Released every Thursday, the ABR podcast features our finest reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary.
Lisa Gorton on Helen Garner’s third volume of diaries
The sense of an ending
‘I would like to write about dominance, revulsion, separation, the horrible struggles between people who love each other,’ wrote Helen Garner, foreshadowing How to End a Story, the final instalment of her published diaries, following Yellow Notebook (2019) and One Day I’ll Remember This (2020). While the first two volumes spanned eight years apiece, How to End a Story spans only three. Starting in 1995, shortly after the release of Garner’s The First Stone, it details the dissolution of her marriage to another writer, V. As Lisa Gorton notes, this volume differs from its precursors both in tone and focus: ‘This one is as compelling as a detective story. This one is edited with the sense of an ending.’
Lisa Gorton is an award-winning poet, novelist, and critic, and a former Poetry Editor of ABR. Her most recent book is a collection of poems, Empirical (Giramondo, 2019).
This year, the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize received nearly 1500 entries from thirty-six different countries, a record field. Placed third was ‘A Fall from Grace’ by John Richards. The story is the first work of historical fiction to appear on the shortlist of the Jolley Prize. In today’s episode, listen to the author read ‘A Fall from Grace’, which our judges described as ‘a deliciously enigmatic story, rich in the overtones of the international canon: Balzac, Calvino, Borges. Set in pre-revolutionary rural France, a talented painter’s career receives an unforeseen jolt that simultaneously shadows his life and propels his work from realist proficiency to metaphysical greatness.’... (read more)
In today’s episode, ABR looks back at the winner of the inaugural Calibre Essay Prize in 2007: ‘An Die Nachgeborenen: For Those Who Come After’ by Elisabeth Holdsworth. Holdsworth was born in the Netherlands in the years following World War II. Zeeland, where she grew up, was heavily bombed during the war and later flooded. Her poignant essay is a dialogue with the past, detailing her recent return to the Netherlands, her family’s vicissitudes and suffering during the war, and an unforgettable portrait of her conflicted mother.... (read more)
Recently, for the eleventh time, ABR presented the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. This year the Prize attracted 1,428 entries, from thirty-six different countries. In a virtual ceremony last night, ABR named Camilla Chaudhary as the winner of this year’s Jolley Prize for her story titled ‘The Enemy, Asyndeton’. The judges – Melinda Harvey, Elizabeth Tan, and Gregory Day – described Chaudhary’s entry as ‘a delightful, nimble story; the characters bristle with life, and the dialogue is crisply rendered’. In today’s episode, listen to Camilla Chaudhary read her story in its entirety.... (read more)
Few books have had as decisive an impact on the history of Indigenous Australian land management as Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. And yet, as Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe argue in Farmers or Hunter-gatherers?, the foundations upon which Pascoe builds his account of Indigenous agriculture may be shakier than first thought. In his review of Sutton and Walshe’s book, writer and anthropologist Stephen Bennetts assesses not only their criticisms of Pascoe’s claims, but also the surrounding controversy that has turned a scholarly debate into another theatre in a culture war. What this political furore threatens to obscure is the long tradition of Australian anthropological research that has been essential to the legal restoration of Indigenous land ownership.... (read more)
On 4 August 2020, Theodore Ell was living in Beirut, Lebanon, when an explosion erupted at the local port, killing more than 200 people and injuring more than 7,500. Ell and his wife, a diplomat, survived, but were badly shaken. At the encouragement of his close friend Beejay Silcox, Ell turned his experience into the essay ‘Façades of Lebanon’, a harrowing, intimate piece of reportage, and the deserving winner of the 2021 Calibre Essay Prize. In today’s episode, listen to Ell in conversation with Silcox about the inception of his prize-winning work, the balancing act of writing trauma and place, the historical complexities of Beirut, and more.... (read more)
Francis Webb, an Australian poet born in 1925, was widely regarded by his contemporaries as one of the most gifted poets of his generation. His creative output was extensive, despite a troubled life living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. His first major poem, ‘A Drum for Ben Boyd’, appeared in book form when he was only twenty-two. In today’s episode, listen to ABR’s Sydney theatre critic Ian Dickson read the poem in its entirety.... (read more)
Theodore Ell was living in Beirut, Lebanon, on 4 August 2020 when an explosion devastated the city and shook a nation already teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Ell and his wife, a diplomat, were badly affected, but survived. Ell's essay, 'Façades of Lebanon', intertwines the author's outsider observation of the nation with a harrowing personal experience of the blast. It represents reportage at its best, and is a fitting winner of the 2021 Calibre Prize.... (read more)
In 2020, the Victorian government declared it would establish a Truth and Justice process to ‘recognise historic wrongs and address ongoing injustices for Aboriginal Victorians’. The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission was announced in March this year as the governing body of this process, one to be led by five commissioners and invested with the powers of a royal commission. In today’s episode, Paul Muldoon reads his essay from the July issue, ‘The prison of the past’, which considers the future challenges and complexities facing the commission. As he writes: ‘In truth and reconciliation, “healing” has come to assume a central importance. But exactly who or what is being healed?’... (read more)
As the world realigns itself in the wake of a global pandemic, ABR turns its thoughts to the various forms – individual and institutional, material and more intangible – that recovery may take. In 'Poetry in times of recovery', we asked a number of Australian poets to share the works that best capture how recovery can look, sound, and feel. Today’s episode builds on the popularity of our ‘Poetry in troubled times’ episodes, released in 2020.... (read more)
In today's episode, Josephine Rowe – winner of the 2016 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize – reads a new short story, 'Bunker', which appears in the June issue of ABR. Josephine has published three short story collections and a novel called A Loving, Faithful Animal.... (read more)