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Alternative title: ABR
Issue Details: First known date: 2018... no. 400 April 2018 of Australian Book Review est. 1961 Australian Book Review
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'A cynic once remarked that an editor needs two things: good grammar and a long memory. But we all know there’s a bit more to it than that. As we prepare to send the April issue to press – the four hundredth in the magazine’s second series – it occurs to me that an editor’s main function is to be a recogniser of expertise, discernment, literary flair – and, more importantly perhaps, courage even, for sometimes it’s needed in this caper.' (Peter Rose : Editorial introduction)


  • Only literary material within AustLit's scope individually indexed. Other material in this issue includes:

    David Brophy reviews 'Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia' by Clive Hamilton 

     Barbara Keys reviews 'Gorbachev: His life and times' by William Taubman 

    Felicity Plunkett reviews 'The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1: 1940-1956' edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil 

    Sarah Holland-Batt reviews 'Feel Free: Essays' by Zadie Smith 

    Patrick McCaughey reviews 'The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick' edited by Darryl Pinckney

    Johanna Leggatt reviews 'The Mother of all Questions: Further feminisms' by Rebecca Solnit

    Rémy Davison reviews 'America Looks to Australia: The hidden role of Richard Casey in the creation of the Australia–America alliance, 1940–1942' by James Prior

    Julia Kindt reviews 'Mythos' by Stephen Fry

    Open Page with Sarah Sentilles 

    Kieran Pender reviews 'The Long Hangover: Putin’s new Russia and the ghosts of the past' by Shaun Walker

    Anwen Crawford reviews 'Sticky Fingers: The life and times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone magazine' by Joe Hagan 

    John Arnold reviews 'The People’s Force: A History of Victoria Police' by Robert Haldane


* Contents derived from the 2018 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Defying the Moment, Beejay Silcox , single work essay

'Moments began as medieval measures, the time it took for a sundial’s blade of shadow to shift – ninety seconds or so, depending on the season. A slice of sunlight. A moment now carries cultural as well as temporal weight. A slice of spotlight. Increasingly, we speak of our present as a moment, as if its minutes are sprung like an ontological mousetrap, primed to snap. As Sam Anderson writes in The New York Times: ‘No nexus of events is too large or heterogeneous – no geopolitical weather too swirlingly turbulent – to avoid being reduced to the shorthand of the moment.’ (Introduction)

(p. 14, 16-17, 19)
Rudd's Ruminations : The Various Selves of Kevin Rudd, Neal Blewett , single work essay
— Review of Not for the Faint-hearted : A Reflection On Life, Politics and Purpose Kevin Rudd , 2017 single work autobiography ;

'It has already become a cliché: Kevin Rudd’s memoir, Not for the Faint-Hearted, is not for the faint-hearted. More than 600 densely packed pages long, it contains some 230,000 words and over 1,000 footnotes, but by the end of the volume Rudd is yet to be sworn in as the twenty-sixth prime minister of Australia. Yet the work was ‘intended to be a letter of encouragement’!' (Introduction)

(p. 20-22)
'In Springtime the Dragon Is Useless : An Exhaustive Biography of Pierre Ryckmans, Ian Donaldson , single work essay

'The Belgian-born scholar Pierre Ryckmans, more widely known to the world by his adopted name of Simon Leys, was widely hailed in the Australian press at his death in 2014 as ‘one of the most distinguished public intellectuals’ of his adopted country, where he had lived and taught for many years – first in Canberra, later in Sydney – and where, after a titanic battle with the Belgian bureaucracy, he chose shortly before his death to become a naturalised citizen.' (Introduction)

(p. 22, 24)
From Lyons to Whitlam, Geoffrey Blainey , single work essay

'Keith Waller was one of the top ambassadors in a period when Australia urgently needed them. During the Cold War, he served in Moscow and then Washington, where a skilled resident diplomat could be more important than a visiting prime minister.' (Introduction)

(p. 27)
Inverting Hölderlin’s "Geh Unter, Schöne Sonne"i"I’d ask you to reappear from behind the wet blanket, Sun,", John Kinsella , single work poetry (p. 29)
A Loner and Worrier at War : The First Half of John Curtin's Prime Ministership, James Walter , single work essay

'John Curtin may be our most extensively documented prime minister. He is the subject of many biographies (including one by the author of the volume reviewed here) and countless chapters and articles, and is necessarily a central figure in war histories of the 1940s. John Edwards ventures into a well-populated field. The publisher’s claim in promoting the book that Curtin is one of our most underrated prime ministers is specious – in every comparative poll undertaken, Curtin is ranked at, or close to, the top.' (Introduction)

