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James Ley James Ley i(A70104 works by)
Born: Established: 1971 Whyalla, Whyalla area, Northern Eyre Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, ;
Gender: Male
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Works By

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1 A Curse on Art, A Curse on Society : Government Contempt for the ABC, The Arts, and the Academy James Ley , 2020 single work column
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , August no. 423 2020; (p. 22-23)
'It is curious the way certain books can insinuate themselves into your consciousness. I am not necessarily talking about favourite books, or formative ones that evoke a particular time and place, but those stray books that seem to have been acquired almost inadvertently (all bibliophiles possess such volumes, I'm sure), and taken up without any particular expectations, books that have something intriguing about them that keeps drawing you back.' (Introduction)
1 Don’t Call Me I’ll Call You, Ishmael James Ley , 2020 single work review
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , July 2020;
Reviews Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs
1 y separately published work icon Unsolicited Smut : A Nation of Prudes and Wowsers James Ley Reviews 'The Trials of Portnoy' by Patrick Mullins James Ley , Southbank : Australian Book Review, Inc. , 2020 19498503 2020 single work review
— Review of The Trials of Portnoy : How Penguin Brought down Australia's Censorship System Patrick Mullins , 2020 single work criticism
'Okay, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with this country. For a start, we have this profoundly stupid and deeply irritating myth that we’re all irreverent freedom-loving larrikins and easygoing egalitarians, when it is painfully obvious that we have long been a nation of prudes and wowsers, that our collective psyche has been warped by what Patrick Mullins describes, with his characteristic lucidity, as ‘a fear of contaminating international influences’, and that we are not just an insular, conservative, and deeply conformist society, but for some unaccountable reason we take pride in our ignorance and parochialism. And let’s not neglect the fact that we are cringingly deferential and enamoured of hierarchy...' (Introduction)
1 Introduction James Ley , 2020 single work essay
— Appears in: Summertime : Scenes from Provincial Life 2020;
1 All Is Vanity : The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan James Ley , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , November 2019;

— Review of The Rich Man's House Andrew McGahan , 2019 single work novel

'Andrew McGahan’s first novel Praise (1992) was one of those books that captured the mood of its time and place. More than any other Australian novel of the early 1990s, it found a way to express the peculiar sense of disaffection and uncertainty inherited by those of us who just happened to come of age at the tail end of two decades of social and economic transformation, at the very moment an exhausted nation slumped into a recession. Its depiction of the seedy urban existence of its narrator Gordon Buchanan was greeted with a fusillade of clichéd adjectives (gritty, unflinching, confronting, and so forth) and hailed as a contribution to a confected genre that an especially witless hack decided to call ‘grunge’ — a literary movement notable for the fact that no one wanted to belong to it, least of all McGahan. But the significant aspect of all the sex and drinking and drug-taking described in the pages of Praise was that they were so ordinary. There was nothing edgy or rebellious or liberating or hedonistic about them; they were simply part of the texture of reality, commonplace activities that lacked even the residual glamour of decadence. They evoked a drab world of foreclosed possibilities, a world in which both the tattered countercultural ethos of the 1960s and the fluorescent crapulence of the 1980s had been exposed as empty promises. The passive cycle of drinking and drugging was presented as a numbing routine, a mundane way to pass the time while surveying a prospectless horizon. Sex was depicted with an emphasis on its unerotic complications: premature ejaculation, venereal disease, unwanted pregnancy, mismatched desires, a general sense of awkwardness and embarrassment.' (Introduction)

1 The Boy Pulled through at Last James Ley , 2019 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 9 March 2019; (p. 20)

— Review of A Season on Earth Gerald Murnane , 2019 single work novel

'Gerald Murnane’s old/new novel puts him in the company of James Joyce, writes James Ley'  (Introduction)

1 An Attenuated Life : Stripping a Quasi-religious Tale Back to Its Essence James Ley , 2019 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , October no. 415 2019; (p. 42-43)

