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Alternative title: ABR
Issue Details: First known date: 2017... no. 394 September 2017 of Australian Book Review est. 1961 Australian Book Review
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'For decades, centuries, millennia, homosexuals (here as elsewhere) have been insulted, blackmailed, beaten, incarcerated, and murdered. Even now, homophobia and violence towards homosexuals remain principal causes of suicide and despair in our society, especially among young males. In numerous countries, homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by death or imprisonment. Remember those two young men in Aceh – our neighbour and ally – who were flogged and reviled in public? Only a fool or a bigot would suggest that homosexuals have never had it so good.' (Editorial)


* Contents derived from the 2017 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
News from the Editor's Desk - September 2017, Peter Rose , single work essay

'At a lively ceremony at Potts Point Bookshop on August 10, David Malouf named Eliza Robertson as the winner of the 2017 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize for her story ‘Pheidippides’. Robertson’s story ‘explores the changing relationships between a marathon runner, a journalist and his wife in the wake of tragedies. It is a powerfully observed, beautiful, and unflinching story that shows the different paths that people take to cope with grief and trauma,’ said Jolley Prize judge Amy Baillieu at the ceremony.' (Introduction)

(p. 1)
The Forgotten Leader : Rediscovering Alfred Deakin, John Rickard , single work

'There has been an argument going on in the Liberal Party about the nature of the Menzies heritage – was Robert Menzies, the founder of the modern party, a liberal or a conservative? Notably absent from this discussion has been the national figure who was the first leader of a united anti-Labor party and who also happens to have been a father of Federation, Alfred Deakin. If our politicians still read books – and sometimes one does wonder – Judith Brett’s new biography, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin, should be required reading. As Brett has pointed out, the minority governments of the Federation’s first decade were extraordinarily productive in laying the legislative foundations of the new Commonwealth, in stark contrast to the parliamentary paralysis of recent years.' (Introduction)

(p. 8-9)
An Inside View : The Master of Slow Reading, Sue Kossew , single work essay review

'While it is true that the essay as a genre has a long and continuous history, it is not always an easy form to categorise or define. J.M. Coetzee has himself contrasted the ‘rather tight discourse’ of criticism with the relative freedom of writing fiction. Indeed, essays – like those collected in this volume – require ‘slow reading’, a term derived from Friedrich Nietzsche’s statement that he was a ‘teacher of slow reading’. Coetzee’s essays, twenty-three of which are collected here as Late Essays: 2006–2017, are exemplars of his own careful reading while also providing engaging, accessible, and informative insights into writers and their works. They have all been previously published, either as introductions to new editions of books, as book chapters, or as reviews (most notably in the New York Review of Books, to which Coetzee regularly contributes). Unlike his novels, the essays are direct and unambiguous, offering not only one writer’s evaluation of another writer but also the astute assessments of a lifelong teacher of literature.' (Introduction)

(p. 11-12)
Nullabri, James Ley , single work essay review

'The Choke is full of holes. I mean that literally, which is also to say (since we are talking about a novel) symbolically. It contains any number of insinuating references to wounds, ditches, gaps, and voids. The primary implication of these can be grasped if one recalls that ‘nothing’ was Elizabethan slang for female genitalia. Sofie Laguna’s narrator, a ten-year-old girl named Justine Lee, who has a nervous habit of thrusting her tongue in and out of the gap created by her missing teeth, is constantly being reminded that she has ‘no thing’. In the masculine world of knives and guns she inhabits, the secondary status this lack bestows upon her is reinforced in all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, often with an element of innuendo and menace. On the very first page, one of her two older brothers threatens to shoot her with his slingshot in the ‘hole’ of her gummy mouth if she smiles. Shortly after a scene in which she is attacked by an aggressive rooster named Cockyboy, which slashes her face, the idea that her femaleness is not simply a deficiency but a form of mutilation is made explicit when Jamie, the teenaged scion of the rival Worrley family, attacks her on the way to school, having first taunted her by grabbing at her skirt and calling out ‘show us your scar’.' (Introduction)

(p. 12-13)
Ventriloquism, Susan Midalia , single work essay review

'Barbara Kingsolver, praising the skill required to write a memorable short story, described the form as entailing ‘the successful execution of large truths delivered in tight spaces’. Her description certainly applies to Jennifer Down’s wonderful début collection, Pulse Points. Using the typical strategies of suggestion, ambiguity, and inconclusiveness of those ‘tight spaces’, Down’s fourteen realist stories raise important questions about family, sexual relationships, and the role of place and social aspiration in the shaping of identity. While these are familiar subjects for literary fiction, Pulse Points is especially memorable for its range of characters and voices, and for its often haunting expression of the partial nature of knowledge generated by the short story form.' (Introduction)

