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Issue Details: First known date: 2021... no. 438 December 2021 of Australian Book Review est. 1961 Australian Book Review
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The December issue has arrived and rounds out the year in customary style: a stockingful of reviews, essays, interviews, and our annual ‘Books of the Year’ feature, in which thirty-eight ABR critics highlight their year’s most memorable reads. Paul Muldoon reviews Bruno Latour’s eco-philosophical fable, After Lockdown. While Latour takes inspiration from the termite, Krissy Kneen considers the ways of the dugong in her Calibre Prize-shortlisted essay, a poignant exploration of identity, bodies, and death. In politics, Morag Fraser reviews Judith Brett’s collection of essays and Frank Bongiorno reflects on Noel Pearson’s life in the public eye. The issue looks at fiction by Simone de Beauvoir, the Booker-shortlisted Anuk Arudpragasam, Garry Disher, and Inga Simpson. The literary careers of Gillian Mears and Gerald Murnane are retraced by Brenda Walker and Peter Craven, respectively. Traipsing from Dante’s inferno to China to Western Sydney, the December issue will keep even the most intellectually gluttonous reader sated through the festive season.'   (Publication summary)


* Contents derived from the 2021 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
‘Start Wobbling Your Tongue’ : A Fitting Tribute to an Aboriginal Activist, Penny Russell , single work review
— Review of William Cooper : An Aboriginal Life Story Bain Attwood , 2021 single work biography ;

'The name of Yorta Yorta elder William Cooper shines bright in the history of Aboriginal activism in Australia between the two world wars. It is linked with the formation of the Australian Aborigines’ League, of which he was the founding secretary; the Day of Mourning on the anniversary of white settlement in 1938; and a petition intended for George V, signed by almost 2,000 Aboriginal people and demanding Aboriginal representation in parliament. This last was perhaps Cooper’s most cherished project. He spent years gathering signatures and waiting for the most opportune moment to present it; his disappointment at the indifferent response of the Australian government darkened his final years.' (Introduction)

(p. 13-14)
Hand-to-hand Combat : A New Biography on the Porous and Passionate Life of Gillian Mears, Brenda Walker , single work review
— Review of Leaping into Waterfalls : The Enigmatic Gillian Mears Bernadette Brennan , 2021 single work biography ;

'In 2011, Bernadette Brennan convened a symposium on ‘Narrative and Healing’ at the University of Sydney, an opportunity for specialists in medicine and bereavement to meet writers with comparable interests. Helen Garner, for example, spoke about Joe Cinque’s Consolation. The day included an audiovisual piece about death as a kind of homecoming, with reference to the prodigal son, and exquisite photographs, including a picture of an elderly Irishman wheeling a bicycle with a coffin balanced on the seat and handlebars: austere and moving, a vision of austere and careful final transportation. Since 2011, Bernadette Brennan has written two literary biographies: A Writing Life: Helen Garner and her work (2017); and the wonderfully titled Leaping into Waterfalls: The enigmatic Gillian Mears. As with the Symposium, each biography is a genuine enquiry, a gathering of unexpected elements, and an invitation to later conversation. Brennan writes of Leaping into Waterfalls as an extension of a conversation she had with Mears in 2012. The Mears biography is certain to be a talking point for years to come.'(Introduction)

(p. 16-17)
The Individual in the Universe : A Panoramic Biography of Australian Performance Artist Philippa Cullen, Susan Lever , single work review
— Review of The Dancer : A Biography for Philippa Cullen Evelyn Juers , 2021 single work biography ;

'What meaning can be drawn from an individual life? Most of us will disappear without much trace, forgotten by all but friends and family. Writers may hope for more, leaving their art behind for posterity. Performance artists, though, live their art in the moment.' (Introduction)

(p. 17, 19)
The Sistine Chapeti"Beneath the Creator's reach, the Golden Ratio", Toby Davidson , single work poetry (p. 21)
A Venerable Wordsmith : Taking a Punt on Les Carlyon, Seumas Spark , single work review
— Review of A Life in Words : Collected Writings from Gallipoli to the Melbourne Cup Les Carlyon , 2021 selected work essay column ;
'I guess every reviewer comes to a book with expectations, especially when the author’s reputation precedes him or her. On opening this collection, I knew that Les Carlyon (who died in 2019) wrote well. I remember my parents reading him in The Age and murmuring approval of his lyrical style and, sometimes, the content. I knew he loved horses, the track, and the punt. To me these were disappointments to overlook: I have hated horse racing since I was a kid driving around with my grandfather in his Datsun, windows up and the races on. My grandfather never wound down the windows, presumably so he could hear the call: perhaps it was the lack of fresh air that poisoned me against the sport. And I knew that Carlyon had written huge tomes on war and the Australian experience: Gallipoli (2001) and The Great War (2006) won acclaim, sold well, and left some military historians with reservations about his scholarship. My expectations, mostly, were realised. I sped through A Life in Words, encountering witty and whimsical delights along the way.' (Introduction)
(p. 30)
Rachel and Hannah : Inga Simpson’s Post-apocalyptic New Novel, Laura Woollett , single work review
— Review of The Last Woman in the World Inga Simpson , 2021 single work novel ;

