Australian Book Review

An old woman, caught between the present and her troubled past in another hemisphere, picks herself out of a puddle of water: ‘Her head is tender, and the left side of her body still feels strange: as if she has lost half of herself. Nevertheless, she understands things again.’ The characters in Maria Takolander’s collection of short stories, The Doub ...

As a woman and her daughter prepare to attend a memorial service for their husband and father, a railwayman, the girl offers the woman her kaleidoscope: ‘You could borrow this, Mum [...] You said it was good for seeing things differently.’ It is a resonant moment, the promise of a magical but fleeting distortion of reality both lovely and desperately sad. The sc ...

Patrick Allington reviews 'Konkretion' by Marion May Campbell

Patrick Allington
Monday, 25 March 2013

Whereas many twenty-first-century novels seem way too long, konkretion is a distilled, complex gem. It is a novella full of questions and questing, most of which riff from this observation made in the context of Germany’s militant Red Army Faction: ‘what triggers the conversion from resistance to terror, flick-knife or otherwise, the jump into illeg ...

As I read the early pages of Anthony Macris’s Great Western Highway, I began to wonder if the whole novel might consist of a single central character walking along a city road (for the record, it doesn’t). I couldn’t decide whether I found such a prospect exciting or deflating. As I continued reading, and as Great Western Highway took flight from ...

Miles Franklin loosens up

Patrick Allington
Monday, 28 May 2012

Soon after the announcement of the shortlist of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award (‘the Miles’), bookmaker Tom Waterhouse installed Anna Funder’s All That I Am (2011) as favourite. Fair enough, too: it’s an astute and absorbing Australian novel about, among other things, Nazism’s long shadow. But Waterhouse favoured Funder – oddly – ...

Patrick Allington reviews 'The Chemistry of Tears' by Peter Carey

Patrick Allington
Friday, 20 January 2012

 In his closing address to the 2010 Sydney Writers’ Festival, Peter Carey made a plea on behalf of the fading ‘cult’ of serious reading. This prompted a fierce riposte from Bryce Courtenay: ‘There’s no such thing as popular writing versus literary writing. If I’m a popular writer then Peter Carey is an unpopular writer. If I’m a best-selling write ...

Patrick Allington reviews 'Spirit of Progress' by Steven Carroll

Patrick Allington
Tuesday, 23 August 2011

At the beginning of Steven Carroll’s new novel, Spirit of Progress, Michael stands on a platform of the Gare Montparnasse in Paris. Readers of Carroll’s ‘Glenroy’ trilogy will remember that Michael is Vic and Rita’s son – a boy who grew up with an unblinking grasp of his parents’ fractured marriage and who learned early to fend for himself. Now a man, Michael observes the ...

Patrick Allington questions ‘What is Australia, anyway?’

Patrick Allington
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
‘Arran Avenue, Hamilton, Brisbane, Australia ... Why Australia? What is Australia, anyway?’ 
(Dante, in David Malouf’s Johnno)

Some footy talk before the book chat: I saw Wayne Carey play once, in Adelaide. He was a puppeteer that day. You would have needed a panoramic view – television doesn’t capture ...

Patrick Allington reviews 'The Complete Stories' by David Malouf

Patrick Allington
Saturday, 01 December 2007

David Malouf’s The Complete Stories brings together the three and a bit books, spanning twenty-five years, that constitute his forays into shorter fiction: Antipodes (1985), Dream Stuff (2000), and Every Move You Make (2006), along with two stories that accompanied his novella Child’s Play (1982). Given that this is a collection rather than a selection – no stories are cut from the earlier books – the quality ebbs and flows, both from story to story and from book to book. Despite its slight imperfections, The Complete Stories confirms that Malouf is, at his best, a masterful exponent of short fiction.

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