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Thursday, 24th April 2014

Network Review of Books

  • Penguin Australian Summer Stories

    imageRobert Drewe Amy Witting Tim Winton Thea Astley Brenda Walker Andy Quan, Ringwood: Penguin Books, 2002, 285 Pages, Paperback, $19.95: Reviewed by Rick Rutjens in the July 2002 issue.

    This anthology was initially quite a disappointment. Tempted by the evocative cover photo -- Rex Dupain's Off The Rail -- I was as ready to dive into this book as the boys in his picture are to get back into the water. The list of authors on the front represented the crème of contemporary Australian literary talent: an evening curled up with their stories conjuring myriad images and scenarios was beckoning. Flicking quickly to the contents page I was dismayed to find that I was already familiar with many of the stories. I had read Gillian Mears' 'Year Of Wonder' in her collaborative work Paradise Is A Place, Dorothy Hewett's 'Nullarbor Honeymoon' in Women Love Sex, Robert Drewe's 'Baby Oil' ... read more.
  • How Simone de Beauvoir died in Australia

    imageSylvia Lawson, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002, 199 Pages, Paperback, $34.95: Reviewed by Christine Owen in the October 2002 issue.

    A beguiling title backed up by sharp, intelligent observations of cultural political life in Australia in the 1990s was my first impression of this thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking set of stories and essays by Sylvia Lawson, who is also the author of The Archibald Paradox, a study of the Sydney Bulletin and its first editor. Writing about the Australian reception of such events as the death of Simone de Beauvoir, French feminist philosopher and journalist, and of Raymond Williams, English academic and cultural critic, Lawson, like these public intellectuals, crosses the boundaries of print media and academic writing with ease. In fact, her 'location', in the interstices of ... read more.
  • Breakfastinfur

    imageMichael Herrman, Fremantle: FACP, 2002, 300 Pages, Paperback, $22.95: Reviewed by Strephyn Mappin in the Aug/Sep 2003 issue.

    One of the wonderful things about breakfastinfur, the second volume of Herrmann's White Trash Trilogy, is that it inspires you to read the first, bigjesustrashcan. Though completely satisfying by itself, the book's collection of crazed characters, its breakneck pace and astonishing lack of any form of conventional morality leave you breathless and curious for more. Set in the fictional City -- which bears more than a passing resemblance to Brisbane -- during the time of the first Gulf War, it launches itself with the same velocity as its central character, Mark Throdeus, who just happens to be taking an assisted swan dive from the sixtieth floor of the derelict Millennium Tower. The ... read more.
  • Brothers: Eight Leaders of the Labor Council of New South Wales

    imageMarilyn Dodkin, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002, 298 Pages, Paperback, $44.95: Reviewed by Jim Chalmers in the June 2002 issue.

    Marilyn Dodkin's Brothers: Eight Leaders of the Labor Council of New South Wales reads like a political thriller. The personalities and intrigues of the Labor Council and, by extension, the New South Wales Labor Party, the DLP, ASIO and the CIA and other political and social institutions leap from its pages, narrating a complex web of Catholicism, the cold war, anti-communism and the split, Labor and labour politics, spying, and international influence. Using access bestowed on a factional operative and Party activist Dodkin provides an intriguing historical insight into Australia's most successful, most intriguing, most pragmatic, and most dogged party within a party -- the NSW right -- and ... read more.
  • The Building of Brisbane 1828-1940

    imageWilliam Job, St Lucia: UQP, 2002, 308 Pages, Paperback, $45.00: Reviewed by Dan O'Donnell in the June 2003 issue.

    A widespread myth of historiography is that only professional historians, with training and background in the craft, can accurately and dispassionately document the story of mankind. William Job eloquently gives the lie to that old saw. Job spent his adult worklife in the field of architecture after graduating in Engineering and Architecture from Sydney Technical College. By 1957, he had established in Brisbane his own architectural firm (William Job and Associates). The rest, as they say, is history, his firm thereafter winning commercial commissions to design and build office-blocks, developmental precincts and shopping centres throughout Australia and Malaysia. Amongst these were the ... read more.
  • Xavier Herbert: Letters

    imageedited by Francis de Groen and Laurie Hergenhan, St Lucia: UQP, 2002, 490 Pages, Paperback, $45.00: Reviewed by Caroline Viera Jones in the May 2003 issue.

    With Henry Reynolds in one corner and Keith Windschuttle in the other, Australians are fast separating into two camps. Undoubtedly, there have been humanitarians in the past who wished to help Aborigines and yet the motivations behind their actions may have been diverse and complex. In some ways, Xavier Herbert's letters span this divide. An extensive collection, Frances de Groen and Laurie Hergenhan's tome permits a layered reading of the correspondence of one of Australia's first passionate protesters against Aboriginal injustice. The beauty of such an abundance of letters is that Herbert comes across as a real human being with all of the foibles and uncertainties that entails. He is ... read more.
  • Unless

    imageCarol Shields, London: Fourth Estate, 2002, 213 Pages, Paperback, $27.95: Reviewed by Sue Bond in the October 2002 issue.

