Non Fiction

Lucky Shirley Temple! Film star biographies are usually made up of a chronology laced with doubtful studio publicity and salacious gossip. But The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is written by a reigning scholar of American culture, John F. Kasson. A professor of History and American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kass ...

Dina Ross reviews 'A Pianist’s A–Z'

Dina Ross
24 September 2014

The concert pianist Alfred Brendel is one of the leading twentieth-century interpreters of music, with a special interest in the German repertoire. When he retired in 2008 after six decades of performing, he did so not through loss of stamina, but because of crippling arthritis in his hands. Brendel continues, at eighty-three, to teach, lecture, and write. (His poet ...

I dealt with China for most of the ten years I worked for the British Foreign Office from 1998. The one conclusion I drew from my experience over those years was that it didn’t take much to stumble into complexity. Britain and China have a vast historic hinterland. In 1839, British forces inflicted the first Opium War on China, and British politicians enforced the ...

Frank Bongiorno reviews 'The Bush'

Frank Bongiorno
24 September 2014

Late in 1986, the Australian Bicentennial Authority took sixty celebrities off to Uluru to make the television advertisement containing the jingle ‘Celebration of a Nation’. Just as the shoot finished, a heavy storm broke, prompting the stars to run for cover. ‘Oh, darling,’ cried Jeanne Little, a popular television personality at the time. ‘The real Austr ...

Dennis Haskell reviews 'An Unsentimental Bloke'

Dennis Haskell
24 September 2014

Now and again it is good to remind ourselves that literary history (and I think the history of the other arts) is strewn with the names of those who had great stature in their own time and are now largely forgotten, and with the names of others for whom the reverse is true. William Blake, short of money, went to work for the much more admired poet William Hayley. Th ...

Sitting, a few years ago, in the audience at a writers’ festival in the south-west of Western Australia, at a panel session hosted by Jennifer Byrne, I was struck by the widespread reaction to one of the panellists announcing that the book she had chosen to discuss was Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (now securely canonised as an ‘Australian national classic ...

Aproaching Thomas Wyatt’s great but notoriously resistant poem ‘They flee from me that sometime did me seek / With naked foot stalking in my chamber’, poet and critic Vincent Buckley wrote, ‘The sense of purposive yet mysterious activity created in this opening stanza is also a matter of its sensuousness … The critical problem is to define this … sensuou ...

Which poets have most influenced you?

First encounters sink deep: Shelley, Blake, Hopkins, Yeats. The Revelators in my youth: Rimbaud, Lorca, Hart Crane. The Golden Codgers of middle age: Mallarmé, Emily Dickinson, Lorine Niedecker, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, and David Malouf. Life Support: Wallace Stevens and Thomas Traherne. The D ...

Shakespeare’s great contemporary Ben Jonson dressed an actor in armour to open his play Poetaster. The Prologue explained:

If any muse why I salute the stage,
An armèd Prologue, know, ’tis a
dangerous age,
Wherein who writes had need present
his scenes
Forty-fold proof against the conjuring
means

Rachel Buchanan reviews a new biography of David Syme

Rachel Buchanan
24 September 2014

David Syme made his name and his fortune in newspapers – specifically The Age – and his life’s course might be compared with the workings of a gigantic web offset press.

I have watched such machines at work. They start off slow; the rolls of naked newsprint snake by gently, round and round. When the presses roar to life the noise is astonishing; ...