October 2008

Arts & Letters

‘Dissection’ by Jacinta Halloran

By Amanda Lohrey

Jacinta Halloran is a Melbourne medical practitioner, as is the heroine of her first novel, Dissection. Anna McBride is 43, a competent GP, the wife of an architect and mother of two small boys. Every day she juggles the demands of being a good woman, at home and at work, until one small mistake in diagnosis puts a young man's life on the line and results in a malpractice suit. As the weeks draw on to the date set down for mediation, McBride feels her confidence begin to crumble. She was once a bright schoolgirl, conscientious and full of promise. In her thirties she appeared to have it all, but now she is enmeshed in a mid-life crisis and her youthful idealism is dissolving into exhaustion and self-doubt.

Some novels come to you beautifully composed but with all the freshness of an airless room. Others have an immediately recognisable pulse of life; they bring news of the way we live now and they set it down with dark urgency, almost as if the author's life depended on it. Much is at stake in the story Halloran has to tell, and it speaks to the burden of responsibility we carry for those around us. Each of us carries a portion but the medical practitioner is at the frontline of life and death, and inevitably this exacts a toll. How much stress is too much? What happens when the stress lines fracture?

In a famously disdainful piece on the limitations of historical novels, the critic James Wood argued that the role of the novel is to map changes in consciousness, in who we are and how we think. This is an injunction of great moral seriousness, and Jacinta Halloran is up to the task. Her fine analytical intelligence is matched by compelling, rhythmic prose, which carries you through a rigorous self-examination that in lesser hands might have seemed ponderous or fallen flat. Dissection is a gripping exploration of the deep interiority of character that Wood called for in the contemporary novel, and it reads like a moral thriller, a bulletin from the war zone that is modern living. You'll never think of your GP in the same way again.

Amanda Lohrey

Amanda Lohrey is the author of The Reading Group, Camille’s BreadA Short History of Richard Kline, and the Quarterly Essays Groundswell and Voting for Jesus.

Cover: October 2008

October 2008

From the front page

Pub test: restart the boats

The Coalition’s scare campaign is no sure thing in the suburbs

Image of Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks

Pete Shelley’s Buzzcocks: 40 years on

The history and legacy of a punk pioneer

Image from ‘Camping’

Unhappy ‘Camping’

Lena Dunham’s new comedy series is an accidental portrait of toxic femininity

Illustration

From Hillsong to the Bible Belt

Christine Caine’s Australian brand of evangelism has found its flock in America


In This Issue

The return of the Wichita Lineman

Glen Campbell’s ‘Meet Glen Campbell’
Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Daniel Mannix & BA Santamaria

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

24/7

‘Netherland’ by Joseph O’Neill


More in Arts & Letters

Still from The Front Runner

The spectacle of a political scandal: Jason Reitman’s ‘The Front Runner’ and Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘Loro’

New films about ’80s presidential hopeful Gary Hart and Italy’s controversial Silvio Berlusconi both miss the mark

Image of Pete Shelley and Buzzcocks

Pete Shelley’s Buzzcocks: 40 years on

The history and legacy of a punk pioneer

Image of Les Murray

Les Murray’s magisterial ‘Collected Poems’

How to approach a 736-page collection by Australia’s greatest poet?

Image of a bushfire

Fair judgement without surrender: Chloe Hooper’s ‘The Arsonist’

The author of ‘The Tall Man’ tries to understand the motivations of a Black Saturday firebug


More in Noted

The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at QAGOMA

Politics, culture and colour collide in Brisbane

Still from The Cry

ABC TV’s ‘The Cry’

This Scottish–Australian drama successfully subverts the missing-child genre

Image of Henri Matisse, A Game of Bowls, 1908

‘Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

From Matisse to Malevich: a considered snapshot of adventurous Russian collecting

‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

For their Netflix debut, the Coen brothers return to the Western


Read on

Image from ‘Camping’

Unhappy ‘Camping’

Lena Dunham’s new comedy series is an accidental portrait of toxic femininity

Image from ‘Russian Doll’

A bug in the code: ‘Russian Doll’

This existential comedy is 2019’s first must-see Netflix series

Image of crossbenchers Derryn Hinch, Adam Bandt, Nick McKim, Kerryn Phelps, Tim Storer and Andrew Wilkie discussing the medical transfer bill in November

Debate over asylum seeker medical transfers reaches new lows

The government’s scare campaign against the crossbench bill denigrates doctors and detainees

Image from ‘Capharnaüm’

‘Capharnaüm’: giving voice to the voiceless

Nadine Labaki on what motivated her exploration of turmoil’s impact on children


×
×