Essays and Commentary

It is a hot gusty day in the summer of 1958, the sort of day that melts the tar on the road and brings the red dust down from the north. In the inner-city Adelaide suburb of Norwood, Mario Feleppa, twenty-eight and not long arrived in Australia, is fed up. Not with the heat – he is used to heat back in Italy – but with horses. Specifically, the horses that ...

It is a brilliant summer day in July 1935. The scene is a house called Green Ridges, near Hastings, Sussex. Two women, seated but not relaxed, face each other across a formal drawing room. This is the first time they have met. Nettie Palmer, Australian writer and journalist, has come to stay overnight with the novelist Henry Handel Richardson.

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November in America signals a time to gather in, take stock and breathe a little. The elections are done by the end of the first week. Thanksgiving beckons, the high holidays begin, media fever subsides – a little – and morphs into retrospective political analysis and projected anxiety about the future, especially, since 2008, the economic future.

It is ...

With the centenary of Patrick White’s birth being celebrated this year, it seems appropriate to highlight the great legacy that White left Australian writers in the form of the Patrick White Literary Award. On 16 November, the 2012 Award was presented to novelist, short story writer, and essayist Amanda Lohrey, the thirty-ninth winner since the Award was first presented, to Christina Stead, in 1974.

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I’ve never looked at a big independent school in an established suburb and thought ‘that’s not fair’ … I look at a big independent school in an established suburb and think ‘that’s a great example’.
Julia Gillard

If Julia Gillard were to drive past the main campus of the Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC), a big ...

An imperfectly remembered life is a useless treachery.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna

When my American mother-in-law died, the world financial markets went into a tail-spin. Melba was her name; her own mother, who migrated from Italy to New England in the late nineteenth century, was an oper ...

After twelve years of building a vast online database of information about Australian literary culture, the consortium of universities responsible for the AustLit resource has decided that it is time for a major makeover. By the end of the year, AustLit will have a new look and will offer new ways of interacting with audience ...

‘If Indonesia were a person,’ a good friend in Jakarta said to me, ‘it would be Goenawan.’ I know what she means. There is nothing black and white about him. He is a complex man, multi-faceted, charming and exasperating, full of conviction and contradiction, at once deeply patriotic and critical of his nation (which was born just five years after he was), someone who has weathered and helped forge the upheavals that Indonesia has undergone since then.

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When Gore Vidal died a few weeks ago, his publisher issued a statement calling him the last survivor of a postwar crop of American literary giants. ‘It is hard to think of another … who cut as dashing and visible a figure in various public realms,’ said Vidal’s Doubleday editor, Gerald Howard. Less than a week later the obituary columns were taken over by just such another figure – except that Robert Hughes was an Australian. Malcolm Turnbull made a pronouncement on the floor of the Australian parliament: ‘This titan of arts and letters will never leave us.’

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Bricks, knowledge, gravity

 

‘I just read a history of bricks.’

 

We learn about the ways our teachers have influenced us over many years. As an undergraduate student at the University of Melbourne, I took every class taught by Professor Peter Steele SJ. More than a decade after I first ...