'Rachel isn’t the last woman in the world, but she might as well be. Cloistered in her bushland home on Yuin country, in New South Wales, Rachel’s days consist of birdsong, simple meals prepared from a pantry stocked with home-made preserves, and glass-blowing in her private studio – a craft that is both her livelihood and her religion. It’s a peaceful yet precarious existence. The land is scarred by bushfires. Rachel’s senses are attuned to the absence of wallabies and small birds. For all her proficiency with sourdough starter, Rachel isn’t self-sufficient. Her older sister, Monique, provides an emotional tether to the world, while townswoman Mia delivers supplies and transports Rachel’s glassworks to a gallery. When Mia fails to show, Rachel rues the lack of a back-up plan. When Hannah, a young mother, raving about a nation-wide outbreak of death, arrives on her doorstep with a sick infant, luddite Rachel must choose between taking Hannah’s word for it or rejecting her.' (Introduction)

(p. 32)
Liminal Encounters : Short Story Collections by Paige Clark, Merlinda Bobis, and Luke Johnson, Francesca Sasnaitis , single work review
— Review of She Is Haunted Paige Clark , 2021 selected work short story ; The Kindness of Birds Merlinda Bobis , 2021 selected work short story ; Ferocious Animals Luke Johnson , 2021 selected work short story ;
(p. 35-36)
Carnage in Portsea : The Mirror of Crime in Garry Disher’s Latest Novel, Tony Birch , single work review
— Review of The Way It Is Now Garry Disher , 2021 single work novel ;

'A year before his death in 2015 following a cancer diagnosis, the writer–playwright Henning Mankell responded to a question about his love of the crime genre. He stated that his objective was ‘to use the mirror of crime to look at contradictions in society’. Mankell’s mirror was evident in his Kurt Wallander series (1991–2009), in which the detective was faced with contradictions not only in the landscape of crime and murder but also in his own domestic life. Great crime fiction does not need to focus a lens on the overlapping worlds of the private and the public. But well written, the genre’s interconnected spheres address the moral complexities that drove Mankell’s passion for crime fiction.' (Introduction)

(p. 37)
Wastrels Out West : Max Easton’s Impressive Début, Alex Cothren , single work review
— Review of The Magpie Wing Max Easton , 2021 single work novel ;
'In July 1999, ABC’s 7:30 Report ran a story on the Western Suburbs Magpies, an NRL club struggling financially and playing out its final season before a merger with the nearby Balmain Tigers. For that human touch, the story featured shots of a family decking out their children in the Magpies’ black and white, their relationship with the ninety-year-old club described as ‘something in the heart’. It was all very warm and fuzzy, at least until the camera cut away and a voiceover delivered a neoliberal sucker punch: ‘love does not necessarily deliver dollars’. Set in the same Western Sydney suburbs still mourning the loss of their team, Max Easton’s terrific début novel, The Magpie Wing, tracks a trio of Millennials as they similarly battle to retain their identities in a rapidly gentrifying world.' (Introduction)
(p. 39)
The Necromancy of Solipsism : Gerald Murnane’s Shameless Aesthetic Privacies, Peter Craven , single work review
— Review of Last Letter to a Reader Gerald Murnane , 2021 selected work criticism essay ;

'No contemporary Australian writer has higher claims to immortality than Gerald Murnane and none exhibits narrower tonal range. It’s a long time since we encountered the boy with his marbles and his liturgical colours in some Bendigo of the mind’s dreaming in Tamarisk Row (1974). There was the girl who was the embodiment of dreaming in A Lifetime on Clouds (1976). After The Plains (1982) came the high, classic Murnane with his endless talk of landscapes and women and grasslands, like a private language of longing and sorrow and contemplation.' (Introduction)

(p. 41)
The Once and Future Leader : A Tireless, Provocative Indigenous Voice, Frank Bongiorno , single work review
— Review of Mission : Essays, Speeches and Ideas Noel Pearson , 2021 selected work essay ;
'The brief and unpretentious biography of Noel Pearson on the dust jacket of Mission: Essays, speeches and ideas describes him as ‘a lawyer, activist and founder of the Cape York Institute’. Although surely accurate, this gives little indication of the stature this remarkable man has assumed in Australian public life over the past thirty years. If Pearson is an activist, it is of an unusual kind: one who has combined the roles of insider and outsider, agitator and wonk, intellectual and politician, in highly original and productive ways.' 