(p. 13-14)
Connections, Fiona Wright , single work essay review

'The characters who populate Tony Birch’s Common People are striking not so much because they are the ordinary people, the commonplace or everyday people that the title would suggest – they are, mostly, people living in or with extremity and trauma – but because the thing that unites them in these stories are discoveries of small moments of common humanity. Some of these are exchanges, or gifts – a packet of cigarettes, a bowl of spaghetti, a kiss – others encounters with beauty or sublimity: a glass mural ceiling in an art gallery, a strain of music, a baby, a star.' (Introduction)

(p. 14-15)
Emily and Tom, Patrick Allington , single work essay review

'In his fiction, Steven Carroll stretches and slows time. He combines this with deliberate over-explaining and repetition, the echoing of memories and ideas, coincidence, and theatricality. A distinctive rhythm results: when reading his work, I often find myself nodding in time to the words. Occasionally – and it happens now and again in his new novel, A New England Affair – the prose starts to resemble a pizza with too many toppings. Mostly, though, Carroll’s approach to fiction succeeds even when it seemingly shouldn’t. If it’s a mystery – a minor miracle, even – that the various techniques he employs come together to create stylised and yet fresh prose, then that mystery itself becomes part of the pleasure of reading a Carroll novel.' (Introduction)

(p. 16-17)
Beyond Songlines, Philip Jones , single work essay

'This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, one of the most influential books about Australia to reach an international audience. It appeared just months after The Fatal Shore (1986) by Robert Hughes, and a year before the first major international exhibition of Aboriginal art, Dreamings, opened in New York City, at the Asia Society. The Songlines was a best-seller internationally and sold well in Australia too; it has been in print continuously since 1987. Chatwin died barely eighteen months after the book’s release. Indeed, the book’s deviations from its own plot in its second half, and its rather fractured recourse to journal entries reflected Chatwin’s sudden intimation of mortality.' (Introduction)

(p. 21-30)
Not Quite the Book He Wanted : Portrait of a Colonising and Ruthless Father, Brian Matthews , single work essay

'When some years ago I read Jim Davidson’s outstanding biography, Lyrebird Rising (1994), I was initially concerned by what seemed to be his potentially distorting fascination with the scene-stealing Louise Hanson-Dyer. But I soon discovered I needn’t have worried. Jim Davidson is not the sort of biographer whose obsession with his subject overcomes proportion. On the contrary, his sense of humour, his alertness to the fallible, the ridiculous, and the noble reinforce rather than compete with his respect for, and absorption in, the recorded life. A style full of elegance, wit, and, when called for, irony, ranging from gentle to corrosive, constantly works sharply against any temptation to be over-impressed. In A Führer for a Father, however, this armoury is strained to its limits.' (Introduction)

(p. 34-35)
'A Missing Fraction' : Loneliness and Disenchantment, Shannon Burns , single work review essay

'Shaun Prescott’s début novel shares obvious conceptual territory with the fiction of Franz Kafka and Gerald Murnane, both of whom are mentioned in its promotional material. As with The Castle (1926) and The Plains (1982), The Town recounts the dreamlike experiences and observations of an enigmatic narrator–protagonist after he arrives in an unnamed town. But unlike Kafka’s surveyor or Murnane’s filmmaker, Prescott’s narrator is a writer who claims to be researching ‘a book about the disappearing towns in the Central West region of New South Wales’. These towns ‘had not deteriorated economically, its residents had not flocked to the closest regional towns in search of work, the buildings had not been dismantled’. Instead, they had ‘simply disappeared’. When this project fails, he decides to write a history of the town he now lives in, in the hope of uncovering its ‘essence’.' (Introduction)

(p. 36-37)
Heart and Hope, Josephine Taylor , single work review essay

'Shortly after her son, Luke, was murdered by his father, Rosie Batty spoke of the non-discriminatory nature of family violence: ‘No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone.’ If Batty’s is an example of the less easily imagined site of domestic violence, Anna Spargo-Ryan’s second novel, The Gulf, presents us with a more conventional alternative: a disadvantaged environment, a mother (Linda) who loses herself in each man she encounters, and her children, Skye and Ben, who pick up the slack. But when Linda meets Jason, a shady bloke in ‘import–export’, and the three move from Adelaide to his home in ‘shithole’ Port Flinders, incipient violence turns overt, erratic mothering becomes neglect, and Skye is forced to protect herself and Ben, and to make decisions that will affect them all.' (Introduction)

(p. 39)
[Review Essay] ; Australia Day, Johanna Leggatt , single work review essay

