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Issue Details: First known date: 2019... no. 417 December 2019 of Australian Book Review est. 1961 Australian Book Review
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Welcome to the December issue of ABR – always our most anticipated edition of the year because of the inclusion of Books of the Year. Thirty-three leading critics and writers nominate their favourite publications of the year. Find out what people like Beejay Silcox, James Ley, Susan Wyndham, Andrea Goldsmith, and Bronwyn Lea most enjoyed reading in 2019. Other highlights include Peter Rose on Helen Garner’s brilliant and defiant diaries; Zora Simic on the legacies of sexual harassment; Angela Woollacott on Margaret Simons’s biography of Penny Wong; and Chris Flynn on Elliot Perlman’s new novel. Elsewhere, legendary journalist Brian Toohey reviews Edward Snowden’s memoirs, Monash historian Christina Twomey laments the ‘terror in extraterritoriality’, and the poet Michael Hofmann contributes a brilliant satire on Donal Dump (aka Donald Trump).' (Publication summary)


  • Contents indexed selectively.


* Contents derived from the 2019 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
'To Stand the Blows' : The Flexile Diaries of Helen Garner, Peter Rose , single work review
— Review of Yellow Notebook : Diaries Volume I, 1978-1986 Helen Garner , 2019 single work diary ;
'Anyone who keeps a diary day in, day out for decades knows why Helen Garner, a few years ago, destroyed her early ones, deeming them boring and self-obsessed. Incineration has a long, proud history: think of Henry James, late in life, at his incinerator in Rye, burning all his letters and private papers – that lamentable blaze. The sheer misery and tedium of our early journals can be dejecting. ‘What is the point of this diary?’ Garner asks herself in 1981. ‘There is always something deeper, that I don’t write, even when I think I’m saying everything.’' (Introduction)
(p. 10-13)
Being in the Room, Angela Woollacott , single work review
— Review of Penny Wong : Passion and Principle Margaret Simons , 2019 single work biography ;
'Every biographer has a relationship with their subject, even if they have passed away. A real advantage for biographers of the dead is that the subject cannot say what they think about the book. The relationship between Margaret Simons and Penny Wong was fraught. That this mattered is evident from the opening sentence: ‘Penny Wong did not want this book to be written.’ Simons, a journalist, biographer, and associate professor at Monash University, uses her preface to complain about how difficult it was researching the book without Wong’s assistance and against her will. Finally, well into Simons’s writing, she was invited to Senator Wong’s office, where Wong gave her ‘a hard time’. The relationship thawed and Simons was able to conduct six interviews. Readers will be glad that Wong overcame her resistance to this intrusion into her life: the stories in Wong’s voice and her personal memories are rich elements of the book. Yet there are recurrent reminders of Simons’s tense relationship with her subject.' (Introduction)
(p. 16-17)
Australian Sappho, Brenda Niall , single work review
— Review of The Shelf Life of Zora Cross Cathy Perkins , 2019 single work biography ;
'Just over one hundred years ago, Sydney readers were speaking in hushed tones about a shocking new book by a young woman, Zora Cross. A collection of love poems by an unknown would not normally have roused much interest, but because they came from a woman, and were frankly and emphatically erotic, the book was a sensation. It wasn’t, as a Bulletin reviewer said demurely, a set of sonnets to the beloved’s eyebrows. It was ‘well, all of him’. It broke the literary convention that restricted the expression of sexual pleasure to a male lover. Cross took Shakespeare’s sonnets as her inspiration. Her Songs of Love and Life (1917) was a long way from being Shakespearean, but it roused huge admiration. Cross was hailed as a genius, ‘an Australian Sappho’.' (Introduction)
(p. 17, 19)
Classical Allegoryi"To hell with what you think of me.", Sarah Holland-Batt , single work poetry (p. 21)
Political Persuasion : The Foundations of Ben Chifley's Internationalism, David Lowe , single work review
— Review of JB Chifley : An Ardent Internationalist Julie Suares , 2019 single work biography ;

