January-February 2016, issue no. 378
Just as there are ways of writing short story collections, there are also ways of reading them. I used to be a rummager, picking through collections, seeking out the title piece, dipping in here and there to ascertain the feel of the stories, then reading the book from start to finish. Conscious now of the architecture of collections, of the fact that the author has ... More
My postgraduate student frowned. ‘The Gathering? Isn’t that the one where someone sets a dog on fire?’ Spoiler alert: indeed it is. It is the book’s most memorable scene; it is certainly the most horrific. My postgrad had read Isobelle Carmody’s 1993 novel in high school and that was the first memory of it which surfaced. The scene shocked readers a ... More
In his essay ‘The Fiction Fields of Australia’ (1856), Frederick Sinnett conducts an inquiry ‘into the feasibility of writing Australian novels; or, to use other words, into the suitability of Australian life and scenery for the novel writers’ purpose and, secondly, into the right manner of their treatment’.More
The first book in Barry Maitland’s projected Belltree Trilogy, Crucifixion Creek features veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, detective Harry Belltree. The eponymous Creek is a wasteland in south-western Sydney with a bloody history of settlement, including punitive expeditions against the local Aboriginal tribe; race-based riots that ended in the lyn ... More
Outside academia, Patrick Modiano was virtually unknown in the English-speaking world before the announcement of his Nobel Prize in October 2014. Since then, no fewer than seven different US publishers have joined the race to bring out Modiano t ... More
Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the marvels of contemporary fiction. The Peruvian Nobel Prize winner not only bestrides it like a colossus, he is also a law unto himself. It is as if he takes the legacy of a realism that is only in his hands magical (because of the enchantment he creates from it) as a kind of blank cheque with which he can license any expense of narrat ... More
In 1977 the aspiring poet Alan Gould travelled through Europe with his friend Kevin Hart. Just such a tour forms the narrative thread for Gould’s latest novel, The Poets’ Stairwell. This is a roman à clef and those in the know will enjoy the identification game.
More interesting, though, is the intellectual journey; Gould’s virginal twenty-seve ... More
For this reviewer, it’s been a long five years since the publication of Stephen Daisley’s Traitor (2010). The rightly acclaimed and award-winning début novel wrote of the terrors of war, and the life on the land of one irreparably damaged New Zealand soldier, David. As an exploration of the damage done to an ordinary and unappreciated man, the prose was ... More
Rod Jones’s new novel, The Mothers, works on a number of levels. It provides a social and familial history of life in Melbourne’s working-class suburbs throughout the twentieth century while also telling the often moving stories of individuals connected across generations, usually mothers and children, battling to survive in adverse circumstances.
Since the publication of his début novel, Summerland (2000), Malcolm Knox has established himself as one of the most ambitious and exciting fiction writers at work in Australia. A seasoned journalist, recipient of two Walkley Awards– one for his work, with Caroline Overington, in the exposé of Norma Khouri– and prolific author of diverse non-fiction wor ... More