There is no recommended apprenticeship for writers. Nor are there any prescribed personal or professional qualifications. Hermits, obsessives, insurance clerks, customs officers, women who embroider, men who write letters, public servants, soldiers, drunks, provincial doctors and gulag inmates have all become great writers. How? A mystery. But avidity – about the ... More
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
Reading Lydia Davis’s stories is akin to getting new glasses – or glasses for the first time. Suddenly the world shifts into sharp, bright focus. Disturbing. Disorienting. What you see, or understand, won’t necessarily gladden your heart. It may pique it, but you may not want to be brought so close to life, to the poignancy of it all. Not at first, anyway.... More
The huge Town Hall crowd who surged to their feet to applaud – and go on applauding – the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic’s twilight performance of Messiah did not do so ‘like sheep’, nor like a last-night-at-the-Proms booster crowd. Their gesture had more in common with King George II’s reputed rising in glad awe for the Hallelujah Chorus during t ... More
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, as the stark proverb cautions, but a cockatoo flocking of short stories suggests that the form is perhaps enjoying a revival – and the publishing industry has seized an opportunity. As it should.
In 2013, Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature, lauded as ‘the master of the contemporary short story’. Edna O ... More
In the 1960s she was deemed an Irish Jezebel. After the publication of her début novel, The Country Girls (1960), the local postmistress told her father that a fitting punishment would be for her to be kicked naked through the town.
Now, a half century later, her litterateur countryman John Banville has introduced Edna O’Brien’s Collected Stor ... More
Indiana’s State Route 67 is a highway straight out of Alfred Hitchcock, an open-skied strip through flat country, bordered by desultory malls, a ‘drive-thru’ Taco Bill, a county jail and sheriff’s department, a pedimented Walgreens and – most intriguing – the Mooresville ‘Lost Inn Motel’, and the ‘Lost Name Steak-house and Saloon’. (Google r ... More
Morag Fraser reviews 'The Childhood of Jesus' by J.M. Coetzee and 'The Round House' by Louise Erdrich
‘What is chaos?’ asks the unnerving child at the centre of J.M. Coetzee’s new parable-novel, The Childhood of Jesus. ‘I told you the other day,’ replies the child’s guardian. ‘Chaos is when there is no order, no laws to hold on to. Chaos is just things whirling around.’
Louise Erdrich’s The Round House begins with ... More