'One of the risks in writing about the history of Australia in world affairs is the ease with which ideas and visions can be flattened.  If you start from the premise of Australia’s small-to-middle-power standing and diminished agency among other nations, you might conclude that ideas mattered less than adroit lobbying and alliances. Even if you find greater Australian activism by elevating the role of trade, pointing to the hard-headedness in trading with important partners such as Britain, Japan, and, more recently, China, this doesn’t necessarily invite exploration of world views. If the search for security in a rapidly changing region is the metanarrative, then, arguably, what you need are powerful and reliable friends more than innovative thinking about alternatives. But, as Julie Suares demonstrates in her persuasively argued book, this should not apply in the case of  Ben Chifley and Australia in the world.' (International)

(p. 25, 27)
'The War Against Nature : Understanding the Mallee, Lilian Pearce , single work review
— Review of Mallee Country : Land, People, History Richard Broome , Charles Fahey , Andrea Gaynor , Katie Holmes , 2019 single work prose ;
'Mallees contradict the green pompom-on-a-stick notion of treeness. The word ‘mallee’ stems from the Wemba Wemba word ‘mali’ for a form of eucalyptus tree; one with a shrubby habit with a multi-stemmed trunk branching out from a lignotuber (a woody life-support system at or below the ground). Highly adapted to challenging environments, more than 400 species of the genus Eucalyptus are considered mallee. The diverse and unique ecosystems that they define evolved within the bewildering contexts of aridity, salinity, heat and wind exposure, and soils devoid of nutrients.' (Introduction)
(p. 28-29)
Books of the Year 2019, Various , single work column
'What was your favourite book of 2019? Read what our critics and writers have to say about this year's finest literary achievements. Ranging across fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, the selection below has plenty to browse through from a year of exemplary writing.' 
(p. 32-38)
Crossing the Tasman : Five New Zealanders Explore the 'West Island', Brian Matthews , single work review
— Review of West Island : Five Twentieth-century New Zealanders in Australia Stephanie Johnson , 2019 multi chapter work criticism biography ;
'Australians and New Zealanders know it as the Tasman Sea or more familiarly The Ditch: for Māori, Te Tai o-Rēhua. Significant islands in this stretch of water are Lord Howe and Norfolk. As seen from New Zealand, the island most Australians probably don’t know offhand and, when they are told about it, might feel inclined to reject its name as, well, cheeky: it’s West Island – Australia in short.' (Introduction)
(p. 41-42)
White Knight : Elliot Perlman's Misguided New Novel, Chris Flynn , single work review
— Review of Maybe the Horse Will Talk Elliot Perlman , 2019 single work novel ;

'Elliot Perlman’s fourth novel is tentatively billed as a corporate satire and has a striking opening line: ‘I am absolutely terrified of losing a job I absolutely hate.’ The man in this all-too-familiar predicament is Stephen Maserov, a former English teacher turned lawyer. Maserov is a lowly second year in the Terry Gilliam-esque law firm Freely Savage Carter Blanche, which, apart from sounding like a character in a Tennessee Williams play, is home to loathsome dinosaurs in pinstripe suits and an HR department referred to as ‘The Stasi’.' (Introduction)

(p. 43-44)
The Flight of Birds : A Novel in Twelve Stories by Joshua Lobb, Sascha Morrell , single work review
— Review of The Flight of Birds Joshua Lobb , 2019 single work novel ;

'Humans cannot imagine avian perspectives, Joshua Lobb admits, but his stories explore what we might learn from the attempt. Some of Lobb’s strategies are familiar from much recent fiction with ecological themes, such as the use of an educated, intellectually curious narrator-protagonist whose wide reading provides a convenient means of introducing diverse facts and anecdotes about birds into lyrical, richly figurative prose. Others are more adventurous, including shifts in grammatical person and tense. Far from being gratuitous, they foreground substantive questions of intergenerational responsibility.' (Introduction)