'It is commonly accepted that the modern European novel begins with Don Quixote. Lionel Trilling went so far as to claim that the entire history of the modern novel could be interpreted as variations on themes set out in Cervantes’s great originating work. And the quality that is usually taken to mark Don Quixote as ‘modern’ is its irony. It is a fiction about fiction. The new sensibility it inaugurated begins in a spirit of mockery, ridiculing the obsolete genre of chivalric romance, insisting on the disconnection between reality and fantasy. As a character observes in The Childhood of Jesus (2013), the first novel in J.M. Coetzee’s trilogy about a precocious orphan named David and his accidental guardian, Simón, the innovation of Don Quixote is to view the world through two sets of eyes: where Quixote sees giants, his loyal sidekick, Sancho Panza, sees only windmills.' (Introduction)

1 The Drug of Otherness : The Returns by Philip Salom James Ley , 2019 single work essay
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , July 2019;

'Philip Salom’s fourth novel The Returns is the story of two middle-aged characters: Elizabeth and Trevor. Elizabeth is an editor whose in-house career stalled when she had the temerity to suggest a manuscript by a famous author might require substantial revision. Now she muddles along as a freelancer. Trevor was an aspiring artist, but has come to spend most of his time idling behind the counter of his sleepy North Melbourne bookshop. They meet one day when Elizabeth nearly faints out the front of Trevor’s shop and he comes to her aid. She subsequently asks him to place a notice in his window advertising the spare room she is hoping to rent out. Trevor’s marriage is ending — not acrimoniously, things just seem to have run their course — so he applies to become Elizabeth’s lodger, lured by the opportunity this affords to convert the disused shed in her backyard into a studio and rekindle his artistic practice.'  (Introduction)

1 Father Man James Ley , 2019 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , March no. 409 2019; (p. 25)

'The term ‘exploded view’ refers to an image in a technical manual that shows all the individual parts of a machine, separates them out, but arranges them on the page so that you can see how they fit together. As the title of Carrie Tiffany’s new novel, it can be interpreted as a definitive metaphor and perhaps, in a somewhat looser sense, an analogy for her evocative technique. Various things happen over the course of Exploded View, some of them dramatic, but the novel has little in the way of a conventional plot. Its characters exist in relation to one another, but they barely interact. There is almost no dialogue. It is the kind of novel in which the psychological and emotional unease is displaced or buried beneath the matter-of-fact narration.' (Introduction)

1 I’m with Stupid : The Lebs by Michael Mohammed Ahmad James Ley , 2018 single work essay
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , May 2018;

'In November 2016, Michael Mohammed Ahmad published an essay in the Sydney Review of Books titled ‘Lebs and Punchbowl Prison’. The ‘prison’ in question was his alma mater, Punchbowl Boys High School, and the essay was a reflection on his time as a student there in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At the time, the school was not exactly regarded as a hub of academic excellence, a perception that Ahmad does nothing to dispel. His recollections are a litany of educational dysfunction and outrageous misbehaviour, ranging from adolescent hijinks to acts of violence.' (Introduction)

1 Introduction James Ley , Catriona Menzies-Pike , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Australian Face : Essays from the Sydney Review of Books 2017; (p. 1-2)

'Sydney Review of Books was established in January 2013 with the aim of creating an online forum where Australia's critics could write at length about literature and cultural issues. The journal is now into its fifth year of existence, during which time it has published more than five hundred essays on Australian and international literature and culture. These essays have been widely circulated and discussed; several have been anthologised or translated; some of them have been controversial. But this is the first collection of Sydney Review of Books essays to appear in book form, and we offer it as a small but representative sample of the essays we have been proud to publish over the past five years.'  (Introduction)

1 Fictive Selves: The Life to Come James Ley , 2017 single work review
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , December 2017;

