No 248 - February 2003

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Tim Rowse on Keith Windschutte's The Fabrication of Aboriginal History
Gideon Haigh reviews Lindie Clark's Finding a Common Interest
Ilana Snyder reviews Digital Hemlock
Ros Pesman reviews Visits Home and In Search of Kings


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Now showing 1 - 20 of 35
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    Feminine Guardian of the Green Core. "Jane Austen and the Theatre" by Penny Gay, "Romantic Austen: Sexual Politics and the Literary Canon" by Clara Tuite and "Recreating Jane Austen" by John Wiltshire. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Wilkes, Joanne
    These three new books, all by Australian academics, offer notable contributions to Austen studies. Penny Gay's "Jane Austen and the Theatre" highlights Austen's strong liking for theatrical performances, and discusses how plays, some of them by now-obscure women playwrights, were important influences on her novels. John Wiltshire's "Recreating Jane Austen" is also concerned with questions of creative influence: how biographers engaged with Austen, how Austen responded to Shakespeare, and how film and television have appropriated Austen's works. Meanwhile, in "Romantic Austen", Clara Tuite examines both present and past, arguing that Austen's novels themselves, in tandem with Romantic and post-Romantic cultural developments, created their own canonical and hence dehistoricised status.
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    Making Oz Lit. "The Making of the Australian Literary Imagination" by Richard Nile. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Dixon, Robert
    Reviewers of the last batch of Australian literary histories rightly asked in what sense such works can be considered 'historical'. After reading the second Oxford history, David Carter even wondered if literary critics were the best people, after all, to write literary history, or whether the job should be left to professional historians. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that among the most satisfyingly 'historical' chapters in "The Penguin New Literary History of Australia" (1988) and "The Oxford Literary History of Australia" (1998) were those written by historian Richard Nile. Nile's new book, "The Making of the Australian Literary Imagination", is an elaboration of those highly regarded chapters. Its importance lies in its innovative approach to the problem of writing literary history.
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    The Definition of Place. [poem]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Bishop, Judith
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    Seductive Amnesia. "Anything the Landlord Touches" by Emma Lew. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Beveridge, Judith
    Emma Lew's poetic covenant is with a poetics that has as its chief enterprise the music of diction, syntax and structure, a poetry whose message is often elusive, whose tones and pitches are constantly relocating and resettling in lines that resist explanation or sustained meaning. Her lines are always fleeing a centre, yet Beveridge found herself reading this book again and again, captivated by its beauty and music - not just captivated, but actively seduced - and this is a book whose prime intention is seduction.
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    Your Feet / Love Poem. [poem]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Middleton, Kate
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    The First Chance Was A Last Chance. [poem]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Adamson, Robert
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    Bestsellers / Subscription.
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02)
    This item includes the January 2003 Bestsellers, the subscription information from this issue, and the 2002 Bestsellers.
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    Index for 2002: Nos 238-247.
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02)
    This item is an index to all reviews published in Australian Book Review during 2002.
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    Letter from Istanbul.
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Hergenhan, Laurie
    This article is a journal account of Hergenhan's trip to Istabul to meet the guidebook writer John Freely, as well as a reflection on Freely's work.
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    A Passionate Life. "Days Never Done: The Life and Work of Hesba Fay Brinsmead" by Michael Pollak and Margaret MacNabb. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Robson Kett, Margaret
    Michael Pollak and Margaret MacNabb have produced a well-researched and comprehensive guide to Hesba Fay ('Pixie') Hungerford Brinsmead's life so far, with extensive cooperation from Brinsmead, and from her family and friends. Family photographs enhance the book, especially the youthful portrait on the cover. They have been methodical and painstaking in quoting sources and obtaining different points of view without demeaning or glossing over their subject's foibles.
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    Kicking Against the Pricks. "The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction" by Justine Larbalestier. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Sussex, Lucy
    "The Battle of the Sexes" is a book about a literary genre's development, that genre having several unique features. Once literary criticism of SF was defensive, justifying its existence; now presses such as Wesleyan issue science fiction 'classics'. Similarly, studies of SF have now moved beyond the literature to the cultural context of the genre. "The Battle of the Sexes" is about writing and also reading, and the relationship between SF fans and their favourite literature. As Larbalestier shows, one aspect of this interaction was gender; and it was something about which the readership (male and female) could be highly critical.
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    Night for Day in the Antipodes. "Australian Passport: English-Greek Edition" by S.S. Charkianakis. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Gauntlett, Stathis
    It is perhaps ironic that, at a time when the Church and government of Greece are locked in battle over retention of the statement of religious affiliation on identity cards, the Greek Orthodox Primate of Australia, S.S. Charkianakis, should publish a collection of poems with distinctive religious undertones under the title "Australian Passport". The cover of the book makes little attempt to reinforce this title by visual approximation of an Australian passport - an arrangement of dry gumleaves stands in the place of the official insignia - but the datelines appended to both the Greek poems and their facing English translations might conceivably suggest passport stamps. More immediately, though, these coordinates of time and place recall the poetic 'logbooks' of another career-exile, the diplomat George Seferis, except that, curiously, the dates given here are in English even under the Greek poems.