(p. 44)
'Death and Sandwiches', Andrew Broertjes , single work prose (p. 49-53)
Is Blood Everything? Four New Young Adult Novels, Emily Gallagher , single work review
— Review of My Father's Shadow Jannali Jones , 2019 single work novel ; This is How We Change the Ending Vikki Wakefield , 2019 single work novel ; It Sounded Better in My Head Nina Kenwood , 2019 single work novel ; The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling Wai Chim , 2019 single work novel ;
'A whistleblower’s child hides from a drug ring in the Blue Mountains. A sixteen-year-old rolls through life like an armadillo. A Melbourne high-school graduate wrestles with her insecurities. The daughter of a Chinese restaurateur juggles her responsibility to care for her siblings as her mother’s health deteriorates.' (Introduction)
(p. 54-55)
More Than Stories : Reflections on Books and Writing, Susan Sheridan , single work review
— Review of The Innocent Reader : Reflections on Reading and Writing Debra Adelaide , 2019 selected work essay ; Wild about Books : Essays on Books and Writing Michael Wilding , 2019 selected work essay ;
(p. 57-58)
Critiques, Robyn Arianrhod , single work review
— Review of The Best Australian Science Writing 2019 2019 anthology essay criticism ;
'Reading good science writing is not just pleasurable and informative: it’s also necessary if we want to live engaged and examined lives in today’s hyper-technological, climate-changing world. The Best Australian Science Writing 2019 offers readers all these things – the delight in good writing, the satisfaction of learning, and the sobering reckoning with our society’s environmental impact and lack of political engagement with science. Yet it’s not afraid to challenge science itself on occasion – showing ‘its flaws as well as its finer moments’, as editor Bianca Nogrady puts it.' (Introduction)
(p. 60)
Twin Passions, Judith Brett , single work review
— Review of George Seddon : Selected Writings George Seddon , 2019 selected work prose ;

'A young George Seddon smiles boyishly from the cover of his Selected Writings, a mid-twentieth-century nerd with short back and sides and horn-rimmed glasses. This collection of Seddon’s writings on landscape, place, and the environment is the third in the series on Australian thinkers published by La Trobe University Press in conjunction with Black Inc. The other two, Hugh Stretton and Donald Horne, were also on mid-century men. Born in the 1920s and reaching their intellectual adulthood in the expansive years after World War II, these three were all of wide and eclectic learning. They taught in universities, participated in public debates, and engaged with governments in the making of informed public policy in the areas in which they had special knowledge and interest: Stretton with economics, housing, and urban planning; Horne with citizenship and the arts; and Seddon with environmental policy. Their politics were formed before the rise of neoliberalism, and they shared a social democrat’s faith in the capacity of governments to solve problems. They were also confident in their autonomy as public intellectuals, inhabiting a very different academy from the audit-driven universities of today, where publication in prestigious international journals reaps more points than sustained engagement with one’s fellow citizens on matters of shared concern.' (Introduction)

(p. 61)
Open Page with Margaret Simons, single work interview (p. 62)
[Review] Judy and Punch, Anwen Crawford , single work review
— Review of Judy & Punch Mirrah Foulkes , 2019 single work film/TV ;
'The fictional town of Seaside is ‘nowhere near the sea’, state the opening credits of Judy and Punch. Fine, but where or even when this film is set remains a puzzle throughout. The two titular characters, puppeteers Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman), speak with an Irish lilt. The rest of the townsfolk – who come bedecked in grimy pirate shirts and motley, corseted gowns – possess an array of Scottish and English accents. The film opens with the medieval spectacle of three accused witches being stoned to death, and yet Seaside also boasts a uniformed police constable. Enough eucalypts are glimpsed in the background to alert any attentive viewer to the fact that, wherever Seaside is meant to be, this film was shot in Australia – in Eltham, Victoria, as it happens. Yet no reference is made to Australia at any point.' (Introduction)
(p. 66)

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Last amended 16 Dec 2019 09:38:16
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