No 250 - April 2003

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Peter Bishops' La Trobe Essay: The Language of a Private World
John Monfires on Patrick Weller's Don't Tell the Prime Minister
John Connor on Frontier Conflict
Two poems from Clive James
Ceridwen Spark reviews June Dally-Watkins' The Secrets Behind My Smile, Susan Mitchell's Kerryn and Jackie and Robert Wainwright's Rose
John Martinkus reviews Paul McGeough's Manhattan to Baghdad
Warwick Hadfield reviews John Gascoigne (ed.): Over and Out and Gideon Haigh's The Vincibles


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 38
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    Tendering the Cup. "Collected Poems 1943-1995" by Gwen Harwood. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Steele, Peter
    W.H. Auden, following Samuel Butler, thought that 'the true test of imagination is the ability to name a cat', and plenty of people, poets and others have believed this: to recast a dictum of Christ's, if you can't be trusted with the cats, why should we trust you with the tigers? Gwen Harwood could be trusted with the cats, and with yet more domestic things.
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    No Time to Waste. "Poems for America" by David Rowbotham. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Duwell, Martin
    David Rowbotham is a Queensland poet whose first book was published nearly fifty years ago. His career has a shape that is often found in the arts: a quiet figure whose work is politely rather than rhapsodically received, and whose reputation grows almost by a process of attrition until, eventually, he is one of the few of his contemporaries left standing. It often comes about that a consistent, undemonstrative style, adhered to religiously, itself becomes an important statement, to be rediscovered by a new generation of contemporaries. But this is not quite what has happened in Rowbotham's case, because his books have changed continuously. He began writing as a young man, returned from the war, discovering for the first time the place in which he had grown up: "Ploughman and Poet" (1954) may be "Bulletin" in style, but it is a complex book, and the central oppositions between city and Darling Downs, between manual labour and poetry, remain compelling. Rowbotham's poems have always been more complex than his reputation suggests. It would be a tragedy if readers allowed themselves to be repelled rather than challenged by the difficulties of the poems in this important book.
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    Being There. "Mangroves" by Laurie Duggan. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Dennis, Oliver
    Poems are like mangroves. They lodge and grow in the mind, becoming part of us, just as these plants take root in estuarine silt. Even on the page, there is sometimes a resemblance. As its title suggests, Laurie Duggan’s first volume since "New and Selected Poems" (1996) is substantially a product of his recent move to Brisbane, containing a large section of poems coloured by references to the city’s subtropical conditions. However, "Mangroves" also brings together varied material that dates from 1988 to 1994, some of which - notably the 'Blue Hills' sequences - has been published elsewhere.
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    Coda. [poem]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) McKenzie, Geraldine
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    Archangels of Evolution. "All This Is So: A Future History" by John F. Roe. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Trigg, Stephanie
    Much science and fantasy fiction is written in a predominantly realist mode. This is the most economical means of signifying the internal truth of its fictional worlds, no matter how strange its aliens, or how superhuman the powers of its heroes. A related convention of fantasy writing is to withhold the full explanation of the fantasy itself, or the nature of the imagined world, so that the reader must try and puzzle out the underlying system. John F. Roe’s fantasy novel "All This Is So" exploits both these conventions, the first more successfully than the second. It is a leisurely, even sprawling narrative, set in a post-industrial, post-technological and post-electronic world (its subtitle is "A Future History") inhabited by a number of different humanoid races.
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    Look, No Snipers. "Mahjar" by Eva Sallis. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) On, Thuy
    The word 'Mahjar', Eva Sallis informs us, 'refers collectively to all the lands of Arab, most often Lebanese, migration'. Her third book of fiction is a slight volume composed of fifteen stories, divided into three sections. In deceptively simple prose and syntax, Sallis surveys the gamut of experiences affecting the displaced migrant. As in her previous novels, "Hiam" and "The City of Sealions", a beguiling mixture of fantasy, fact and fable make up the fabric of the book. With a PhD in comparative literature (Arabic and English), Sallis is well placed to oscillate between two cultures, and 'Mahjar" is a perfect vehicle to showcase cross-cultural interactions.
