No 259 - March, 2004

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Dianne Dempsey reviews Elizabeth Stead's The Different World of Fin Starling;
Sara Hardy reviews Edna Walling's A Gardener's Log;
Christopher Menz reviews India, China, Australia: Trade and Society 1788-1850;
Sebastian Smee reviews Irena Zdanowicz and Stephen Coppel's Fred Williams;

Neil Blewett reviews Robert Manne's (ed.) The Howard Years;
Jill Jolliffe reviews James Dunn's East Timor

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    The Quiet Guy. "The Book of my Enemy: Collected Verse 1958-2003" by Clive James. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Goldsworthy, Peter
    Clive James has been writing poetry for some time. The rich centre of this book is these recent poems, and the songs, which fit so much into few words and which show us that James, despite all the other hats he has worn and brightly coloured balls he has juggled, has always been, in his own words, ‘the incurable poet, the lifer’.
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    Private Murcutt. "Glenn Murcutt: Buildings + Projects 1962-2003" by Françoise Fromonot (trans Charlotte Ellis). [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Reed, Dimity
    "Buildings + Projects 1962–2003" is an updated version of the author’s "Glenn Murcutt: Works & Projects" (1995). It adds ten new buildings and projects to the twenty-three selected for the first book. And it is a beautiful production: the typeface is clear and the photography remarkable. Each page is a delight. The text relates exactly to the photographs and drawings, so there is no confusion about the relationship of description to illustration. While these may seem to be essential components, and not worthy of comment, that is far from the case with books on architecture. Confusion often reigns, to the detriment of clarity. It is extraordinary that the book designer wasn’t credited, nor any of the photographers.
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    Sweet Profusion: The National Gallery of Victoria Renewed. [essay]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Thomas, Daniel
    This month's La Trobe University Essay discusses the newly reopened National Gallery of Victoria and compares it with other galleries.
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    Bestsellers / Subscription.
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03)
    This is the February 2004 Bestsellers / Subscription page for this issue.
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    Challenging Change. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Katherine, England
    This article is a review of Junior Fiction books, including: Graeme Base, "Truck Dogs"; Susanne Gervay, "Super Jack"; Elizabeth Honey, "The Ballad of Cauldron Bay"; Glenda Millard, illus. Caroline Magerl, "The Naming of Tishkin Silk"; and Michael Stephens, "Mudlark."
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    Animal Farm. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Starke, Ruth Elaine
    This article is a review of various children's picture books, including: Tania Cox, illus. Greg Holfeld, "Wolf's Sunday Dinner"; Jackie French, illus. Bruce Whatley, "Too Many Pears!"; Leigh Hobbs, "Fiona the Pig"; Carolyn Polizzotto and Sarah Spinks, illus. Marion Duke, "Trumpet's Kittens"; and Margaret Wild, illus. David Legge, "Baby Boomsticks".
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    A Surfeit of Enigmas. "The Different World of Fin Starling" by Elizabeth Stead. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Dempsey, Dianne
    Stead has a remarkable ability to create bravura set pieces, such as the storm that devastates the village. Her prose is consistently eloquent and inventive. But there is an ephemeral quality to the novel that left this reader unsatisfied. Magic realism has traditionally been used by writers such as Milan Kundera and Gabriel García Márquez as a sort of release from, or alternative to, their countries’ dire circumstances. Notwithstanding the fabulous quality of the episodes in these books, they generally serve the purpose of illuminating the real world. However, rather than provide the reader with illumination or contrast, the surreal aspects of Stead’s novel tend to confuse.
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    Eternal Walling. "A Gardener's Log" by Edna Walling. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Hardy, Sara
    Were she alive, Edna Walling would probably be delighted to know that another of her books has been reissued. She might also be astonished and just a little peeved. After a brilliant career as a garden designer, columnist and author — as well as photographer, cottage designer and ardent protector of the natural landscape — Walling’s fame had all but faded by the time she died in 1973 at the age of seventy-seven. Few noticed her passing. However, her renaissance began in the early 1980s, with new editions of selected works and with Peter Watts’s widely praised "The Gardens of Edna Walling". Many more such publications followed.
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    Some Kind of a Man. "Orson Welles: The Stories of His Life" by Peter Conrad. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) McFarlane, Brian
    One is struck often by the astuteness of Conrad’s insight and phrasing. His intellectual range and grasp, hurtling across millennia, continents and media, often amazes, even if it also sometimes wearies; and the strategy, the use of films et al. as fragments of autobiography, is demanding, as Conrad dips in and out of the Wellesian decades. There are no footnotes and, while it is flattering to be expected to know all that Conrad knows, there are times when I would have valued a gloss on some more than usually arcane reference.
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    Bounty from Zero. "Plenty: Art Into Poetry" by Peter Steele. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Edgar, Stephen
    Here is a production that most poets would die for. Peter Steele’s new book is a spectacular hybrid beast, a Dantesque griffin in glorious array: it is a new volume of poetry and an art book, with superb reproductions of works of art spanning several centuries, from collections all over the world. Paintings most of them, but also statues, sculptures, objets d’art, a toilet service, the figured neck of a hurdy-gurdy, a hoard of Viking silver and a diminutive six-seater bicycle. And the reason for this pairing is that these are all ekphrastic poems, ‘poetry which describes or evokes works of art’, as Patrick McCaughey glosses it in his introduction.
