hitting the Wall, a collection of two novellas, allows us the opportunity to examine how Foster handles the more urgent needs of this much shorter form.

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‘Dissatisfied’ summarises in a single word how I felt after reading Backstage at the Revolution. Dissatisfied not by John Bryson’s undoubtedly eloquent prose but by the publishing and marketing concept of the book.

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At a recent international conference at Victoria Falls, Mr Rupert Murdoch spoke passionately of the role of a free press. His national masthead, The Australian, reported the essence.

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Donald Horne, pleasantly surprised that he is now a university professor, looks back at the journalist and aspiring novelist that he was in the 1950s. This is to be the third (and final) instalment in the saga of the education of Donald.

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The D Generation Bumper Book of Aussie Heroes by John Alsop, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Andrew Knight, Rob Sitch, and Magda Szubanski

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August 1987, no, 93

It’s finally happened. I’m not funny. All my life I’ve been told I’m a ratbag. I’m a maniac. I need help. I see life different. Hint of lunacy in the blood. Touch of madness in the haircut. Dickins, he’s crazy. Dickins, he thinks like the turn-off to Shepparton.

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In her interview with Candida Baker for Yacker 2, Jessica Anderson expresses her dissatisfaction with the covers of a number of her books, citing in particular the glum face on the paperback of The Impersonators and the representation of The Commandant as, in Baker’s words, ‘a Regency romance’. Anderson, who began as a commercial artist, stresses that ‘Design and presentation ... really matter. They’re the introduction to a book.’ It seems to me to be particularly unfortunate (although she may well have given it her blessing) that her new book sports a clichéd Ken Done cover. Perhaps Done’s bright colours might evoke the ‘warm zone’ of the title, although Anderson is referring to Brisbane, not Done’s mock-naïve view of Sydney. Unfortunately, the cover subliminally suggests that Anderson’s writing is sunnily comforting, easily assimilated.

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Night Animals by Bruce Pascoe

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May 1987, no. 90

It’s a favour to no-one to call him (certainly never her) ‘a modern Henry Lawson’ – as the back cover of Bruce Pascoe’s collection proclaims – because of the large and difficult questions that are raised. What does the name ‘Henry Lawson’ mean? ‘The Loaded Dog’, or ‘Water Them Geraniums’? The writer of humorous stories about the bush where life is animated by a huge and comic spirit, or of ones about living in the bush that leave you feeling dismayed and chilled to the bone? And who is this epithet aimed at? For some, Lawson is the face on the ten-dollar note; for others, he’s the successful Australian writer who went to England and failed to make any impression, returned, and then lived long enough to mourn his own decline as a writer, ending his life as a miserable drunk; for still others, he’s one of the first writers you read at school.

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No Children by Choice edited by Gloria Frydman & Mature Age Mothers edited by Berwyn Lewis

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May 1987, no. 90

To have or not to have children: a dilemma made possible by technological advances and the consequent loosening of social roles. Once, having children was both an almost inevitable result of adult sexual activity and, generally, a desired one. For most people, being an adult member of a society implied having and taking responsibility for children. And for many people it still does. But it is now possible for people to choose when to have children, or to choose not to have them at all. No Children by Choice is a collection of interviews with men and women who have chosen not to have children; Mature Age Mothers is a collection of interviews with women who have not had children until they are over thirty (except for Junie Morosi who had three children in her teens and another child at forty-five).

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