(p. 42-43)
‘Waves of Anger and Fear’ : Judith Brett on Australia’s Political and Cultural Life, Morag Fraser , single work review
— Review of Doing Politics : Writing on Public Life Judith Brett , 2021 selected work essay ;
'Judith Brett, historian and La Trobe University emeritus professor of politics, is characteristically direct – in her questioning, her analysis, and her engagement with readers. If there is something declarative about ‘Going Public’, the title of Doing Politics’s introductory chapter, that is exactly what Brett intends: to go public, to offer a general reader her considered reflections on Australian political and cultural life. This is not an assemblage of opinion pieces, though her writings have a related journalistic conciseness and impact – they speak to the times. What distinguishes Brett’s collection of essays is their scholarly depth and habit of enquiry. They prompt thought before they invite agreement, or conclusions. Even the bad actors, the political obstructors, the wreckers in Brett’s political analysis, are psychologically intriguing. Why are our politicians like this? What’s going on? Judith Brett studied literature and philosophy as well as politics as an undergraduate. Perhaps Hamlet drills away in her consciousness: ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’' (Introduction)
(p. 44-45)
‘Is You Is …’ V ‘Passionfruit’i"We bring the horses back to their own fields because we like", Michael Farrell , single work poetry (p. 48)
Dugongesque : An Essay by Krissy Kneen, Krissy Kneen , single work podcast
'Each year, the judges of the Calibre Essay Prize face the difficult task of selecting a winner from an impressive shortlist. Last year’s winner was Theodore Ell for ‘Facades of Lebanon’, an intimate chronicle of the 2020 port explosion in Beirut. In today’s episode, ABR turns to another impressive essay, ‘Dugongesque’, which was shortlisted for last year’s Calibre Essay Prize and appears in our upcoming December issue. Written by the award-winning Queensland author Krissy Kneen, ‘Dugongesque’ is a poignant exploration of identity, bodies, and death as Kneen embarks on a diving course bought for her by her partner. Listen to Kneen read her essay in full.' (Introduction)
(p. 49-52)
'Scroll Down, You Deserve It' : Stretching and Renewing Language, Luke Beesley , single work review
— Review of Obligations of Voice Anne Elvey , 2021 selected work poetry ; Astroturfing for Spring D. J. Huppatz , 2021 selected work poetry ; Slow Walk Home Young Dawkins , 2021 selected work poetry ;
(p. 53-54)
Empires of Mindi"Beside the fountain’s troupe of sun-bleached rubber ducks,", Sarah Holland-Batt , single work poetry (p. 56)
Flies in Their Wily Webs : Melbourne’s Buoyant Colonial Red District, Paul Dalgarno , single work review
— Review of The Women of Little Lon Barbara Minchinton , 2021 single work biography ;

'We routinely think of the past as a subtext of the present, but in The Women of Little Lon Barbara Minchinton flips this around. She aims not only to ‘dismantle the myths and counter misinformation and deliberate distortions’ about sex workers in nineteenth-century Melbourne, but – in an explicitly #MeToo context – to ‘reduce the stigma attached to the work today’ while heightening our ‘understanding of and respect for the lives of all sex workers’.' (Introduction)

(p. 60)
An Interview with Evelyn Juers, single work interview (p. 62)
Wherever She Wanders : The Ormond Scandal in the #MeToo Age, Ian Dickson , single work review
— Review of Wherever She Wanders Kendall Feaver , 2020 single work drama ;

'On the evening of Wednesday, 16 October 1991, after the annual Valedictory Dinner at Melbourne University’s august Ormond College, the Master allegedly made unprovoked sexual advances to two female students. These reported incidents led to a scandal which rocked the Melbourne establishment, caused the exit of the Master (whose conviction on charges of indecent assault was overturned on appeal), and became the basis of Helen Garner’s hugely controversial exploration of sexual politics, class, and power, The First Stone (1995).' (Introduction)

(p. 66)
The Power of the Dog : A Stiff Shot of Pure Cinema, Jordan Prosser , single work review
— Review of The Power of the Dog Jane Campion , 2021 single work film/TV ;

'After eighteen months of wayward blockbusters and couch-ready, pandemical streaming entertainment, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog arrives like a stiff shot of pure cinema. Adapted from Thomas Savage’s 1967 book of the same name, Campion’s film offers no quick thrills, no easy answers, no simple heroes, and no mercy for its inhabitants. It’s a rare beast in an industry increasingly split between shoestring-budget genre films and $200 million franchise toppers; a quintessential adult drama.' (Introduction)

(p. 67)

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Last amended 7 Dec 2021 10:23:20
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