Australian Fiction

It is surely one of the most widely believed tenets of Australia’s literary history that the short story has a special significance achieved with its rise to popularity in the 1890s under the patronage of the Bulletin and in the hands of a master craftsman like Henry Lawson. Orthodoxy has it that Australian literature was born in the 1890s: that is, it shucked off its colonial cast and developed a distinctly national stance with the emergence of what some call the tradition of formal bush realism and others the Lawson/Furphy tradition. So far as I know, no one has quibbled with the view put forward by Harry Heseltine in his introduction to the Penguin Book of Australian Short Stories (1976) that Henry Lawson was the ‘chronological founder of the tradition of the Australian short story’ and ‘the source of most that is imaginatively important in it.’

... (read more)

Memoirs of Many in One by Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray (edited by Patrick White)

by
July 1986, no. 82

Patrick White is a downy old bird. He has always shown remarkable ability to keep up with the game, even to keep ahead of it. Whether the game is currently being called Modernism, or Postmodernism, or some other ismatic title, he can handle it as a writer and still be himself. From The Aunt’s Story to The Twyborn Affair, he has displayed this ability to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, to go in with the ferrets and also come out with the rabbits. In other words, of all Australian writers he most convincingly builds a bridge between what critics ask for and what readers want.

... (read more)

Borderline by Janette Turner Hospital

by
April 1986, no. 79

Janette Turner Hospital was born in Melbourne, but has lived and travelled abroad in recent years. Borderline, her third novel, is set for the most part in Boston and Montreal. It is a mystery story which contains many of the conventional ingredients of the genre: disappearances, murder and violence, mysterious messages. However, these things are subsidiary to its dominating theme which is an exploration of the nature of reality. In this it achieves mixed results, but on the whole favourable ones.

... (read more)

About Tilly Beamis by Sumner Locke Elliott

by
April 1986, no. 79

Expatriate Australian writer and now naturalised American citizen Sumner Locke Elliott seems to have written this novel to dramatise his own sense of cultural displacement and identity. Cutting back and forth in time (between 1978 and 1950) and place (Australia and the United States), it traces the attempt of a woman named Tanya van Zandt in New York to retrace the whereabouts and identity of an Australian, Tilly Beamis, who turns out to be (it does not take the alert reader long to recognise) her actual former self.

... (read more)

This is the largest and most eclectic of Wilding’s four collections of short stories so far. Its 284 pages include stories ranging from ninety pages and two. Mostly written in the first person, they range in space between England and Australia, go back to the childhood of the narrator(s) (sometimes identified as Mike or Michael, making the autobiographical inferences irresistible) and in mode range from social realism through to the surrealistic modes of ‘What it was like, sometime

... (read more)

This is not a reissue of a novel almost twenty years old, nor is it quite a new novel: it is a heavily revised version of an early work by the author of the prize-winning novel Year of Living Dangerously. Across the Sea Wall was written before C.J. Koch was thirty. In a prefatory note to the new version he writes: ‘If such novels of youth are worth republishing, they are worth revising ... The cuts and alterations are not fundamental, but they are extensive.’ He concludes with the hope ‘that the earlier version of this work will be consigned to oblivion, and that anyone referring to the book, or quoting from it, will go to no other version but this one’.

... (read more)

When the ABC asked me to adapt Roger McDonald’s novel 1915 into a major seven-part serial, I declined. Ray Alchin, producer and head of the ABC’s film studio in Sydney, looked at me with disbelief and asked me to read it again. So I read it again, twice, and thanked him for having the good sense to see its possibilities, and gratefully accepted.

... (read more)

This novel raises more interesting questions about its author than about its characters and action.

... (read more)