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    Early Traffic. "India, China, Australia: Trade and Society 1788-1850" by James Broadbent, Suzanne Rickard and Margaret Steven. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Menz, Christopher
    Given the vast amount of imports from Asia available today — from tableware to mobile telephones, and much of it demonstrating the latest in technology — one could be excused for thinking that our reliance on Asian trade is a twentieth-century phenomenon. Not so. As "India, China, Australia: Trade and Society 1788–1850" amply demonstrates, our trade with Asia began in the eighteenth century — even ensured the survival of the fledgling port of Sydney — and we have never looked back.
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    Big Bertha. "Peter Booth: Human/Nature" by Jason Smith (with John Embling and Robert Lindsay). [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) McCaughey, Patrick
    At each stage of his retrospective, Booth comes across as a burdened artist. That burden is what Smith and Lindsay seek to unpack. Their modus operandi is to hurl big words, high-end concepts and luxuriant quotations at the paintings, hoping that something will stick. Rhetorically, they strive to go toe-to-toe with the paintings.
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    Momentary Tremors. "Yvonne Audette: Paintings and Drawings 1949-2003" by Christopher Heathcote et al. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Smith, Jason
    The term "lost in translation" does not apply to this book, especially considering the deft ways in which each of the writers has contextualised Yvonne Audette’s art, but has not lost in their translations of her practice the lyricism and understatement in her work, and the ultimately mysterious internal impulses that have driven Audette through five decades of creative enterprise. For some viewers, Audette’s is, or could be, an uneasy art. The pleasant surprise in this book is its balance of scholarship against its evocation of the poetics and introspection of an artist’s vision and visual life. This is another valuable, superbly researched contribution to Australian art histories.
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    Bessie in Paris. "A Studio in Montparnasse: Bessie Davidson: An Australian Artist in Paris" by Penelope Little. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Thomas, Sarah
    Australian expatriate artist Bessie Davidson was a woman who ripened with age. After decades of living in Paris and dressing somewhat dowdily ‘à l’anglaise’, she gained confidence with the liberation of France towards the end of World War II. In her sixties, she adopted a long black cape, a wide-brimmed fedora and a slender black cigarette-holder. Penelope Little’s "A Studio in Montparnasse: Bessie Davidson: An Australian Artist in Paris" similarly improves as it goes along, becoming increasingly engaging as the artist is brought to life and found to be in the midst not only of two world wars but also of bohemian interwar Paris.
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    Visceral Life. "At Home In Australia" by Peter Conrad. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Anderson, Patricia
    We've been hectored by Miss Greer and savaged by Mr Hughes, but, like Goldilocks with the three bears’ bowls of porridge, Mr Conrad loves us just right. His book "At Home in Australia" is a collaboration between the National Gallery of Australia and Thames & Hudson, and more particularly between himself and Gael Newton, the gallery’s Senior Curator of Photography, who rang him in London with an invitation to write a book about the gallery’s photography collection.
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    Williams Abroad. "Fred Williams: An Australian Vision" by Irena Zdanowicz and Stephen Coppel. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Smee, Sebastian
    This article is a review of "Fred Williams: An Australian Vision" by Irena Zdanowicz and Stephen Coppel.
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    Gough's Mestizos. "East Timor: A Rough Passage To Independence" by James Dunn. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Jolliffe, Jill
    History has proved Dunn right in his support of Timorese independence. Despite minor flaws, "East Timor" is an important work of record, setting out the sad story of East Timor’s betrayal by the international community at large, and by Australia in particular. It charts the Indonesian takeover, from first covert operations in 1974 until withdrawal in 1999, and the tiny republic’s triumphant accession to independence.
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    Advances, Contents, Letters, Imprints and Contributors.
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03)
    This items contains miscellaneous information about this issue of "ABR".
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    Light and Shade. "City of Light: A History of Perth Since the 1950s" by Jenny Gregory. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Hutchison, David
    Perth has been well served by its historians. C.T. Stannage’s "The People of Perth" (1979), a pioneering urban social history, covered the period to World War I, with a summary of developments into the 1970s. His work, because of ‘its sheer honesty did not win universal approval’. Jenny Gregory, following a lively prologue summarising the interwar years, concentrates on the period of rapid growth following World War II. She has been equally forthright. To their credit, the incumbent lord mayors welcomed the publication of both works. A brief review cannot do justice to a remarkable work. The author handles her material deftly, and the publishers have maintained their usual excellent standards.
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    Art in Brief. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2004-03) Menz, Christopher; Thomas, Anne-Marie
    This article contains brief reviews of various art books, including: David Raizman, "History of Modern Design: Graphics and Products Since the Industrial Revolution"; John Dowson, "Old Fremantle: Photographs 1850-1950"; Ian Morrison (ed), "A New City: Photographs of Melbourne's Land Boom"; Jan Roberts (ed), "The Astor"; Colin Holden, "Lionel Lindsay in Spain: An Antipodean Abroad"; Jane Hylton, "William Dobell: Portraits in Context"; Jo Holder, Robert Freestone and Joan Kerr, "Human Scale in Architecture: George Molnar's Sydney"; and Edmund de Waal, "20th Century Ceramics".
Copyright to all textual material owned by Australian Book Review Inc. Flinders Dspace has made every effort to contact the copyright owners of other material, and will remove items upon request.