Essays and Commentary

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.

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)

'Arabesques and Banknotes'

Laurie Clancy
Thursday, 22 October 2020

With the reissue of The Beauties and Furies (1936) this month by the British feminist press Virago, virtually all of Christina Stead’s work is in print for the first time in the half century long career of this distinguished writer.

... (read more)

How Fremantle's first newspaper was hoaxed

Bob Reece
Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Fremantle’s first real newspaper, The Herald, saw the light of day in a building on the corner of Cliff and High Streets on Saturday, 2 February 1867. The brainchild of two ex-convicts, James Pearce and William Beresford, it soon became the main voice of opposition to colonial autocracy, as well as the voice of Fremantle itself. 

... (read more)

James Joyce in Australia

D. J. O’Hearn
Tuesday, 25 August 2020

If James Joyce had ever visited Australia it is unlikely that he would have come up with anything like D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo. For one thing, as with most Irishmen, his interest in landscape was negligible; for another, his sense of play and his myopia would not have allowed him to romanticise the great Australian bush, much Jess the suburban sprawl. He might have felt somewhat at ease in the ‘Loo or the Rocks area, in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy or Little Dorritt Street in Carlton, or perhaps by the Yarra at Burnley. But why fantasise?

... (read more)

In his conclusion to this book, Kevin Brophy states a key principle of creative composition: ‘to be responsive to what happens, what is thrown into the mind, what one comes upon.’ This is at once a statement of advice for an artist at work, and a theoretical proposition. Through the course of the ten essays that make up the volume, Brophy develops a hypothesis about the kinds of brain function involved in creativity and, in particular, the role of consciousness in relation to other mental and sensory forms of intelligence. Without drawing the terms ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ into play – a great relief to those of us who have grown weary of that inevitable binary – he suggests that the work of an artist or writer may be facilitated by an exploratory interest in the operations of consciousness.

... (read more)

John Hirst is a distinctive figure in Australian intellectual life. As an academic, he has had a distinguished career at La Trobe University in teaching, supervision, and research. He developed new subjects and methodologies with which to teach them. In addition to those concerning Australian history, there was his pioneering subject designed to inform students about Australia’s European cultural heritage, with some of the lectures recently published as The Shortest History of Europe (2009).

... (read more)

In the teaching of copyright, it is usually said that copyright is an economic right. In Arnhem Land, they think otherwise. In 1990, I attended a meeting of Aboriginal artists in Maningrida. These artists had been involved in a copyright infringement case concerning the unauthorised reproduction of works of art on T-shirts. The case had settled, and the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the division of the spoils. The case involved a number of artists and different infringements by the same infringer.

... (read more)

Writing Down the Voice

Gillian Bouras
Wednesday, 10 June 2020

My great-grandfather Robert had a beard, a pointed one, presumably grey. He stands in a sepia-coloured photograph, gazing steadily at the camera, leaning on a walking stick and wearing a grainy-looking overcoat. But these are only dimly recollected details: I have not looked at the relevant album for years. Much more vivid is the voice I never heard. It was transmitted by my mother, who is now also dead. Throughout my childhood my imagination was peopled by various characters, as she recalled their exact words, entertaining my sister and me as she herself had been entertained: by using remembered voices she recreated her past and created one for us.

... (read more)

Mateship, Friendship and National Identity

Ronald A. Sharp
Friday, 05 June 2020

A year ago, I came to Australia prepared to spend the first half of my sabbatical leave completing a book on John Keats. Never having been to Australia, I was eager to spend some time here: five months in all. When I participated in the 2008 Mildura Writers Festival, it became clear to me that something both delightful and extraordinary was at work. There was a fine group of writers, including Les Murray, David Malouf, Alice Pung, Alex Miller, Sarah Day, and Anthony Lawrence. But what made the festival remarkable was the combination of conviviality and serious talk about literature and ideas that surpassed anything in my previous experience, which included far more such events than I could begin to count.

... (read more)