(p. 30-31)
'The Cryptic Residue of Former Worlds' : Tracing One of History's Great Narratives, Kim Mahood , single work essay

'In Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering ancient Australia, Billy Griffiths describes the process of imagining the past through the traces and sediments of archaeology as ‘an act of wonder – a dilation of the commonplace – that challenges us to infer meaning from the cryptic residue of former worlds’. In his endeavour to infer meaning from this cryptic residue, Griffiths begins his wondering by sifting through the evidence, insights, enthusiasms, and mistakes of an articulate band of Cambridge-trained archaeologists who, from the 1960s, professionalised what had been the province of amateurs. Led by John Mulvaney, they halted the indiscriminate gathering of artefacts and human remains, brought rigorous techniques to the excavation of sites, and began to strip back the layers of time, aeon by aeon, to reveal the astonishing antiquity of human presence on the Australian continent.' (Introduction)

(p. 38-39)
'A Banquet of Consequences' Portrait of a Revisionist and a Procrastinator, Simon Caterson , single work essay

'‘It is hard to reach the truth of these islands,’ observed Robert Louis Stevenson of Samoa in a letter written to a close friend in 1892, two years after the author had moved to an estate on Upolu. Stevenson, who died in 1894, could never have anticipated the prophetic dimension added to those words. Less than a century later, in the 1980s, the Western understanding of Samoan society would become the subject of a fierce and protracted international dispute among anthropologists and others that has raged ever since.' (Introduction)

(p. 40-41)
Spring Idyllsi"‘My new persona helped me to make money,’ says the streamer,", Gig Ryan , single work poetry (p. 41)
Mollie's Story, Anna MacDonald , single work essay

'A Scandal in Bohemia: The life and death of Mollie Dean is Gideon Haigh’s engrossing account of the circumstances surrounding the unsolved 1930 murder in Elwood of primary school teacher, aspiring journalist, and bohemian, Mollie Dean. Less true crime journalism than an interrogation of the genre, Haigh’s meticulously researched book recalls the ‘thick description’ of cultural history, which in historian Greg Dening’s words conveys ‘the fullness of living’ at a particular time, in a particular place. In this instance, the time and place are Melbourne in the 1920s and 1930s and, more specifically, the ‘virtual Melbourne Bloomsbury’ (as it is described by biographer and memoirist Gary Kinnane) of the group of artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals with whom Mollie Dean became entangled. This group included chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Fritz Hart, The Bulletin’s Mervyn Skipper and his wife, Lena, poets Louis Lavater and Frank Wilmot, writers Bernard Cronin and Vance and Nettie Palmer, and artists Max Meldrum, Clarice Beckett, Justus Jorgensen, and Colin Colahan among others.' (Introduction)

(p. 42)
'We Three Hundred', Lucas Grainger-Brown , single work essay

'I signed away ten years of my life at high school. Three hundred or so teenagers did likewise around the country; from Sydney and Melbourne to the wind-rustle quiet of burnt umber townships. We had similar reasons – wanting to be heroes and leaders, chasing self-respect, escaping loose ends, following Simpson and his donkey.' (Introduction)

(p. 45-51)
'Cocooned in His Own Silence' : Rodney Hall's Outstanding Return to Fiction, Brian Matthews , single work essay

'Of the now twelve novels that make up Rodney Hall’s distinguished prose fiction – ranging from The Ship on the Coin (1972) to this year’s A Stolen Season – it is arguably in the latter that the task of remaking is most explicitly and adventurously undertaken, even literally in the case of Adam Griffiths. As an Australian soldier fighting with the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, Adam has been shockingly wounded: he is ‘helpless and isolated’. ‘Cocooned in his own silence’. Now, with his young wife, Bridget, who, in edge-of-panic reflection, muses ‘she ought never to have married him in the first place’, Adam, smashed, burnt, ‘ought to have died’, navigates the pain-racked hours, tortured step by step, with the robotic help of his exoskeleton, ‘the Contraption’. Like Viktor Frankenstein, Bridget recognises that she is in thrall to a monster: ‘He is her monstrosity, hers and hers alone.’ (Introduction)

(p. 52-53)
'The Long Now of Grieving' : Gail Jones's New Novel, Kerryn Goldsworthy , single work essay