'The characters in Melanie Cheng’s collection of short stories are all outsiders or misfits in some way. Some feel conspicuously out of place, such as the Lebanese immigrant Maha, in ‘Toy Town’, who is struggling with suburban Australian life, or the Chinese medical student Stanley, who is visiting the family farm of a friend in the titular story. Stanley freezes when he is asked at dinner to nominate his AFL team: he has never watched a game of football in his life. Other characters feel isolated owing to their beliefs or temperament.' (Introduction)

(p. 40)
Fugitives : Brian Castro's Verse Novel, Patrick Holland , single work review essay

'Lucien Gracq, the hero of Brian Castro’s verse novel Blindness and Rage, wishes to be a writer, though he has written only love letters to women, which achieved tragicomic results, or none at all. When Gracq retires from his job as a town planner in Adelaide, it seems he will have the time and freedom to write the epic he has dreamed of, but he is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given fifty-three days to live, enough time, perhaps, to compose something worthwhile. But Gracq must overcome a more fundamental problem: he is terrified of leaving his mark upon the blank page, and on the world.' (Introduction)

(p. 40-41)
Art Detectivei"I lie on the couch", Lucy Dougan , single work poetry (p. 41)
The A-plus Team, Robyn Williams , single work review essay

'What shocks me, as I consider this important new book, is how completely John Bolton has disappeared from the public mind. Just consider, he pioneered extragalactic radio astronomy, built two superb radio telescopes, was worthy of a Nobel Prize, hired or mentored a generation of top scientists – and was played by Sam Neill in the film The Dish (2000). Neill’s character was not called Bolton in the Working Dog movie, but co-producer Jane Kennedy and co-writer and director Rob Sitch ensured that Neill saw plenty of photographs of the Parkes director and knew of his firm but enterprising leadership style.' (Introduction)

(p. 43)
War Stories, Seumas Spark , single work review essay

'First, a quibble. In the first paragraph of his introduction, John Connor writes that few Australians could ‘name a significant figure of the Australian Army’, John Monash and Simpson (and his donkey) aside. I am less sure. A generation after his death, Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop remains a familiar name. Two of the past three governors-general, including the incumbent, served in the highest ranks of the army. The governor of New South Wales is David Hurley, another former general. David Morrison had not long retired as head of the army when he was named 2016 Australian of the Year. Ben Roberts-Smith, Australia’s most highly decorated living soldier, is chairman of the National Australia Day Council. In recent years, Australians have moved closer to Americans in their veneration of all things military, and with this development the nation’s bravest and most senior soldiers spend more time in the public eye. The army does not want for attention in modern Australia.' (Introduction)

(p. 48)
[Review Essay]: The Hope Fault, Sonia Nair , single work review essay

'The minutiae and messiness of family life as it comes together and unravels time and time again are delicately rendered in Tracy Farr’s second novel, The Hope Fault. The unrelenting rain that forms the lugubrious backdrop for much of the novel conjures up the same rich, atmospheric setting of the late Georgia Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog (2016), and suffuses the story with a sense of foreboding.' (Introduction)

(p. 53)
Fragmentation, Joan Fleming , single work review essay

Two recent collections by two very different voices have both been ‘blurbed’ as works of fragmentation. In her début collection, Cassie Lewis is described as speaking for ‘a generation whose ambitions and emotions have become very fractured and fragmented’. Eddie Paterson’s new book is full of redacted texts of digital trash and treasure; it is a blacked-out, cut-up collage of the textual chatter of our ‘post-digital existence’. The lyric voice of The Blue Decodes, however, is less fracture and fragment, and more a compelling portrait of an alert mind in tension with itself. redactor is composed of censored, dismembered, remembered emails, memos, text messages, and webfeeds. While this might qualify as ‘uncreative writing’, in that its conceit is seemingly the inverse of the personal lyric, it, too, is a portrait of the artist reading, absorbing, repelling, mocking, and finding delight in a weird, flat, bewildering multiverse of screens where poems are being written all the time. (Introduction)

(p. 58)
Publisher of the Month with Richard Walsh, single work interview

'What was your pathway to publishing?

'In 1971 I founded the weekly newspaper that became Nation Review. Soon afterwards my proprietor, Gordon Barton, acquired Angus & Robertson and offered me the job of running the publishing company. I jumped at the opportunity.' (Introduction)

(p. 68)
The Kadaitcha Sungi"A black feather", Graham Akhurst , single work poetry

Akhurst reads a poem inspired by Sam Watson's novel The Kadaitcha Sung and explains its genesis and the importance of the book to his own writing.


Online only - sound recording

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Last amended 4 Jun 2018 09:59:55
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