Commentary

This Is America

Samuel Watts
Monday, 11 January 2021

On the morning of 6 January 2021, President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of his supporters outside the White House for more than an hour. The president urged protesters who had already begun gathering along the National Mall to go to the Capitol Building where both houses of Congress were about to start the process of certifying the results of the electoral college, formalising Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 election. The election had been stolen, Trump told them: it was time for them to take it back and march on Congress: ‘You will never take back our country with weakness,’ said the president. 

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Patrick White and literary criticism

Veronica Brady
Thursday, 10 December 2020

What we know and how we think and feel are socially and thus historically conditioned. But it can also be geographically conditioned. ‘Australia’, as Mrs Golson remarks in The Twyborn Affair, ‘may not be for everyone ... For some it is their fate, however.’ Our subject is Patrick White and criticism of his work in Australia and my argument is that ours is a culture in general, and a literary culture in particular, with an indifference to and perhaps fear of hermeneutics, which George Steiner glosses as some ‘essential answerability’ implicit in the act of reading over and above understanding or – Leavis preserve us! – evaluation.

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Like much feminist performance art since the 1960s, Casey Jenkins’s latest performance piece, titled IMMACULATE, centres on a female body – Jenkins’s own. IMMACULATE is a performance that documents the legal and commonly practised process of self-insemination in the home.

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Making the Melbourne Writers’ Festival

Colin Talbot
Thursday, 19 November 2020

Melbourne, which has somehow appropriated for itself the reputation of being the first Australian city of ‘thought’, has become the last major city in this country to host a large-scale writer’s week. Well, we now have one and it’s called the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, and it is currently being staged.

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J.M. Coetzee and Philip Roth on Screen

Brian McFarlane
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

‘It wasn’t like that in the book’ is one of the commonest and most irritating responses to film versions of famous novels. Adaptation of literature to film seems to be a topic of enduring interest at every level, from foyer gossip to the most learned exegesis. Sometimes, it must be said, the former is the more entertaining, but this is no place for such frivolity.

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The View from Europe

Desmond O'Grady
Thursday, 22 October 2020

A grizzled, greying migrant, who was holidaying in Sicily after twenty years in Australia, attended a civic reception for participants in a seminar on Australian literature held in Piazza Armerina last January. His wife and three children were in Moonee Ponds. He was obviously pleased to speak with the Australians present as if they somehow confirmed his experience in a far-off land.

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Coming out from behind

Tom Thompson
Thursday, 22 October 2020

Publishers are like invisible ink. Their imprint is in the mysterious appearance of books on shelves. This explains their obsession with crime novels.

To some authors they appear as good fairies, to others the Brothers Grimm. Publishers can be blamed for pages that fall out (Look ma, a self-exploding paperback!), for a book’s non-appearance at a country town called Ulmere. For appearing too early or too late for review. For a book being reviewed badly, and thus its non-appearance – in shops, newspapers and prized shortlistings.

As an author, it’s good therapy to blame someone and there’s nothing more cleansing than to blame a publisher. I know, because I’ve done it myself. A literary absolution feels good the whole day through.

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Listening to the science: Coronavirus and climate change

David Holmes
Thursday, 22 October 2020

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there has never been a better time to respond to the climate crisis than now. The global nature of Covid-19 has made it clear that global issues need a coordinated response and can easily affect the welfare of every human being on earth. The virus has shown us that it is absolutely crucial to listen to the science. Governments, in responding to epidemiological forecasts, have rapidly spent hundreds of billions of dollars on welfare subsidies, enforcing social distancing, protective equipment, mental health services, and vaccine research.

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After the waves: A tribute to a pioneering Labor feminist

Joshua Black
Thursday, 22 October 2020

Susan Ryan was a formidable storyteller. Her stories communicated her values and her world view, her commitment to the pursuit of a more egalitarian society. Hers was a powerful form of communication, capable of questioning and challenging the inadequacies of the masculinist, class-exclusive ‘fair go’ of postwar Australian society.

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On 14 November 2019, Behrouz Boochani arrived in New Zealand, to feature in the WORD Christchurch literary festival. In so doing, Boochani, the Kurdish-Iranian writer, detained – or, in his words, exiled – by the Australian government for six years, finally escaped his ‘Manus Prison’. The details of his resettlement remained unclear, but it didn’t matter; he simply wanted to be ‘free for a while’. Around the world, on broadcast and social media, thousands celebrated Boochani’s ‘long flight to freedom’. This followed his award-winning book No Friend But the Mountains (2018), an autobiographical novel typed on his mobile phone using WhatsApp, one passage at a time. Smuggled from Manus in thousands of PDF files, it was translated from Farsi into English by his Iranian-Australian collaborator, Dr Omid Tofighian. For Boochani and those concerned with the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, his escape offered a rare moment of exultation.

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