Book reviewing and its provocateurs: 'What single development would most improve the Australian critical culture?'
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
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
When did you first write for ABR?
It was 2003, a review of Vernon God Little by D.B.C. Pierre.
What prompted you to take up book reviewing?
An interest in literature and a break that gave me a chance to write professionally. The idea of being paid to read and think and write about books was very enticing, and stil ... More
The past two decades have seen Richard Flanagan stride confidently into the first rank of Australian writers. His novels are notable for their historical reach, the boldness of their conception, and their willingness to tackle big subjects. They have won him many admirers. But they have also tended to divide opinion, often quite sharply, and this would seem to ... More
In the opening pages of The Casual Vacancy, a man named Barry Fairbrother collapses and dies in the car park of the Pagford Golf Club. For the next seven chapters, news of his premature demise spreads through the small English town. Reactions vary.
‘Fairbrother’s dead? … Good God … He wasn’t much past forty was he?’
‘Gavin ... More
Murray Bail’s fiction has often been interpreted in light of its explicit rejection of a prevailing tradition of Australian realism that someone once described as ‘dun-coloured’. This rejection has manifested itself in his willingness to appropriate some of Australian literature’s hoariest tropes – the harsh beauty of the landscape, the issue of national i ... More
Richard Ford has earned a place among the most venerable practitioners of a durable brand of American realism. His fiction draws strength from its stolid traditionalism: its faith in the idea that formal conservatism, respectful attention to the lives of ordinary people, and a line-by-line dedication to the craft of writing are the surest paths to literary significa ... More
Here are some of the interesting things you may learn if you read John Sutherland’s Lives of the Novelists:
↓ that James Fenimore Cooper was expelled from Yale for training a donkey to sit in the professor’s chair
↓ that Evelyn Waugh once attempted suicide but was prevented from drowning by a passing shoal o ... More
Isaiah Berlin famously divided people into two categories: hedgehogs and foxes. The former know one big thing with absolute certainty; the latter know many small things. When it comes to writers of fiction, a parallel distinction might be made on stylistic grounds. There are some writers who cultivate a finely attuned personal style – a style that becomes unmistak ... More
Literary biography is an often derided genre. Writers, in particular, tend to be suspicious, if not openly hostile, toward what they are apt to regard as a secondary or parasitic form. And there are valid reasons for this wariness. The assumption behind a biography is, reasonably enough, that the writer’s life informs the work, but establishing the precise relevan ... More