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    Pastiche, Not a Homage. "The Lamplighter" by Anthony O'Neill. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Caterson, Simon
    "The Lamplighter" certainly has the look and feel of a nineteenth-century novel, but could it really be read as one? In preparing this review, I reread "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" (1886). What strikes the reader almost immediately is the lack of incidental detail and background explanation compared with O'Neill's painstaking re-creation of the same time and place. The modern reader might take for granted the once novel idea of divided consciousness and the corrosive effects of drugs that Stevenson's original readers found so new and exciting.
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    Getting to the Point. "The Point" by Marion Halligan. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Tetaz, Carolyn
    Marion Halligan's latest novel should be a success. It is a continuation and concentration of themes, characters and settings that have consistently engaged her in a considerable body of work. "The Point" is full of Halligan favourites: food, art, love, literature, hubris, Canberra, Séverac and the Spensers. It is a novel with currency, exploring the IT industry, the business of food and the perceived distance between those with and those without. Halligan has a reputation as an intense and original writer, but "The Point" is a disappointing novel.
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    Frantic Swans. "Swan Bay" by Rod Jones. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Williams, Michael
    Reading "Swan Bay", one is quickly struck by a sense of the familiar. A damaged, misanthropic man meets a damaged, unbalanced woman. He attempts to penetrate her almost mystical reserve and, in the book’s central flashback sequence, she recounts the past that has almost destroyed her. Back in the present, the truth of her account seems uncertain. The two achieve some sort of equilibrium. This narrative outline could equally be applied to almost any of the novels of Rod Jones. The leitmotifs and narrative echoes throughout Jones's oeuvre are, however, incidental: he is much more than a one-trick pony. Each of his novels is wonderfully written; each explores, with an unflinching eye, key themes of sex and death, life and loss, power and abuse. Jones should be counted amongst Australia's most interesting and talented novelists.
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    The Language of a Private World. [essay]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Bishop, Peter
    This essay explores the nature of artistic achievement and the individual personalities of great artists throughout history, as well as the long life of great works of art.
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    A Dark Quilt. "The Thirteenth Night: A Mother's Story of the Life and Death of her Son" by Jan McNess and "Something More Wonderful: A True Story by Sonia Orchard" by Sonia Orchard. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Hooton, Joy
    On the night of 13 September 1993, flight lieutenants Jeremy McNess and Mark Cairns-Cowan were killed when their F-111 crashed at Guyra, in northern NSW. Written by Jeremy’s mother, "The Thirteenth Night" dwells on the complex fatality of that night, which permanently changed several life stories in an instant. For his mother, who had coped with his exceptionally difficult childhood, winning through in his early teens to a remarkably close relationship, Jeremy's death was and remains a dark frontier. Beyond lay a strange and cold country. If Jan McNess found little real support or consolation in a culture that attempts to repress death and grief, lamenting that she was unable to paint her face black to show her deep sorrow, Sonia Orchard has surmounted these cultural barriers. "Something More Wonderful" is the story of her experience as witness to the suffering and death of her greatest friend, Emma Burdekin.
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    Sounding-Boards of the Heart. "Wings of the Kite-Hawk: A Journey Into the Heart of Australia" by Nicholas Rothwell. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) McGirr, Michael
    Nicolas Rothwell's "Wings of the Kite-Hawk" is firmly in a tradition of explorer narratives with no real closure or discovery. The book retraces the steps of explorers such asLeichhardt, Sturt and Giles, and investigates what they were able to make, simultaneously, of both themselves and their new environment. It also follows both Carl and Theodor Strehlow, father and son, whose frontier was the point at which Aboriginal and European thought met; it was a frontier created by language and image. Alighting in particular on the figures of Leichhardt, Sturt and Giles, Rothwell is investing in that later group of nineteenth-century explorers who, to borrow a phrase from "Fawlty Towers", provide psychology with enough material for an entire convention. The earlier group, which included Hume, Hovell, Oxley and Mitchell, also had their complexities. But there is something reassuring about the fact that these men were ambitious and greedy. They were after land - useful land. Most people can relate to that.
