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Issue Details: First known date: 2020... no. 427 December 2020 of Australian Book Review est. 1961 Australian Book Review
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'Welcome to our last issue for 2020. What a turbulent year it’s been – but also a rousing one for ABR, as the Editor reports in Advances. Highlights of the issue include our perennial favourite, Books of the Year: 33 ABR critics nominate some of their favourite books. The list forms a testament to the resilience of great writing even during a pandemic. Meanwhile, Morag Fraser, reviewing two new edited volumes, imagines what Australia might look like after Covid-19. Nicholas Jose reviews the second volume of Helen Garner’s inimitable diaries, and Frank Bongiorno reviews the new collection of writings from Don Watson. Anna MacDonald finds much to admire in Josephine Rowe’s short tribute to the late Beverley Farmer, and Brenda Niall relishes the task of revisiting the short stories of one of Australia’s greatest writers, Shirley Hazzard. Paul Giles – our Critic of the Month – writes about William Faulkner.'(Publication summary)


* Contents derived from the 2020 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Books of the : Year A Look Back at Some of the Year's Finest Works, Sarah Holland-Batt , single work review
The Art of Looking : A Rich Appreciation of Beverley Farmer, Anna MacDonald , single work review
— Review of Josephine Rowe on Beverley Farmer Josephine Rowe , 2020 single work essay ;

'In her essay On Beverley Farmer, Josephine Rowe recounts a 2013 visit to Melbourne’s Heide Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’s Late Works. Among the drawings and sculptures on display was The Waiting Hours, described by Rowe as ‘a series of twelve small oceanscapes’ each of which shifts fluidly, a ‘darkening whorl around the small white axis of a singular source of light shrunk to a pinhole … at once a pivot point and a vanishing point’. The effect on Rowe of this encounter was ‘one of powerful undercurrent. I felt not much and then, abruptly, disconsolate. Swept out of depth. A plunge, a plummet: the inrush towards that oceanic sense of recognition experienced most commonly in dreams, but sometimes spilling over into waking life – encounters in art and music, in nature or, more rarely, in meeting (as though hello, again).’' (Introduction)

The Calling to Write : The Latest Volume of Helen Garner's Diaries, Nicholas Jose , single work review
— Review of One Day I'll Remember This : Diaries 1987-1995 Helen Garner , 2020 single work diary ;

'‘Unerring muse that makes the casual perfect’: Robert Lowell’s compliment to his friend Elizabeth Bishop comes to mind as I read Helen Garner. She is another artist who reveres the casual for its power to disrupt and illuminate. Nothing is ever really casual for her, but rather becomes part of a perfection that she resists at the same time. The ordinary in these diaries – the daily, the diurnal, the stumbled-upon, the breathing in and out – is turned into something else through the writer’s extraordinary craft.' (Introduction)

Blankety-Blank : The Art of the Euphemism, Amanda Laugesen , single work column
'Disguising the words we dare not print has a long and fascinating history. From the late eighteenth century in particular, it became common in printed works to disguise words such as profanities and curses – from the use of typographical substitutes such as asterisks to the replacement of a swear word with a euphemism. When I was researching my recent book, Rooted, on the history of bad language in Australia, I was struck by the creative ways in which writers, editors, and typesetters, especially through the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, sought to evade censors and allude to profanity.' (Introduction)
The Insider : Observations from Don Watson, Frank Bongiorno , single work review
— Review of Watsonia: A Writing Life Don Watson , 2020 collected work essay ;

'In the frantic days after the recent US presidential election, Donald Trump’s team – led by his attorney Rudy Giuliani – held a media conference in a suburban Philadelphia carpark. The establishment that formed the backdrop to this unusual performance is called Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Neighbouring businesses included a crematorium and an adult entertainment store (soon translated on social media into a ‘dildo shop’). At the time of writing, the explanation for how this had happened is still not forthcoming, but most commentators assumed a mix-up with one of the city’s major hotels, also called Four Seasons.' (Introduction)

‘Love Is the Subject’ : A Welcome New Edition of Martin Johnston, John Hawke , single work review
— Review of Beautiful Objects Martin Johnston , 2020 selected work poetry ;

'There has as yet been no comprehensive critical study of the poets associated with the ‘Generation of ’68’, of whom Martin Johnston was perhaps the most naturally gifted and certainly the most intellectually expansive representative. This is because the project of these poets, to fully incorporate the stylistic innovations of modernist poetics and its development in postwar American models within local practice, is still ongoing. If we examine only those poets gathered in the 1979 New Australian Poetry anthology – in which Johnston’s lengthy experiment in parataxis, ‘The Blood Aquarium’, appears as a signature work – we find major authors even today in the process of developing their practice.' (Introduction)

