Essays and Commentary

Carol Middleton reviews 'All my Januaries' by Barbara Blackman

Carol Middleton
25 July 2016

Amid the resurgence of the personal essay, Barbara Blackman's volume is a paragon of the genre. It reminds us how much experience, anecdote, and wisdom can ...

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Doug Wallen reviews 'On Bowie' by Simon Critchley

Doug Wallen
25 July 2016

When David Bowie died in January 2016, Simon Critchley received many invitations to reflect on the pop star, in part because he had published a collection of brief essays ...

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Daniel Juckes reviews 'Things My Mother Taught Me' by Claire Halliday

Daniel Juckes
24 May 2016

Claire Halliday's Things My Mother Taught Me opens thus: 'History is a personal thing.' But in this book – a collection of interviews with famous Australians about ...

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2016 Calibre Essay Prize (Winner): 'The Great Red Whale'

Michael Winkler
23 May 2016

The history of my onomastic apprehension and misapprehension about the big thing in the middle of Australia: It is called Ayers Rock. No, it is ...

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Brian Matthews reviews 'We Need Silence to Find Out What What We Think: Selected Essays' by Shirley Hazzard

Brian Matthews
26 April 2016

In her speech as the winner of the 2003 National Book Award, Shirley Hazzard said, 'We should do our best by the language. We mustn't torture it; we mustn't diminish it. We have to love it, nurture it, and enjoy it.'

Reading Hazzard, as she is variously represented in this collection, is to encounter a writer who has done her 'best by the language' and, in t ... More

Jill Jones reviews 'Everywhere I Look' by Helen Garner

Jill Jones
22 April 2016

You could regard this latest book by Helen Garner as simply a collection of various essays, a miscellany if you wish, but to do so would be to give it less than its due. There is nothing casual or accidental about Everywhere I Look. Its coherence may, of course, have much to do with Garner's voice, which is consistent and compelling, as is her actual writin ... More

James McNamara reviews 'The Best American Essays 2015' edited by Ariel Levy and 'The Best Australian Essays 2015' edited by Geordie Williamson

James McNamara
24 February 2016

At the back of the cupboard of old lies is a crusty one that goes like this: the essay is a lesser form of literature. Oddly, it is perpetuated in collections like Ariel Levy's The Best American Essays 2015, which – in its foreword by series editor Robert Atwan – bashfully admits that essays are the B-team of the writing world. 'The quintessential essay ... More

Emily Laidlaw reviews 'Small Acts of Disappearance' by Fiona Wright

Emily Laidlaw
23 December 2015

Reflecting on the first day she attended a clinic for eating disorders, Sydney poet Fiona Wright admits: 'I'm ... not sure that I would ever have gone ahead with the admission if I hadn't thought that I could write about it later.' This is a remarkably self-aware statement, one that encapsulates the fierce intelligence of her linked essays in Small Acts of Disap ... More

'Sabotage: How the attack on renewables undermines government' by David Schlosberg

David Schlosberg
24 September 2015

‘Pathetically inadequate’ was probably the most frequent description of the government’s voluntary emissions proposal for the United Nations Climate Change Conference; the description fits their climate and en ... More

'The Forest at the Edge of Time' by Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay
24 September 2015

Let’s begin, somewhere around 4,500 bce, in a small patch of soil on the south-west coast of Western Australia. An ovule and some pollen combine on the crest of a ridge overlooking the sea, and a plant begins to grow. It’s a little thing with juvenile leaves which will become a faint ... More

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