Essays and Commentary

In her speech as the winner of the 2003 National Book Award, Shirley Hazzard said, 'We should do our best by the language. We mustn't torture it; we mustn't diminish it. We have to love it, nurture it, and enjoy it.'

Reading Hazzard, as she is variously represented in this collection, is to encounter a writer who has done her 'best by the language' and, in t ...

You could regard this latest book by Helen Garner as simply a collection of various essays, a miscellany if you wish, but to do so would be to give it less than its due. There is nothing casual or accidental about Everywhere I Look. Its coherence may, of course, have much to do with Garner's voice, which is consistent and compelling, as is her actual writin ...

At the back of the cupboard of old lies is a crusty one that goes like this: the essay is a lesser form of literature. Oddly, it is perpetuated in collections like Ariel Levy's The Best American Essays 2015, which – in its foreword by series editor Robert Atwan – bashfully admits that essays are the B-team of the writing world. 'The quintessential essay ...

Reflecting on the first day she attended a clinic for eating disorders, Sydney poet Fiona Wright admits: 'I'm ... not sure that I would ever have gone ahead with the admission if I hadn't thought that I could write about it later.' This is a remarkably self-aware statement, one that encapsulates the fierce intelligence of her linked essays in Small Acts of Disap ...

‘Pathetically inadequate’ was probably the most frequent description of the government’s voluntary emissions proposal for the United Nations Climate Change Conference; the description fits their climate and en ...

'The Forest at the Edge of Time' by Ashley Hay

Ashley Hay
Thursday, 24 September 2015

Let’s begin, somewhere around 4,500 bce, in a small patch of soil on the south-west coast of Western Australia. An ovule and some pollen combine on the crest of a ridge overlooking the sea, and a plant begins to grow. It’s a little thing with juvenile leaves which will become a faint ...

The town of Goroke (population six hundred) stands almost exactly between Melbourne and Adelaide, in the Wimmera region of Victoria. It is, in many ways, a typical small country town. If you drive there in the morning during late spring or early summer, you’ll need to slow the car to avoid kangaroos on the road. Magpies are everywhere. Horses and other livestock m ...

Carol Middleton reviews 'Dear Life' by Karen Hitchcock

Carol Middleton
Friday, 29 May 2015

In her long-form essay Dear Life, columnist and fiction writer Karen Hitchcock considers how we in Australia treat the elderly and dying. To the task she brings her formidable skills as a writer and her experience at the coalface, working as a staff physician in a Melbourne public hospital. The result is a sensitive, rigorous, and moving account that ex ...

Thomas Keneally’s novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972) is based in part on historical events, particularly the crimes committed by Jimmy Governor, an Aboriginal man from New South Wales. In 1900, Governor was a key figure involved in the killing of nine Europeans, including five women and children. The killings followed Governor’s marriage t ...

Reading Australia: 'That Deadman Dance' by Kim Scott

Patrick Allington
Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The shortlist for the 2011 Miles Franklin Literary Award, which included Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance, was controversial because it consisted of only three novels, all written by men. The exclusion of women writers for that year itself was noteworthy: for example, Fiona McGregor’s fine novel of Sydney, Indelible Ink