'Noah Glass is dead, his fully clothed body discovered floating face down in the swimming pool of his Sydney apartment block, early one morning. Born in Perth in 1946, father of two adult children, widower, Christian, art historian, and specialist in the painting of fifteenth-century artist Piero della Francesca, Noah has just returned from a trip to Palermo. There he celebrated his sixty-seventh birthday, experienced intimations of mortality, fell precipitately in love, and agreed, for the sake of the beloved, to commit a crime. Even before the funeral, the police are in touch with Noah’s son: a valuable work of art has been stolen and Noah is implicated in its disappearance.' (Introduction)

(p. 53-54)
Vita and Royce, Ashley Hay , single work essay

'I was never brave enough to visit Pompeii, partly due to an overactive imagination that combined a sense of the ferocity of Vesuvius’s blast in 79 CE and the volcano’s ongoing muttering with thoughts of the city’s Roman residents, cauterised in the eruption: outstretched hands; a dog expiring mid-roll; a mother and her child.' (Introduction)

(p. 55)
The Unsaid, Gregory Day , single work essay

'Despite the detailed excavatory art of the finest biographies, sometimes it takes the alchemical power of fiction to approximate the emotional geography of a single human and his or her milieu. Stephen Orr’s seventh novel, a compelling and at times distressing portrait of a twentieth-century Australian painter and his family, is one such book. Roland Griffin’s resemblance to that of Russell Drysdale is clear from early on, not only through Orr’s descriptions of the type of creator Griffin is – a painter of ‘small towns, deserted pubs ... it was all he knew’ – but also through the portrait of the artist’s troubled son (Drysdale’s only son suicided at the age of twenty-one). Drysdale’s family story obviously worked as a catalyst for Incredible Floridas but rather than chronicling that story itself, Orr employs his own creative divinations to construct a breathing and tactile fictional amalgam from its outlines and contours.' (Introduction)

(p. 56)
'Odysseus and Me', Andrea Goldsmith , single work prose

'I have always believed that, at a personal level, anything is possible, that if I desire to be a particular someone or do a particular something, I can. All my desires have been realistic: no hankerings for time travel or reinvention as a theoretical physicist, although both have enormous appeal. My desires have been possibilities: working as a volunteer in Africa, joining a choir, mountaineering, falling helplessly in love, winning the Booker. The only impediments would be lack of ability, lack of application, and/or lack of courage – all of which, given enough time, could be overcome.' (Introduction)

(p. 58-59)
Inner Circles, Lyndon Megarrity , single work essay

'The Boy from Baradine is one of the latest Australian political memoirs to hit the shelves. Craig Emerson, a prominent minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments between 2007 and 2013, has some interesting stories to tell about life as a political adviser, a pragmatic supporter of the environment, and an ambitious Labor politician. Emerson comes across as genuine and down to earth. He appears not to have carried a grudge towards those who at times obstructed his political career. Indeed, one of the saddest implications of the book is the sense that political ambition tends to make political and personal friendships difficult to maintain.' (Introduction)

(p. 60)
[Review] Everlasting Sunday, Anna MacDonald , single work essay

'Set in England during the Big Freeze of 1962–63 – the coldest winter in nearly 300 years – Robert Lukins’s first novel tells the story of Radford, who is sent to live at Goodwin Manor, ‘a place for boys who have been found by trouble’. The Manor is overseen by Teddy, a charismatic depressive, who resists pressure to establish a ‘philosophy’ of reform and instead determines ‘only to keep [the boys in his care] alive’.' (Introduction)

(p. 63)
The Boathousei"No one on the boats, just cats – thin, furtive.", Judith Beveridge , single work poetry (p. 64)
Weeping Maps, Jill Jones , single work essay
— Review of Interval Judith Bishop , 2018 selected work poetry ;

'Judith Bishop’s Interval appears just over a decade since the publication of her first book, also using a one-word title, Event(Salt, 2007). This gap seems far too long. Certainly, there have been two chapbooks in the intervening years – Alice Missing in Wonderland and Other Poems (2008), in the Wagtail series from Picaro Press, and Aftermarks (2012), in the Vagabond Rare Objects Series, – but no full-length collection. The impression is that Bishop works slowly and meticulously. Both Interval and Event are what some may call ‘slim volumes’, that is, in comparison to many.' (Introduction)

(p. 65)

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Last amended 4 Jun 2018 09:59:00
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