October 2006

Arts & Letters

‘Fast, Loose Beginnings: A Memoir of Intoxications’ By John Kinsella

By Chris Womersley

The advance publicity for John Kinsella's memoir - which included restraining orders taken out against fellow poets Robert Adamson and Anthony Lawrence, and threats of defamation suits from that pair - promised an entertaining ride, but it is a promise unfulfilled by this disappointing and baffling work. Reading it is akin to being cornered by a dishevelled fellow at a party who insists on regaling you with stories about his wild and crazy days, involving people you barely know.

Kinsella claims to have been struck by lightning - twice. He tells of being driven around Helsinki by the Finnish secret police, of beatings and of a drug dealer holding a gun to his head. "My defining characteristic ... is enthusiasm," he declares, as if we couldn't tell from the exclamation marks littering the text. Unfortunately, enthusiasm doesn't compensate for lumpy prose and lightweight observations. These adventures are simply not very interesting.

There are encounters with the famous and the highly regarded, but they are merely springboards for stories featuring Kinsella: a meeting with Frieda Plath becomes The Tale of How I Confessed My Drug Overdose to Ted and Sylvia's Daughter; a dinner to honour Dorothy Hewett becomes The Time I Went Drinking with Carmen Lawrence. An exception is the touching image of Les Murray beside a salt plain, "thinking poems" as he bats flies from his back.

Fast, Loose Beginnings is also a memoir of missed opportunities in other ways. Kinsella hints at the challenge which perhaps confronts all artists, that of living in the world and apart from it, but the idea is taken no further; the question of why one should pursue poetry at all, especially with such ferocity and at the expense of everything else, is left unanswered. Towards the end, he admits that he took the commission because he needed the money, and - though he says his feelings changed as he wrote the book - it shows.

Cover: October 2006

October 2006

From the front page

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

David Gulpilil at the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 2016.

The many faces of David Gulpilil

Gulpilil’s surrealist performances reveal our collective unconscious

Still from ‘Contempt’

The death of cool: Michel Piccoli, 1925–2020

Re-watching the films of the most successful screen actor of the 20th century

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Thomas Blamey & Douglas MacArthur

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Port Vila For Sale

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Hopper’s Crossing

‘The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis’ By Jacques Lacan, trans. Russell Grigg

‘Being and Event’ By Alain Badiou, trans. Oliver Feltham

More in Arts & Letters

Still from ‘Contempt’

The death of cool: Michel Piccoli, 1925–2020

Re-watching the films of the most successful screen actor of the 20th century

Image of Ziggy Ramo

The heat of a moment: Ziggy Ramo’s ‘Black Thoughts’

A debut hip-hop album that calls for a reckoning with Indigenous sovereignty and invites the listener to respond

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

Surrounded by pygmies: Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘A Bigger Picture’

The former PM’s memoir fails to reckon with his fatal belief that all Australians shared his vision

Still from ‘The Assistant’

Her too: ‘The Assistant’

Melbourne-born, New York–based filmmaker Kitty Green’s powerfully underplayed portrait of Hollywood’s abusive culture


More in Noted

‘Minor Detail’ by Adania Shibli

‘Minor Detail’ by Adania Shibli (trans. Elisabeth Jaquette)

The Palestinian author’s haunting novel about an atrocity committed by Israeli soldiers in 1949

‘The Rain Heron’ by Robbie Arnott

An unsettling near-future tale of soldiers hunting a mythic bird by “the Tasmanian Wordsworth”

Cover of ‘The Trials of Portnoy’

‘The Trials of Portnoy’ by Patrick Mullins

The finely detailed story of the legal fight in Australia against the censorship of Philip Roth’s ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’

Cover of ‘The End of October’

‘The End of October’ by Lawrence Wright

A ‘New Yorker’ journalist’s eerily prescient novel about public-health officials fighting a runaway pandemic


Read on

David Gulpilil at the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 2016.

The many faces of David Gulpilil

Gulpilil’s surrealist performances reveal our collective unconscious

Motorists waiting near a police checkpoint in Albury, ahead of the NSW-Victoria border closure on July 8, 2020.

On edge

Closing the borders is an exercise in futility

Image of Olivia Laing’s book ‘Funny Weather’

Small, imperilled utopias: ‘Funny Weather’

Olivia Laing’s book takes hope as an organising principle, asking what art can do in a crisis

Image of Labor’s Kristy McBain and Anthony Albanese

A win’s a win

The Eden-Monaro result shows that Morrison’s popularity has not substantially changed voting patterns – and Labor has still not cut through


×
×