James Ley

2017 Books of the Year

Australian Book Review
24 November 2017

To celebrate the best books of 2017 Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser, Susan Wy More

James Ley reviews 'First Person' by Richard Flanagan

James Ley
25 October 2017

The literature of the modern era contains any number of stories about doppelgängers, divided selves, alter egos, obsessive relationships, and corrosive forms of mutual dependence. The end More

James Ley reviews 'The Choke' by Sofie Laguna

James Ley
24 August 2017

The Choke is full of holes. I mean that literally, which is also to say (since we are talking about a novel) symbolically. It contains any number of insinuating references to wounds, ditches, gaps, and voids. The primary implication of these can be grasped if one recalls that ‘nothing’ was Elizabethan slang for female genitalia. Sofie Laguna’s narrato ... More

James Ley reviews 'Zero K' by Don DeLillo

James Ley
23 May 2016

Among Don DeLillo's sixteen previous novels, White Noise (1985) is commonly held up as the apotheosis of his satirical vision, while his postwar epic Underworld ...

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James Ley reviews 'The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime' by Harold Bloom

James Ley
24 March 2016

As he reminds his readers on numerous occasions in The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime, Harold Bloom is now well into his eighties. He has spent a lifetime teaching and writing about literature at Yale University, where he has long claimed to constitute a 'department of one'. The claim is part lament, part affectation, part boast. ... More

Books of the Year 2015

Robert Adamson et al.
23 November 2015

Jennifer Maiden's The Fox Petition: New Poems (Giramondo) conjures foxes 'whose eyes were ghosts with pity' and foxes of language that transform the world's headlines

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James Ley reviews 'The Heart Goes Last' by Margaret Atwood

James Ley
25 September 2015

The Heart Goes Last is set in a not-so-distant future in which the economy of the United States has collapsed. In the wake of a major financial meltdown, those rich enough to flee have taken up residence in floating offshore tax havens, leaving the rest of the population to cope with a society ravaged by spiralling unemployment, drug addiction, and crime. The ... More

James Ley reviews 'J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing' by David Attwell

James Ley
26 August 2015

Few, if any, contemporary authors have attracted the level of critical attention that is lavished upon J.M. Coetzee. No doubt there are many reasons for this, but a good part of the fascination with his fiction is a result of the evident rigour with which it is conceived. To read a Coetzee novel is to encounter a work that seems to have ... More

Book reviewing and its provocateurs: 'What single development would most improve the Australian critical culture?'

Patrick Allington et al.
27 April 2015

Last month in Melbourne, a group of book reviewers and literary editors took part in a conference organised by Monash University’s Centre for the Book. There were more than thirty short papers, or ‘provocations’, as they were styled. Our Editor lamented the low or non-payment of some reviewers (especially youn ... More

James Ley: Searching for the Great American Novel

James Ley
29 April 2014

Well, it’s Moby-Dick, obviously. Except when it’s Huckleberry Finn or Absalom, Absalom! or Invisible Man or Gravity’s Rainbow. The Great Gatsby will often do, if one is pressed for time.

There is something a bit ridiculous about the idea that a single book could become the definitive expression of an ent ... More

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