Australian politics, society & culture

Arts & Letters

By Roger McDonald
The dominating men of Normie Powell’s childhood lived on winding dirt roads following the Trout River upstream to its source. Each was a landowner with acres given over to Merino sheep, animals grazed to the brink of starvation while shedding spun...
Christopher Hitchens and the road to curmudgeonhood
By Phillip Knightley
A couple of years ago at Britain’s premier literary festival, Hay-on-Wye, two star performers dominated the program: former US president Bill Clinton and journalist/author/commentator Christopher Hitchens. Clinton arrived in his Secret...
A vision of a world where adults and children are equals. ‘Motherhood’ by Anne Manne
By Maria Tumarkin
Before my daughter Billie was born almost nine years ago, there were all kinds of ways to insult me:Jenny Craig dropout; boring; mediocre; a lousy lay. Afterwards the only thing that really got to me was being called or thought of as a bad mother...
Laura Linney and Topher Grace in ‘P.S.’
By Helen Garner
If Louise, the main character of Dylan Kidd’s new movie P.S., were played by a less likeable actor than Laura Linney, we mightn’t much care about her. Linney is not exactly “beautiful”, whatever that means, and the everyday sweetness of her...
By Robert Forster
This is a Sunday afternoon barbecue record: people milling about, sausages turning, maybe some Mexican beer. “Who’s this?” someone asks. “It’s the guy who used to be in The Pixies,” someone else replies. There are blank looks until another person...
By Luke Davies
I first became aware of Craig Sherborne when I read his beautifully honed but laconic poems in Best Australian Poems 2003. Here was a fine craftsman with a diamond eye, writing with great grace of the racing life, of family, of childhood. An...
By Zora Simic
The road to junkiedom and prostitution is littered with cliches. Kate Holden’s memoir – the tale of a good Melbourne girl who becomes a heroin-addicted prostitute – mostly avoids the romanticism that often plagues such stories. She’s not averse to...
If alive, will play. Charles MacKarras and the quest for authenticity
By Stephen Fay
Sir Neville Cardus, the legendary cricket writer and music critic, chose to spend the World War II years in Sydney rather than London. Young Australian musicians would seek him out at his home in Kings Cross and ask if he thought they would be able...
The strange and the strangely familiar lurk in ‘A River Ain't Too Much to Love’
By Robert Forster
Smog is Bill Callahan, a man of lyrics and a deep voice, a loner, a drifter, who notices the weather and is wise to past teenage trauma and sticky romance, to his ever-growing connection to the rural and his hipster desire to stay in the cities. He...
By Danielle Wood
“Kate,” says Faye, “is a mezzo soprano. For which I am grateful, actually.” There is opera playing and it seems, to Tamsin, to occupy Faye’s apartment as if it were part of the decor; the rich voice echoing off the timber of the furniture, rippling...
It’s a very Australian thing to glorfy the rich, famous and dead. And yet Rene Rivkin was never really one of us, was he?
By Craig Sherborne
Rivkin Unauthorised? What a redundant title. Rivkin’s dead, and hardly in a position to authorise anything. Andrew Main’s book, one of the best business books I’ve read in a while, gets off on the wrong foot in a few ways. There’s the crappy cover,...
‘Secrets of the Jury Room’ by Malcolm Knox
By Julian Burnside
There is a famous story from the American trial bar concerning juries. The accused was charged with murder. The case was entirely circumstantial – the body had never been found. During his final address, counsel for the accused said to the jury: “...
Sarah Watt’s ‘Look Both Ways’
By Helen Garner
On a scorching summer weekend in Adelaide, while the news is dominated by the fatalities in a train wreck, a bunch of people confront their own private, inner derailments. Meryl (Justine Clarke), a self-sabotaging artist just home from her father’s...
Slick meets ick in ‘House’
By Kerryn Goldsworthy
British actor Hugh Laurie, a gifted amateur athlete whose natural speaking voice recalls his old school Eton, has been nominated in this year’s Emmy Awards for his role as a snaky New Jersey doctor with a half-destroyed leg. Many will remember...
By Inga Clendinnen
Alison is a professional psychic working a cluster of grim towns on the fringe of London. She is a woman of “unfeasible size” but onstage, in her draperies, sporting her lucky opals, she transforms into a woman of confidence, presence and charm....
By Adrian McGregor
Standing on a property my daughter bought recently in Samford, half an hour’s drive north-west of Brisbane, I pointed across the valley to an impressive home. “That’s Steve Renouf’s house.” Said she: “Who’s Steve Renouf?” Had I read John Harms’s...
‘Loner: Inside a Labor Tragedy’ by Bernard Lagan
By Mungo MacCallum
For a movement founded on the principle of democratic socialism, the Australian Labor Party has thrown up a surprising number of leaders dedicated to the führerprinzip. Inevitably this has been a cause of tension, usually escalating into conflict....
Graham Kennedy was an eyes-popping perfectionist, a subversive pre-feminist, a rebel without any trousers on.
By Kerryn Goldsworthy
Among the many thousands of words written in the days after Graham Kennedy died, one memory recurred like a refrain: Kennedy’s uncanny gift for TV. “Because it was a new medium,” said Stuart Wagstaff, “very few people knew how to handle it; for some...

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