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    Dredging It Up. "The Secrets Behind My Smile" by June Dally-Watkins, "Kerryn and Jackie: The Shared Life of Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker" by Susan Mitchell and "Rose: The Unauthorised Biography of Rose Hancock Porteous" by Robert Wainwright. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Spark, Ceridwen
    According to Andrew O'Hagan, writing in a recent "London Review of Books": 'If you want to be somebody nowadays, you'd better start by getting in touch with your inner nobody, because nobody likes a somebody who can't prove they've been nobody all along.' The journey from Nobody-hood to Somebody-hood is central to June Dally-Watkins's recent autobiography. Indeed, O'Hagan's pithy insight could almost have been the Sydney socialite and queen of etiquette's mantra. As a GP, television doctor, "Women's Weekly" columnist and head of the Australian Medical Association, Kerryn Phelps has attracted considerable attention for her lesbian relationship with Jackie Stricker. When the couple were portrayed on "Australian Story" alongside Kerryn’s children, Jaime and Carl, they seemed to be a gay version of the Brady Bunch. Mitchell, however, exposes this image of happy functionality as a media myth. In contrast to Kerryn and Jackie, Rose Hancock Porteous is never portrayed as representative. Indeed, her 'celebrity' status depends precisely on the fact that she is not so. If Dally-Watkins and Kerryn and Jackie are supposed to represent us all, Hancock Porteous serves as a potent media symbol of all that we are not meant to be or become.
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    The Oily Ratbag and the Recycled Waratah: Early Years of "ABR". [essay]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Goldsworthy, Kerryn
    This is issue no. 250, and the twenty-fifth consecutive year, of "Australian Book Review". Issue No. 1 appeared in 1978, edited by John McLaren and published by the National Book Council. Since then the journal has survived and thrived, through changes of editor (though not very often) and of editorial policy (though not very much); through changes of appearance, ownership, sponsorship and affiliation.
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    Where the Sea Meets the Desert. [poem]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) James, Clive
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    In Town for the March. [poem]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) James, Clive
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    Bestsellers / Subsciption.
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04)
    This issue includes the March 2003 Bestsellers and the subscription information from this issue.
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    Yugam Bungoo. "Rain May and Captain Daniel" by Catherine Bateson and "Too Flash" by Melissa Lucashenko. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Starke, Ruth Elaine
    In the list of life's most stressful events, family break-ups and moving home are way up there in the top ten, and one often follows the other, compounding the trauma. This is the situation for eleven-year-old Rain in Catherine Bateson's "Rain May and Captain Daniel", when her mother, Maggie, sells their inner-city house in the aftermath of divorce. Far from wanting to escape executive stress, Anna, the single mother in Melissa Lucashenko's "Too Flash", welcomes new responsibilities as she climbs the bureaucratic ladder.
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    Flying to Maturity. "Baby Bear Goes to the Park" by Lorette Broekstra, "Pigs Don't Fly!" by Jackie French, illus. Matt Cosgrove, "Jump, Baby!" by Penny Matthews, illus. Dominique Falla and "The Dragon Machine" by Helen Ward, illus. Wayne Anderson. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Lowe, Virginia
    Pigs don't fly, but dragons and kites do, and possums can jump, which is perhaps just as scary if you're a little one. These four picture books deal with flight, their authors and illustrators using more or less imaginary elements in the process.
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    Have We Got Enough? "Over and Out: Cricket Umpires and Their Stories" by John Gascoigne (ed) and "The Vincibles: A Suburban Cricket Season" by Gideon Haigh. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-04) Hadfield, Warwick
    When you bump into people who know Gideon Haigh - and that happens a lot in Geelong - they will tell you about his encyclopedic knowledge of cricket, his dedication to detail and his casualness with money. He also has a delicious ability to turn the mundane into the magnificent. For this is exactly what "The Vincibles" is to we weekend warriors - a magnificent vindication of our very existence. A book on umpiring seems to defeat the whole purpose of umpires. If they are doing their jobs proficiently, they should not be noticed. But they are people with egos and ambitions, too, and more than a few go out of their way to be noticed. In the end, Gascoigne has managed a bit of a Haigh: taking something that might seem pretty ordinary and making it a good read, one of those books you can jump into almost anywhere and find something to keep your interest until the train or tram gets you to where you're going - probably to watch the Yarras play.
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