Critic of the Month

In September 2013, six months after returning to Australia after forty-eight years away, mainly in the United States, I wrote a piece for ABR on being a returning expatriate. Actually, this wasn’t my first piece for the journal (that was a review of a biography of Ryszard Kapuściński seven months earlier), but it was a piece that had particular importance for me. Rereading it recently, I was struck both by the conversational tone, as if I already thought ABR readers were my friends, and by the underlying seriousness of the effort to explain myself. I didn’t write like that for American publications.

... (read more)

It would be good if editors and publishers took smarty-socks reviewers to task occasionally – probably not in public – if said reviewers go on about falling standards in proofreading or editing. Reviewers should, I think, be aware that the course of publishing never did run smooth – maybe with a difficult author, editing disasters, or horrible scheduling problems – and cut a bit of slack accordingly. I’d also like to see readers engage with reviewers, especially if they have read the book and feel the critic’s comments have been unfair.

... (read more)

Beejay Silcox began writing for ABR in September 2016 after infiltrating a Trump rally in rural Virginia. In 2018, she was ABR’s Fortieth Birthday Fellow. Her literary criticism and cultural commentary appears in national and international review publications.

... (read more)

Enthusiasm, eloquence, a distinctive voice, openness to the unexpected, a well-stocked mind, wit, and humour: some or all of these gifts would make the ideal reviewer ...

... (read more)

Ones who write memorably, whose language combines critical acuity with verve. I could name many, but Robert Hughes, Peter Porter, Kerryn Goldsworthy, and Brian Matthews are four Australians critics I read and reread, and from whom I have learned much, even when I’ve disagreed with, or been provoked by, them.

... (read more)

Some of Australia’s best writers are also reviewers. I always enjoy the beautifully crafted and perceptive work of Drusilla Modjeska, Mireille Juchau, James Bradley, Lisa Gorton, and Kerryn Goldsworthy, to name just a few. Anwen Crawford is wonderful on music, Kate Kellaway and a.j. carruthers on poetry.

... (read more)

Clive James: the master. Erudite yet accessible; terrifyingly well-read; and pioneering, in treating television as a medium deserving of serious critical attention. Caitlin Moran: her feminist critique of gender politics is accessible and vital; her pop-culture criticism perfectly blends the eye-roll with toe-wriggling enjoyment. Giles Coren: he turned the restaurant review into a roaring, funny, joyous literary art. I have no interest in British restaurants, but if I can't read Giles on a Saturday, I'm annoyed. That's the sign of a great critic. Camilla Long: nobody wields a more deft scalpel on film. Christopher Hitchens: his voice is so strident, so vibrant. He'd be at Trump like a wolf to steak.

... (read more)

The best thing I can do here is quote lines of criticism that I've never forgotten. Terry Eagleton on Wuthering Heights: 'the institution of the family is founded upon a potentially anarchic force – sexual desire itself – which it must nevertheless strictly regulate.' This is a bit of insight that can be helpfully applied not only to Wuthering Heights but to most fiction, films, and theatre, to say nothing of daily life.

... (read more)

I mostly review theatre, and yes, I am selective, mostly from a sense of self-preservation. I have cut back my theatre-going to once or twice a week, and Melbourne’s performance arts culture produces much more work than that. I feel a bit guilty, since I am less in touch with emerging work than I once was, but a girl can only do so much.

... (read more)

When did you first write for ABR?

It was 2001. A dual review of Malcolm Knox’s début novel, Summerland, and Steven Carroll’s The Art of the Engine Driver. Luckily, I was generous about these relatively unknown authors and their books, since both went on to become significant figures in Australian letters.

... (read more)
Page 1 of 2