— Review of The Life to Come Michelle De Kretser , 2017 single work novel

'Near the end of Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come, an elderly woman named Christabel throws two novels she has been reading into the bin. One of them is by a writer named George Meshaw, whose work ‘concerned itself with the brutal and inadequate mechanism of the world. As if that were any kind of news!’ The other is by Pippa Reynolds, a contemporary version of the ‘silly lady novelist’ who once attracted the withering disapproval of George Eliot.' (Introduction)

1 Face-off James Ley , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , November no. 396 2017; (p. 27-29)

— Review of First Person Richard Flanagan , 2017 single work novel

'The literature of the modern era contains any number of stories about doppelgängers, divided selves, alter egos, obsessive relationships, and corrosive forms of mutual dependence. The enduring appeal of these doubling motifs is that they give a dramatic structure to abstract moral and psychological conflicts, but they can also be used to suggest that there is something unresolvable or false about our identities. The awareness that the selves we present to others are a kind of projection or performance introduces an element of uncertainty into our social interactions. It opens up the possibilities of self-invention and manipulation and deceit; it raises the question of whether or not we can ever truly claim to know another human being. As an unreliable character points out near the end of Richard Flanagan’s First Person, the word ‘person’ is derived from the Latin persona, meaning a mask.' (Introduction)

1 1 y separately published work icon The Australian Face : Essays from the Sydney Review of Books James Ley (editor), Catriona Menzies-Pike (editor), Artarmon : Sydney Review of Books Giramondo Publishing , 2017 12141177 2017 anthology essay

'The Sydney Review of Books is Australia’s leading space for longform literary criticism. Now celebrating five years online, the SRB has published more than five hundred essays by almost two hundred writers. To mark this occasion, The Australian Face collects some of the best essays published in the SRB on Australian fiction, poetry and non-fiction. The essays in this anthology are contributions to the ongoing argument about the condition and purpose and evolving shape of Australian literature. They reflect the ways in which discussions about the state of the literary culture are constantly reaching beyond themselves to consider wider cultural and political issues.

'The Sydney Review of Books was established in 2013 out of frustration at the diminishing public space for Australian criticism on literature. There’s even less space for literature in our newspapers and broadcast media now. The Sydney Review of Books, however, is thriving, as the essays in The Australian Face show. Here, you’ll read essays on well-known figures such as Christos Tsiolkas, Alexis Wright, Michelle de Kretser and Helen Garner, alongside considerations of the work of writers who less frequently receive mainstream attention, such as Lesbia Harford and Moya Costello.' (Publication summary)

1 Nullabri James Ley , 2017 single work essay review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , September no. 394 2017; (p. 12-13)

'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)

1 The Fighter Review : Arnold Zable Goes the Distance with a Carlton Character James Ley , 2016 single work review
— Appears in: Brisbane Times , 22 July 2016;

— Review of The Fighter : A True Story Arnold Zable , 2016 single work biography
'In his eighth book, The Fighter, Arnold Zable returns to the mid-century Carlton he celebrated in Scraps of Heaven (2004), a nostalgic novel that depicted a time well before the suburb was sterilised by gentrification, a time when it was still a knockabout working-class enclave and home to a first wave of postwar European immigrants. ...'
1 Novelist of the Sorrowful Countenance James Ley , 2016 single work review
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , October 2016;

— Review of The Schooldays of Jesus J. M. Coetzee , 2016 single work single work novel
1 Complicated Detours Ahead of the Final Exit James Ley , 2016 single work review
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 17-18 September 2016; (p. 20)

— Review of The Easy Way Out Steven Amsterdam , 2016 single work novel
1 Thinking and Evolution : Self-Awareness in J.M. Coetzee's Fiction James Ley , 2015 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , September no. 374 2015; (p. 20-21)

— Review of J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing : Face to Face with Time David Attwell , 2015 single work criticism
1 Frequent Coarse Language James Ley , 2015 single work review
— Appears in: Sydney Review of Books , September 2015;

— Review of Merciless Gods Christos Tsiolkas , 2014 selected work short story ; Christos Tsiolkas and the Fiction of Critique : Politics, Obscenity, Celebrity Andrew McCann , 2015 selected work criticism