    ...unless, with its elegiac undertones, is a term used in logic, a word breathed by the hopeful or by writers of fiction wanting to prise open the crusted world and reveal another plane of being, which is similar in its geographical particulars and peopled by those who resemble ourselves.(p 208)So thinks the main character, Reta Winters, at the end of Unless by Carol Shields. It forms a frame for this funny and very strong novel with the epigraph from George Eliot, with its 'roar which lies on the other side of silence', for there is an event that needs to be uncovered in order for Reta and her family to know what has disturbed her daughter so much that she has gone to live on the streets of ... read more.
  • Caprice: A Stockman's Daughter

    imageDoris Pilkington Nugi Garimara, St Lucia: UQP, 2002, 84 Pages, Paperback, $17.95: Reviewed by Rachel Funari in the March 2003 issue.

    Caprice: A Stockman's Daughter isDoris Pilkington-Garimara's first book.Pilkington-Garimara is better known asthe author of Follow the Rabbit-ProofFence, the film version of which wasreleased earlier this year. Caprice wasfirst published in 1991, having won the1990 David Unaipon National Awardfor unpublished Aboriginal writers. Caprice is a short, sparse novella.Its language is of the type where nowords are wasted; the use of everydayvocabulary and simple sentencestructure flows poetically. The novellatells the family history of KateMuldune-Williamson, daughter of ahalf-caste mother and full-bloodedAboriginal father. It is a story of stationlife; native settlement life; forbiddenlove; the ... read more.
  • South Australia and Federation

    imageP A Howell, Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2002, 432 Pages, Paperback, Illus., $39.95: Reviewed by Bernard Whimpress in the December 2002 issue.

    When I opened this book at a coffee lounge an acquaintance, catching the title, said 'That must be pretty boring!' I admit that despite the range of activities supported by Centenary of Federation funding, the subject of Federation probably passed most Australians by. The book might have been called something more captivating and if the casual reader reached the contents page he or she might have been dissuaded from going further. Three chapters in a book of 418 pages is an unusual structure and author, Associate Professor Peter Howell, takes us only as far as 1914. But it is anything but boring. The first chapter titled 'South Australia in 1901' runs to 125 pages and is really about how ... read more.
  • Poems for a Dead Father

    imageGeoff Goodfellow, Carlton: The Vulgar Press, 2002, 71 Pages, Paperback, 2002, $19.95: Reviewed by Tim Metcalf in the July 2002 issue.

    The subject of this most recent collection from Goodfellow interests me greatly. In his very moving opening poem, his predominant family memory is of happiness and security. The tragicomic moment of honesty, when together they joke about the forthcoming cremation of John's brandy-soaked corpse, allows the reader to release a carefully controlled emotional reaction as mirth. Geoff's skill reminded me of Sharon Old's art in The Father. A book or two more on this subject would help redress an imbalance in contemporary Australian Literature. This does not, however, mean a flood of books. Like Geoff's style, and elegant sparsity would be more 'Australian'. John was fond of language and it's ... read more.
  • Terror: A Meditation on the Meaning of September 11

    imageJohn Carroll, Carlton North: Scribe Publications, 2002, 106 Pages, Paperback, $16.95: Reviewed by David Crawford in the November 2002 issue.

    Exactly twelve months after the epoch-shattering events of September 11, 2001 in New York, the US President sounds like a war-monger, threatening unilateral invasion of Iraq, to oust the secular (albeit ruthless) regime of Saddam Hussein. What is fascinating is that it is former senior military figures that urge caution, warning of the likelihood of bloody, calamitous street-to-street fighting if the US attacked Baghdad. This is in stark contrast to the simplistic, anodyne statements emanating from the White House. Former Vice-President Al Gore observed that the current US administration has in great haste overturned thirty years of US foreign policy practice, especially regarding the role ... read more.
  • Herrnhut: Australia's first utopian commune

    imageWilliam J Metcalf and Elizabeth Huf, Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2002, 202 Pages, Paperback, $29.95: Reviewed by Paul A Pickering in the August 2002 issue.

    The road to Utopia is a hard one, or at least that is the only conclusion that can be drawn from Elizabeth Huf and William J Metcalf's account of 'Herrnhut', a quasi-religious 'utopian' commune established in western Victoria in 1852. Actually the book details the inter-connected histories of both Herrnhut and the Hill Plain Commune that was established near Benalla in 1875. Huf and Metcalf have collected an impressive amount of information about these little known social experiments and their enigmatic principals, Johann Friedrich Krumnow and Maria Heller (a quest that was aided by the unpublished work of a previous historian), but these are not happy tales. Both Herrnhut and Hill Plain ... read more.