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    Men Gotta Tell Their Stories. "Near-Life Experience" by Mark Mahemoff and "Music and Women's Bodies" by Craig Powell. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Dennis, Oliver
    In one of the characteristically taut poems that make up Mark Mahemoff's second collection, "Near-life Experience", the speaker describes the bleak reality of imminent separation, and wonders: 'How to expose / the workings of this moment?' Vital and urgent, the question lies at the heart of this poet's practice. Mahemoff's poems are concerned, principally, with transience, with things that are 'here and then / gone'. Constructed, in a majority of cases, from the 'salvaged details' of life, they operate as personal histories, recording everyday experience and observation in the face of death. Craig Powell is never more grounded than when telling family stories, what at one point in "Music and Women's Bodies" he calls 'family talk'. Two long poems are based on his late father’s sometimes questionable memories of growing up in a New South Wales country town.
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    Missing Pay Off. "The Gentleman's Garden" by Catherine Jinks. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Williams, Michael
    If "The Gentleman's Garden" is anything to go by, Catherine Jinks is well acquainted with the tricks and traditions of romance novels. At first glance, all the necessary elements are present. Dorothea Brande is a model of English refinement and gentility. When her husband, Captain Charles Brande, a rotter and bounder whom she married because he was 'beautiful', is posted to colonial New South Wales, Dorothea's life is changed forever. In the company of their manservant, the mysterious and rugged Irish convict Daniel Callaghan, Dorothea learns about life in this new world, and her own strength and resilience. As glib as such a précis might seem, it has nothing on that offered by the novel's publishers. While the book's blurb emphasises its historical setting, the front cover leaves no doubt that this is a love story: 'Love can be a fragile refuge in a harsh and unforgiving land'.
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    In Retrospect. "Black Mirror" by Gail Jones. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Armstrong, Judith
    This is an alluring example of the retrospective novel, one that uses the device of a biographer's interviews with her subject to prod the reconstruction of memories. It is retrospective not simply because it ranges over the greater part of the twentieth century, but because it consists almost exclusively of two long backward looks. The subject, Victoria, is urged by Anna, the biographer, to recall her childhood in a gold-mining town in Western Australia (Kalgoorlie?) and her flight in the 1930s, as a young artist, to Paris, where she finds herself caught up in a surrealist circle of painters and writers (Marcel Duchamp, André Breton, Max Ernst, even Salvador Dalí). Anna herself is impelled by both Victoria and the challenges of biography to recall her own youth in the same town, sixty years later.
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    Wide World of Clarke. "The Tournament" by John Clarke. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Matthews, Brian Ernest
    In the first few pages of this extraordinary and daring piece of work, John Clarke effortlessly maps out the ground rules simply by taking the whole thing as read. There is no anxiety to explain massive anachronisms, outlandish juxtapositions, wild propositions: these are part of the satirist’s armoury.The form of the narrative - essentially, game following game, however bizarre the match-ups - runs the risk of an eventual flagging, a sameness, but nothing could be further from the truth. An immense, continuous and renewing energy flows from these various dimensions of wit, allusiveness, gags and uncomfortable historical reference; not to mention the fixtures themselves, which throw up new diversions just when the joke might have lagged. In the end, the winner is certainly not tennis. But game, set, match and championship: J. Clarke.
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    Growing Pains. "Asia-Pacific Constitutional Systems" by Graham Hassall and Cheryl Saunders. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Blackshield, Tony
    A comprehensive comparative survey of the post-colonial constitutions established in Asia and the Pacific after World War II, and their subsequent evolution, is an ambitious undertaking, and perhaps an anomalous one, since it may be only from the viewpoint of Australia's involvement in 'the region' that such diverse societies, across such a vast area, could be thought of as a single region. The one clear common problem is that of reconciling indigenous traditions with political philosophies and institutions transplanted during the colonial era, and generally retained thereafter. Beyond that, both the indigenous and the imported traditions are too diverse for easy generalisation.
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    Three Cheers for Dickey. "Finding Common Interest: The Story of Dick Dusseldorp and Lend Lease" by Lindie Clark. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Haigh, Gideon
    Those concerned with corporate life have a good deal to gain from "Finding a Common Interest". Dusseldorp is a rich and provocative subject, Clark an attentive and assiduous student. 'Corporate social responsibility', a voguish subject, is thicker on rhetoric than relevance at present: Clark’s book shows it in action.
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    Missing Voices. "The Birth of Melbourne" by Tim Flannery (ed) and "Radical Melbourne: A Secret History" by Jeff Sparrow and Jill Sparrow. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Birch, Tony
    In "Radical Melbourne: A Secret History", Jeff and Jill Sparrow map the 'radical' history of Melbourne, with visits to fifty sites throughout the city. Uncovering layers of paint, advertising hoardings, demolitions and retro-fits, they expose a past that has too often escaped the eye of more official and Establishment-conscious commemoration in Melbourne."The Birth of Melbourne," a collection of nineteenth-century documentary sources that also deals with Melbourne, has been edited by the 'naturalist, explorer and writer' Tim Flannery, who has also written a 'pre-history' introductory essay for the book. It provides a rich insight into Melbourne's colonial past, although the text privileges the narratives of Melbourne's colonial kingpins, such as John Batman, Robert Hoddle and an array of booster journalists.
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    Wicked Flats. "Together Apart: Boarding House, Hostel and Flat Life in Pre-War Melbourne" by Seamus O'Hanlon. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-02) Nichols, David
    Melbourne historian Seamus O'Hanlon has, in his first book, added an extra dimension to the study of Australian urban society. This element is every bit as important as the late realisation amongst Australia's historians that we have long been a nation of citydwellers. "Together Apart" is a converted PhD thesis, a fact only obvious from O'Hanlon’s frequent citing of other historians, and his eagerness to keep his methodology transparent. His writing style is engaging and his subject fascinating, with only a few scant confusing elements. This is a history of private lives, of lives behind thin walls, between nosy parker neighbours.
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