Book Talk

Supporting writers

by Della Rowley, Lynn Buchanan, and Irene Tomaszewski
Book Talk

Our aim in creating the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship was to honour Hazel Rowley, who died unexpectedly in March 2011, and to support the writing of high-quality biography. Hazel was a world-class biographer who wrote four critically acclaimed books: about Christina Stead, Richard Wright, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, and Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Her subjects were all courageous people who were willing to take risks to live their lives authentically and meaningfully. These were qualities Hazel shared.

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In November, Melbourne University Publishing will release the two-hundredth title in the second numbered series of its Miegunyah Press imprint. This is Doing Feminism: Women’s art and feminist criticism in Australia, compiled and edited by Anne Marsh, art historian and Professorial Research Fellow at the Victorian College of the Arts.

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Many readers will recall reports of the fire in April 2021 that damaged the University of Cape Town’s library, which, among other riches, housed invaluable collections of unique manuscripts and personal papers, and one of the most extensive African film collections in the world. The extent of the damage is still being assessed. Even worse, the fire that destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in July 2018 consumed twenty million objects, including unique documents, the oldest human remains ever found in Brazil, and audio recordings and documents of extinct indigenous languages.

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When I became editor-in-chief of Melbourne Poets Union Inc (MPU) in January 2019, there was an opportunity to take its publishing program in new and exciting directions. MPU, a Melbourne-based arts organisation whose raison d’être ever since its inception in 1977 has been poetry, had published anthologies and chapbooks. The Union Poets Series of chapbooks was a staple of its annual publishing program. It was an evolving situation as I rethought its chapbooks and other possibilities. Any change could not be cosmetic. As I completed work on MPU’s 2019 Union Poets Series, I envisaged other possibilities, more ambitious and ecumenical. The chapbooks needed a new, elegant look and to reflect the interests, preoccupations, and diversity of contemporary poets.

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In her acceptance speech for the 2004 Sydney Peace Prize, writer Arundhati Roy suggested that ‘there’s really no such thing as the “voiceless”’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.’ Framed around the topic of justice, Roy’s lecture invited listeners to think about the mechanisms of power that stifle voices of dissent, those that push against political systems designed to erode fundamental human rights. Roy’s statement resonates because it implies that there is an element of choice in how we respond to cases of oppression. It is a choice not just for authorities but for communities and individuals alike.

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Diversity and Australian Literary Studies

by Australian Literary Studies
Book Talk

ALS is pleased to announce a new Book Reviews Program for emerging and early-career scholars. Reviews will centre on scholarly and non-fiction books about Australian literary cultures and/or by Australian literary studies scholars. The program will include mentoring in academic publishing from our editorial team and payment of $200 (for unwaged, precariously employed, or postgraduate colleagues).

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The members of PEN Melbourne know full well what this knock at the door signifies for a writer who has spoken out courageously against a tyrannical government. PEN Melbourne condemns the arbitrary arrests of members and staff of the Belarus PEN centre for carrying out peaceful protests against the recent presidential election result, following claims that the vote was falsified. Those detained include secretary, poet, and translator Hanna Komar, project manager, poet, and translator Uladzimir Liankievic, and translator Siarzh Miadzvedzeu.

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What we read at difficult times in our lives – plague, insurrection, divorce, major root canal work, etc. – is always telling. Carlyle, miserable and unwell at Kirkcaldy, read the whole of Gibbon straight through – twelve volumes in twelve days – with a kind of horrified fascination. I recall one friend who, at a time of ineffable tension, calmly read Les Misérables, one thousand pages long, in a single week. (I would have been incapable of reading a tabloid.) Another time, lovelorn in Siena, I stayed in my ghastly hotel room and read The Aunt’s Story right through while the handsome Sienese sunned themselves in the companionable Campo.

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The cancellations started in the middle of March, just after Adelaide Writers’ Week. One by one, the various writers’ festivals advised that due to Covid-19 they would not be proceeding.

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'The ABR internship was a wonderful opportunity offered by the university to inject some practical experience into my Literature major.'

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