Wakefield Press

In Workshopping the Heart, Jeri Kroll brings us a feast of poetry: selections from her seven previous collections, poems from 2005 to 2012, and excerpts from her forthcoming verse novel, Vanishing Point. From 1982 to the present we are able to witness an evolution towards a mature poetic voice as Kroll negotiates her way through life’s various traverses and the poetic explorations that both describe and reflect upon them.

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When I was commissioned to write this review, I assumed that this book would be a conventional political biography. I looked forward to reading about Dunstan’s career as premier of South Australia (1967–68 and 1970–79), as his record of achievements showed that our states and territories have the potential to be powerful players in social and cultural reform. However, the focus of Dino Hodge’s intriguing book is Dunstan the man, with an emphasis on the way in which his personal beliefs and ambiguous sexuality influenced his political life and legacy. Don Dunstan, Intimacy and Liberty makes a solid contribution to our understanding of Dunstan and the blurring of his private and public life, fanned partly by the media, but also, sometimes inadvertently, by the man himself.

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Behind the Doors: An art history from Yuendumu by Philip Jones with Warlukurlangu Artists

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August 2014, no. 363

The painting of the Yuendumu doors in 1984 by Warlpiri artists, whose country is north-west of Alice Springs, represented an extraordinary moment in Australian art and modern art generally. In the 1980s some Aboriginal elders painted the doors in the Yuendumu School building to prompt students to show respect for their school and as a marker of their culture. It was the first time that they had painted using acrylics (not ochres), in colours never before used, to record the major stories of their community.

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The career of Marjorie Lawrence is one of the great might-have-beens of operatic history. The saga of a young Australian woman who, in an astonishingly short period of time, became a leading singer first at the Paris Opéra and then at New York’s Metropolitan and who was poised to become the Met’s prima donna assoluta in the Wagnerian repertory when disaster struck, sounds like a script for the Hollywood weepie it eventually became. Although her career was spectacular and her talent indisputable – the renowned British critic Neville Cardus described her as ‘the finest musical artist ever to be born in Australia’ – her name seems to have faded from view. Now, in his comprehensive biography, Richard Davis redresses the balance.

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That Barbara Santich has a vast knowledge and understanding of her subject is evident in every vivid and informative page of Bold Palates. The writer sets out to prove that, from the earliest colonial days, Australians improvised and adapted the available food, be it local or imported, familiar or new, and in so doing created the foundation for the distinctive Australian food culture we know today. A huge amount of research has been undertaken in the compilation of this book. It was clearly a productive and joyful task.

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‘As cats are often associated with bookshops, dogs are similarly attracted to art galleries’, according to Steven Miller, head of the research library and archive of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and author of Dogs in Australian Art: A New History in Antipodean Creativity. The beagle on the cover sits attentively, head slightly cocked, as if contemplating art. It is not until you turn the book over that you see what the dog is really looking at. David Welch’s wry painting sets the tone for this quirky and intriguing book.

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One section on Australian photography slowly growing on my bookshelves is devoted to anthropological and ethnographic photography. Philip Jones’s latest book, Images of the Interior: Seven Central Australian Photographers, belongs there because of the amount of anthropological material it contains. But it could also take its place among books devoted to vernacular photography, because none of the seven photographers Jones has selected was professionally trained. All were keen amateur photographers who produced substantial bodies of work during the time they lived and worked in Central Australia. The book deals with an epoch of dramatic change, beginning in the 1890s with some of the earliest European photographs of the Centre, and concluding in the 1940s.

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On YouTube, the guerrilla fighter Nino Konis Santana is presented Che Guevara style, in fatigues with beret and rifle, against the East Timorese flag. Villagers sing his praises in the local dialect of Lospalos, his remote birthplace. Santana, both a national and a folk hero, holds a revered place in a country which desperately needs unifying symbols. He became the rebels’ operational commander in 1993 after Xanana Gusmão and his deputy were captured, and when Santana died in the mountains in 1998 at the age of thirty-nine, José Ramos-Horta, the rebellion’s voice in exile, declared his death ‘a tragic loss for the People of East Timor’. This was the man journalist Jill Jolliffe set out to find, some four years before his death.

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An appropriately elegant publication, Khai Liew is the eleventh in the Wakefield Press series of monographs on South Australian artists, which was initiated by the South Australian Living Artists Festival (SALA) and is assisted by Arts SA.

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Dance is an ephemeral art. This is just one reason, among many, why Alan Brissenden and Keith Glennon’s beautifully designed and presented Australia Dances: Creating Australian Dance 1945–1965 is an important contribution to the light industry of dance historiography. Its eye-catching cover, with a Walter Stringer photograph of dancer William Harvey in a soaring leap above an Australian landscape, will attract bookshop browsers. A perusal of its contents will encourage purchase, as a special gift or for one’s personal library.

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