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Bridget Vincent

The ABR Podcast 

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

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Anne Manne

Episode #186

Soul blindness: Clerical narcissism and unfathomable cruelty

By Scott Stephens

In this week’s ABR Podcast, Scott Stephens reviews a book by Anne Manne: Crimes of the Crimes of the Cross: The Anglican paedophile network of Newcastle, its protectors and the man who fought for justice. Why is narcissism a central theme for a book about child sexual abuse? Stephens writes: ‘without the capacity or willingness to be attentive to the humanity of another person’, unfathomable cruelty becomes possible. Scott Stephens is the ABC’s Religion & Ethics online editor and the co-host, with Waleed Aly, of The Minefield on ABC Radio National. Listen to Scott Stephens’s ‘Soul blindness: Clerical narcissism and unfathomable cruelty’, published in the May issue of ABR.

Recent episodes:

Marina Kamenev’s Kin begins with a calmly unadorned outline of the nuclear family’s recent fortunes. In the space of just a few pages, she gives a condensed tour of the concept’s history, concluding with US historian Stephanie Coontz’s suggestion that the nuclear family is a ‘historical fluke’ – one that has, as Kamenev puts it, ‘been idolised long after its use-by date’. The introduction’s mini-tour prefigures, in capsule form, both the book’s thematic emphases and its guiding rhetorical procedures. As Kin’s chapters move through their discussions of the moral panics that accompany non-nuclear family structures, from same-sex parenthood to chosen childlessness to single-parent families, the book reveals that the real moral hazards of reproductive technology lie not in deviations from the nuclear model but in attempts to impose the model where it doesn’t fit.

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In this week’s ABR podcast we hear from the runner-up of the 2023 Calibre Essay Prize, Bridget Vincent. Calibre judges Yves Rees, Peter Rose and Beejay Silcox praised Bridget Vincent’s ‘Child Adjacent’ for its wryness and compassion. They noted that it broadened our understanding of the family and interrogated the terrors and moral dilemmas of raising children in the climate crisis. Bridget Vincent is a Lecturer in English at the Australian National University. Listen to her reading ‘Child Adjacent’, published in the June issue of ABR.

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I feel like I need to come out every day. I’m pushing the stroller, fishing out the dummy, pointing out dogs, but this isn’t what it looks like. At the playground or the checkout, I take the nods and maternal solidarity, staying inside the parenting illusion until it feels slightly disingenuous. I am not the mother. I am an aunt instead, if ‘instead’ is even the right word. There are categories – infertile, childless by circumstance, childless by choice – and within these, more specific groups like the Birthstrikers, who are publicly delaying procreation until there is climate action. Being an aunt of the Anthropocene is none of these, and all of them at once.

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Sydney writer Tracy Ellis is the winner of the 2023 Calibre Essay Prize. Her name will be very familiar to ABR readers: Tracy won the 2022 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize for her story 'Natural Wonder'. (She is the first person to win both Calibre and the Jolley Prize.)

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In his November 2010 lecture delivered as Oxford Professor of Poetry, Geoffrey Hill tested the idea that poetry might constitute a form of perjury. He acknowledged that ‘this is a deeply pessimistic view: many would say anachronistic’. Showing that language is an imperfect and even fallen medium which presents moral hazards to its users was not, however, the ses ...