Grace and Burdens : Robert Adamson’s Elegant New Selected Poems, James Jiang , single work review
— Review of Reaching Light : Selected Poems Robert Adamson , 2020 selected work poetry ;

'Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Robert Adamson is the fact that he is still alive. One of the ‘Generation of  ’68’ and an instrumental figure in the New Australian Poetry (as announced by John Tranter’s 1979 anthology), Adamson has continued to write and adapt while also bearing witness to the premature deaths of many of that visionary company. As Adamson’s friend and fellow poet Michael Dransfield (1948–73) once put it, ‘to be a poet in Australia / is the ultimate commitment’ and ‘the ultimate commitment / is survival’. The poems in this volume attest to the grace and burden of being one of Australian poetry’s great survivors – of the countercultural mythology of the ‘drug-poet’, alcoholism, and the brutalities of the prison system (recounted firsthand in his 2004 memoir, Inside Out). ‘The show’s to escape / death’, Adamson observes of the Jesus bird (sometimes called a lilytrotter), a lithe performer and canny survivalist that affords this most ornithologically minded of authors a telling self-image.'  (Introduction)

The Elephant in the Room : Prose Poetry Finds an Audience, Desmond Cowley , single work review
— Review of The Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry 2020 anthology poetry prose ;

'What is it about English language poetry that has proved so resistant to the lure of the prose poem? The French, it appears, held no such qualms, finding themselves besotted with the form ever since Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire began dispensing with line breaks and stanzas. Of course, the very existence of English-language works like Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons (1914) or William Carlos Williams’s Kora in Hell (1920) could be used to argue otherwise, but such endeavours were considered too eccentric at the time to impart a lasting legacy. Perhaps if T.S. Eliot, whose antipathy towards the prose poem is well known, had given us a major cycle along the lines of Saint-John Perse’s Anabasis (1924), a work he admired and translated, things might have turned out differently.' (Introduction)

Numinous Wellings : Three New Poetry Volumes, Anders Villani , single work review
— Review of Cadaver Dog Luke Best , 2020 single work novel ; Thorn Todd Turner , 2020 selected work poetry ; Some Sketchy Notes on Matter Angela Gardner , 2020 selected work poetry ;

'In 1795, Friedrich Schiller wrote: ‘So long as we were mere children of nature, we were both happy and perfect; we have become free, and have lost both.’ For Schiller, it was the poet’s task to ‘lead mankind … onward’ to a reunification with nature, and thereby with the self. Central to Romantic thought, reimaginings like Schiller’s of Christian allegory, in which (European) humans’ division from a utopian natural world suggests the biblical fall, strike a chord in our own time of unfolding environmental catastrophe. Against such an unfolding, three new Australian books of poetry explore the contemporary relationship of subject to place.' (Introduction)

Echoes : The Untold Story of Mary Li, Jacqueline Kent , single work review
— Review of Mary's Last Dance Mary Li , 2020 single work autobiography ;

'The cover of this book tells you pretty much what to expect. It shows the dancer Li Cunxin, evidently at rehearsal, facing the camera while over his shoulder peeps his wife, Mary. Add the subtitle, that this is the ‘untold story’ of Li Cunxin’s wife, with a foreword by the man himself, and it’s clear that this book might not have seen the light of day without the phenomenal success of Mao’s Last Dancer, published in 2003 and later made into a well-received film (Bruce Beresford, 2009). Even the title has echoes of its predecessor.' (Introduction)

Interest Piqued : Jeanne Barret, an Obscure Circumnavigator, Gemma Betros , single work review
— Review of In Search of the Woman Who Sailed the World Danielle Clode , 2020 single work biography ;

'One of the frustrating things about being a historian is the number of times you are told by others that surely everything in your specialty must already have been ‘done’. After so many decades or centuries, what more could there possibly be to discover? One of the answers is that what interests scholars, and what topics are considered worthy of examination, changes over time. This explains how ‘new’ material – often sitting in the archives for centuries – comes to light. It also explains why women have not always made the cut, a problem compounded, as recent Twitter discussions have highlighted, by how often research about women by female scholars still goes unpublished.' (Introduction)

