The ABR Podcast

The ABR Podcast 

Released every Thursday, the ABR podcast features our finest reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary.

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Krissy Kneen

Episode #84

Dugongesque

An essay by Krissy Kneen

‍Each year, the judges of the Calibre Essay Prize face the difficult task of selecting a winner from an impressive shortlist. Last year’s winner was Theodore Ell for ‘Facades of Lebanon’, an intimate chronicle of the 2020 port explosion in Beirut. In today’s episode, ABR turns to another impressive essay, ‘Dugongesque’, which was shortlisted for last year’s Calibre Essay Prize and appears in our upcoming December issue. Written by the award-winning Queensland author Krissy Kneen, ‘Dugongesque’ is a poignant exploration of identity, bodies, and death as Kneen embarks on a diving course bought for her by her partner. Listen to Kneen read her essay in full.

And for those interested, the 2022 Calibre Essay Prize, worth $7,500, is currently open for submission.

 

   

 

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Each year, the judges of the Calibre Essay Prize face the difficult task of selecting a winner from an impressive shortlist. Last year’s winner was Theodore Ell for ‘Facades of Lebanon’, an intimate chronicle of the 2020 port explosion in Beirut. In today’s episode, ABR turns to another impressive essay, ‘Dugongesque’, which was shortlisted for last year’s Calibre Essay Prize and appears in our upcoming December issue. Written by the award-winning Queensland author Krissy Kneen, ‘Dugongesque’ is a poignant exploration of identity, bodies, and death as Kneen embarks on a diving course bought for her by her partner. Listen to Kneen read her essay in full.

And for those interested, the 2022 Calibre Essay Prize, worth $7,500, is currently open for submission.

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The Australian modernist photographer Max Dupain is commonly known for his sweltering photograph Sunbaker, which offered the nation one of its most iconic beach images. In today’s episode, Helen Ennis reads her essay ‘Max Dupain’s dilemmas’, which was commended in the 2021 Calibre Essay Prize. It explores the breadth of Dupain’s work beyond Sunbaker, as well as his own grapplings with self-doubt and his complicated perspectives on life and travel.

Helen Ennis is Emeritus Professor at the ANU Centre for Art History and Art Theory and a past ABR Fellow. She is an independent photography curator and writer specialising in the area of Australian photographic practice. She is currently writing a biography of Max Dupain.

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Edward Said, most regarded for his pioneering study Orientalism (1978), led a varied life that combined rigorous scholarship with fearless activism. Born in Jerusalem and brought up in Cairo, Said left for America at the age of sixteen and thereafter steadily ascended through the ranks of the American academy. Outside of the ivory tower, Said became a powerful spokesperson for Palestinian self-determination. Timothy Brennan’s new biography, Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said, traces Said’s decades of engagement with the key political, cultural, and literary concerns of his time. As James Jiang notes in his review, ‘what emerges most distinctly from Brennan’s portrait are not the lineaments of a gifted “mind”, but rather the sheer messiness of thinking for a living’.

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‍In May 2020, the High Court reaffirmed the Federal Court’s 2017 ruling that the Yindjibarndi people of the Pilbara region in Western Australia held exclusive native title to land on which the Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) had opened its Solomon Hub iron ore mine. The court thus brought to a close FMG’s thirteen-year campaign to secure unfettered land access. In today’s episode of the ABR Podcast, Perth-based writer and anthropologist Stephen Bennetts reviews Paul Cleary’s Title Fight, which offers a meticulous account of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation’s victory against Australia’s third-largest mining company. Yet, as Bennetts argues in his review, the Yindjibarndi victory is far from decisive given the ‘toothlessness’ of Australia’s heritage legislation. After almost a decade, state and federal governments have yet to ‘deliver the full promise of the 1992 Mabo judgment’.

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Scott Morrison has now been in office longer than any of his four predecessors, and yet what do we really know of the man? In today’s episode, political historian and commentator Judith Brett rounds out our picture of the prime minister by patching together recent profiles of the elusive ‘ScoMo’ by Annika Smethurst, Lech Blaine, and Sean Kelly. Brett identifies a host of traits – from his habitual blame-shifting to an ability to compartmentalise the Christian morality governing his private life – that have helped shape his political fortunes. Behind the veneer of ‘ordinariness’ lurks a pragmatic opportunist whose avoidance of scrutiny is itself now being scrutinised. This essay is the cover feature of our upcoming November issue, available to read in full from October 29.

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Tim Bonyhady is one of Australia’s leading environmental lawyers and cultural historians. He has previously traced connections between art and national mythologies in books such as Images in Opposition (1985) and The National Picture (2018). In his latest work, Two Afternoons in the Kabul Stadium, he turns his attention to Afghanistan, unpicking the fabric of contemporary Afghan society by following closely the warp and weft of its visual culture, from women’s fashion to war rugs to photography. In today’s episode, Morag Fraser reviews Bonyhady’s book, writing in the wake of the Taliban victory and immersing herself in the ‘intriguingly tangential and complex history’ woven by one of Australia’s most scrupulous and sensitive observers of culture. Morag Fraser, a previous chairperson of ABR, has been writing for the magazine since the 1990s.

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Colson Whitehead is a critically acclaimed American author of eight novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Underground Railroad (2016) and The Nickel Boys (2019). His latest work, Harlem Shuffle, set in the titular neighbourhood in the 1960s, is branded as a probing crime caper of ‘heists, shakedowns and rip-offs’. Whitehead’s previous novels are marked by nuanced commentary on race and power, yet, as Mindy Gill argues in her review, this dynamic threatens a tantalising foray into genre fiction: ‘What prevents Harlem Shuffle from being a convincing crime novel, then, is part of its broader failure: Whitehead’s reluctance to depart from rousing social messaging.’

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Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s diagnosis of the condition of ‘bare life’ has assumed a new significance during the coronavirus outbreak. A new book, Where Are We Now? The epidemic as politics, collects some of Agamben’s most thought-provoking commentary on the politics of state responses to Covid-19. In today’s episode, David Jack reads his October article ‘Bare life and health terror’, in which he applies some of Agamben’s key insights to Australia, arguing that the philosopher’s willingness to speak up for the preservation of the foundations of civic life offers a tonic to the atmosphere of alarmism and the new medically endorsed state of exception.

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It’s difficult to imagine a more hotly anticipated novel than Irish author Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You. Fiercely embargoed advance copies have sold for vast sums on eBay, and British publisher Faber even set up a custom Sally Rooney store – featuring branded bucket hats, tote bags, and a coffee truck. The author’s two prior works, Conversations with Friends and Normal People, garnered critical acclaim for their insights into young love in the modern age, with pundits even declaring her ‘the first great Millennial novelist’. ABR critic Beejay Silcox delves into Rooney’s latest work for our October issue, available to read tomorrow, September 30. In today’s episode, Beejay first discusses the entangled process of critiquing Beautiful World, Where Are You, before reading her review in full.

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In the pre-television era of the early twentieth century, radio reigned supreme. It offered news and light entertainment, but also a means of communion and solidarity for the many women confined to the domestic sphere. In her new book Sound Citizens, historian Dr Catherine Fisher explores how a cohort of professional women broadcasters, activists, and politicians began utilising radio to improve the status and rights of women in Australia. In today’s episode, we hear from writer and historian Dr Yves Rees, who reviewed the book for ABR’s recent September issue. Rees is a David Myers Research Fellow in History at La Trobe University and co-host of the history podcast Archive Fever. Yves has published widely across Australian gender, transnational and economic history, and also writes on transgender identity and politics.

 

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