Non Fiction

As contemporary author fan bases go, Margaret Atwood’s must be among the broadest. She is read at crèches, on university campuses, and in nursing homes. Feminists, birders, and would-be writers jostle to see her perform at literary festivals. Yet despite an Arthur C. Clarke Award and, in her own words ...

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New Zealand coins often sneak into Australian purses. Both currencies bear the queen’s, and some coins have common colonial symbols on the front (Cook’s Endeavour on the Kiwi fifty cent, for example), but these coins only work by stealth. They have value if they can pass as Australian. Recognised for what they are – foreign objects – their currency evaporates ...

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On 7 November, Paul Keating appeared on ABC TV’s 7.30 to promote his new book of speeches,  After Words. Keating’s response to Leigh Sales’s first question about political leadership was instructive:

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Recognising biography as ‘one of the new terrors of death’, the eighteenth-century wit John Arbuthnot made sure his life would be sparsely documented. Manning Clark, preoccupied with his inevitable extinction, took the opposite tack. He massively archived all his thoughts and doings as a strategy ...

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This book is long overdue. It is eighty years since affable Joseph Lyons, often depicted by cartoonists as a koala, was elected as Australia’s tenth prime minister. He would be re-elected twice before dying in office in April 1939. During his seven years as prime minister, Lyons had to grapple with the Depression ...

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The Mondrians in Paths to Abstraction 1867–1917, Terence Maloon’s beautiful, refined exhibition held at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from June to September this year, and the Gauguins in Ron Radford’s more spectacular Masterpieces from Paris that closed at the National Gallery in April, were drawcards. We last saw a group of Mondrians in 1961; Gauguin had never been properly seen in Australia. The exhibitions and the related books together amounted to a superb and very up-to-date two-part lesson in the history of modernism.

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What to do with Whiteley? Forget the gutsy audacity and visual energy; in Bernard Smith’s estimation he was ‘egocentric, pseudo-profound and self-pitying’ (Australian Painting 1788–2000). Smith could not abide Whiteley’s ‘incapacity for detachment’; his cult of personality, poured into every last crevice of his work. With the hegemony of the social and theoretical construction of art, the actual person of the artist has been an increasing problem for art critics. Whiteley’s work, driven by personality and fuelled by sensation, is easily viewed as a romantic indulgence.

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‘I kept thinking: if his face looks like this, what must his balls look like?’ David Hockney’s assessment of the craggy countenance of W.H. Auden is clipped and convenient, but I suspect Auden would have been far more interesting on the subject of sitting for Hockney. Given the concentration and quality of the encounters between English portrait painters or sculptors and their subjects, it is slightly odd that more writers have not published accounts of the experience of sitting for their portrait.

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For some sixty years Donald Friend kept a diary, making his final entry just days before his death in 1989 at the age of seventy-four. The National Library of Australia published them in four massive volumes between 2001 and 2006. They were intractable. You needed an axe to cut through the stream of consciousness which flowed from an uncensoring pen ...

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Australian Historical Studies (AHS), which can be traced back to the 1940s, has developed into one of Australia’s leading social science journals. The standard of scholarship is consistently high, and the honour of having one’s article accepted in such an established and selective publication is keenly sought ...

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