Essays and Commentary

Tom Griffiths on coming of age in the Great Acceleration

Tom Griffiths
27 October 2014

I am a ‘Sputnik’, born in the year the Soviet satellite launched the Cold War into space. The launching by the Russians of the first artificial Earth satellite on 4 October 1957 seemed to many in the West a threatening symbol of escalating superpower rivalry. And it did unleash extreme military anxiety and triggered what became known as the Space Race. Twelve ye ... More

Danielle Clode: 'Seeing the wood for the trees'

Danielle Clode
27 October 2014

Many years ago, after working for a while in Europe, we returned to Australia via America. We picked up a car in Atlanta and drove through sprawling cities, alarming slums, and abandoned downtowns. Across Mississippi and the broad, reassuring openness of Texas, to Arizona and the Grand Canyon, we passed through the alien electrics of Las Vegas, down into Death Valle ... More

Letter from Ukraine

Scott McCulloch
23 September 2014

ABR contributor Scott McCulloch writes about his recent encounters, experiences, and realisations while travelling in Ukraine.

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Cassandra Atherton interviews Ben Ball

Cassandra Atherton
26 August 2014

Ben Ball was born in Melbourne in 1970. He grew up in London, New York, and Sydney, and went to school in all of these places. He completed an Arts/Law degree, in Australia, ‘more or less entirely to create the pleasing symmetry B. Ball, BA, LLB’. In the United Kingdom he undertook an M.Phil in C ... More

Mary Cunnane on pitching and cupcakes

Mary Cunnane
26 August 2014

One afternoon some three decades or more ago in a stuffy conference room at W.W. Norton & Company, the New York publishing firm where I then worked, the semi-annual sales conference was underway. Assembled were the national sales reps and the marketing team, members of the editorial board, the publicity director and senior publicists, and our president and chair ... More

Maria Takolander on what makes a story compelling

Maria Takolander
26 August 2014

What makes a story compelling? When I was an undergraduate student at Deakin University, I was fortunate enough to be instructed in fiction writing by Gerald Murnane. His key criterion for the worth of a story was its capacity to mark his memory with an enduring image. Over time he used to cull books from his shelves that failed to impress him in this way.

G ... More

My Brother Jack at fifty

Kevin Rabalais
21 July 2014

Fifty years after the publication of George Johnston’s My Brother Jack, Kevin Rabalais revisits this famous study of family, the Depression, and World War II.

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Amanda Laugesen on the ‘super-dictionary’

Amanda Laugesen
28 May 2014

In a 2011 lecture, David Crystal, a leading authority on the English language, spoke about the possibility of a ‘super-dictionary’ of English – a dictionary that would include every word in global English. Such a dictionary was, he acknowledged, a ‘crazy, stupid idea’, but an idea that seemed somehow possible in the electronic age, where the constraints of print no longer apply.

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Bill Gammage on notions of country

Bill Gammage
27 May 2014

In Australia, thinking ‘landscape’, ‘country’, and ‘place’ virtually interchangeable is the hallmark of a migrant society. This is obvious because of the skeleton at our feast, the contrast between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ways of seeing land. Both can agree that ‘there’s no place like home’, because ‘place’ here means ‘a place’, a par ... More

Sheila Fitzpatrick on history vs memoir

Sheila Fitzpatrick
27 May 2014

In Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Sandcastle (1957), a young artist called Rain Carter is commissioned to paint a retired schoolmaster, Demoyte, an eccentric with an offbeat sense of humour. Instead of his usual attire – a shabby red velvet jacket with tobacco stains and bow tie – Demoyte turns up wearing a nondescript grey suit, explaining to a friend: ‘A ... More

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