‘Portholes in Ya Coffin’ : A Coming-of-age Chronicle by Geoff Goodfellow, Jay Daniel Thompson , single work review
— Review of Out of Copley Street : A Working-Class Boyhood Geoff Goodfellow , 2020 single work autobiography ;

'Geoff Goodfellow is best known as a poet. Out of Copley Street, his first non-verse publication, chronicles his working-class coming of age in Adelaide’s inner-northern suburbs during the 1950s and 1960s.' (Introduction)

A Passion for Words and Truth : The Short Fiction of Shirley Hazzard, Brenda Niall , single work review
— Review of The Collected Stories of Shirley Hazzard Shirley Hazzard , 2020 selected work short story ;

'When Shirley Hazzard was invited to give the 1984 Boyer Lectures, it was an astonishing break in tradition. Her twenty-three predecessors included only one woman, Dame Roma Mitchell, a supreme court justice who was later governor of South Australia. Except for architect and writer Robin Boyd, and poet and Bulletin editor Douglas Stewart, Hazzard was the only creative artist on the list. All her predecessors were well known for their public contributions to Australian life.' (Introduction)

Transformations : Meg Keneally’s Second Solo Novel, Pip Smith , single work review
— Review of The Wreck Meg Keneally , 2020 single work novel ;

'In 1819, sixty thousand people gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to protest for parliamentary reform. Industrialisation had transformed a city of skilled tradespeople into factory workers, tariffs on imported grain kept food prices high, and few were eligible to vote. Although the protest was peaceful, local magistrates sent in the Yeomen and the Hussars who killed approximately eleven people and injured more than four hundred.' (Introduction)

Other Dimensions : Bodies and Time in Philip Salom’s Fifth Novel, Kerryn Goldsworthy , single work review
— Review of The Fifth Season Philip Salom , 2020 single work novel ;

'In Western culture’s calendar year, is there some hidden fifth season, and if there is, what is it? The main character of Philip Salom’s fifth novel, a writer called Jack, asks himself near the end of the book whether the fifth season might be ‘Time, which holds the seasons together’, or perhaps the fifth season is simply ‘the Unknown’. Jack is preoccupied with the lost: with those people whose bodies are found but never identified, or those who, suffering amnesia, can’t be identified, but who need ‘to find their proper location in the story. In the seasons. A lost person must be allowed other dimensions.’' (Introduction)

Martha’s Voice : Meg Mason’s New Novel, Alexandra Philp , single work review
— Review of Sorrow and Bliss Meg Mason , 2020 single work novel ;

'For a protagonist that is self-professedly unlikeable, Martha commands attention – and is likeable. In Meg Mason’s tragicomedy Sorrow and Bliss, Martha navigates living with an undiagnosed mental illness. The novel solidifies Mason’s thematic preoccupations by revisiting those of her previous works: as in her memoir Say It Again in a Nice Voice (2012) and her first novel, You Be Mother (2017), the power of female relationships, loneliness, and the bleak humour of motherhood are apparent.' (Introduction)

A Nowhere Space : Kate Mildenhall’s Urgent New Dystopian Novel, Amy Baillieu , single work review
— Review of The Mother Fault Kate Mildenhall , 2020 single work novel ;

'Kate Mildenhall’s confronting new novel, The Mother Fault, is set in an alarming near-future Australia. Climate change has left refugees ‘marking trails like new currents on the maps as they swarm to higher, cooler ground’. Sea levels have risen, species have died out, farmlands have been contaminated, and meat is a luxury. Unprecedented bushfires occur regularly; technology and surveillance are ubiquitous, with bulbous cameras hanging ‘like oddly uniform fruit bats from the streetlights’. The media is controlled, and Australian citizens are microchipped and monitored by a totalitarian government known as ‘the Department’. The ‘Dob in Disunity’ app offers ‘gamified’ rewards to informants (‘Even kids could join in the fun!’), while troublemakers can be relocated to ‘BestLife’ housing estates where the reality is far from the Instagram hashtag. Reflecting on the events that led to this, protagonist Mim notes that the world ‘shifted slowly, then so fast, while they watched but didn’t see. They weren’t stupid. Or even oppressed in the beginning.’' (Introduction)

The Slaughteri"We bent the camels’ legs back at the knees", Judith Beveridge , single work poetry
Simaethai"Where are my bay leaves and charms, my bowl with crimson flowers", Gig Ryan , single work poetry
Open Page : An Interview with Danielle Clode, single work interview

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Last amended 1 Dec 2020 11:50:15
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