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Analysis and Comment (87)

Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton has funded a grant to let readers write. Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton has funded a grant to let readers write. EPA/TAL COHEN

Reading as a creative act: Eleanor Catton’s bold new grant

Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton announced last week she would use her NZ$15,000 winnings from the New Zealand Post best fiction and people’s choice prizes to set up a new grant for writers, dedicated…
Why do dictatorships make such a compelling backdrop for crime fiction? Why do dictatorships make such a compelling backdrop for crime fiction? Dean Ayres/Flickr

Why dictators and detectives are a good match in crime fiction

Dictators dislike detective novels. Both fascist Italy and Nazi Germany outlawed crime fiction in 1941. The crime novel, according to the Italian Ministry of Popular Culture, weakened the health of the…
According to Masha Gessen, Vladimir Putin only thinks six weeks ahead. According to Masha Gessen, Vladimir Putin only thinks six weeks ahead.

Why we underestimate Putin, according to Masha Gessen

Judith Armstrong spoke with Gessen when she was in Melbourne as a guest of the Melbourne Writers' Festival last week. You can listen to the extended interview here. In her biography of Vladimir Putin…
Social reading in book clubs helps readers make sense of big ideas through personal experience. Social reading in book clubs helps readers make sense of big ideas through personal experience. Susana Fernandez

Book Week is good for kids – and book clubs are great for adults

If my Facebook feed is anything to go by, last month parents scrabbled to make costumes of popular characters from children’s books. They were preparing for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s annual…
Frederick Waddy’s caricature of Anthony Trollope, the man who offended so many Australians with his assessment of our ways. Frederick Waddy’s caricature of Anthony Trollope, the man who offended so many Australians with his assessment of our ways. Wikimedia Commons

Celebrity blows: Anthony Trollope and those touchy colonials

The Australian press has long been fascinated by the opinion that visiting celebrities hold about Australia. This obsession was excited by the written observations of Mark Twain, who visited in 1896, and…
Penguin has touched a nerve by issuing a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover with no chocolate. Penguin has touched a nerve by issuing a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover with no chocolate. AAP /NEWZULU/SEE LI

We shouldn’t judge Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by its cover

Last week, Penguin released a 50th-anniversary edition of Roald Dahl’s classic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – to an astonishingly negative reception. Die-hard Dahl fans on Twitter were scathing…
A new collection takes stock of the four decades that have passed since the publication of Dennis Altman’s landmark book, Homosexual. A new collection takes stock of the four decades that have passed since the publication of Dennis Altman’s landmark book, Homosexual. malstad

Noted works: After Homosexual

Noted Works is a new series on The Conversation devoted to long-form reviews of significant new books. See the end for further details. Dennis Altman was a young, articulate activist and out gay man when…
True story, seriously, it’s all about me. True story, seriously, it’s all about me. Nathan O'Nions

Non-fiction’s beauty is in the I of the beholder

Are we being saturated with “inconsequential memoir”? That question was posed in the latest edition of The Lifted Brow (TLB), a print/online journal of new Australian and international (think US) writing…
Can literary works play a productive part in the process of reconciliation? Can literary works play a productive part in the process of reconciliation? butupa

The case for Gail Jones’ Sorry

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future. – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology…
All serious writers should take their own work, and the efforts of others, seriously. All serious writers should take their own work, and the efforts of others, seriously. photosteve101

Book reviewing is an art, in its own way

There should be no hard and fast rules concerning book reviewing. That’s because reviewing constitutes a worthy genre in its own right, one that should not be limited by guidelines or mandates. Criticism…
Let’s not underestimate the intellectual goodwill that sustains our literary culture. Let’s not underestimate the intellectual goodwill that sustains our literary culture. Antoine Robiez

In defence of book reviewers in Australia

Book reviewers and the editors of periodicals that commission them are used to sour assessments of their worth, but Professor John Dale’s article on The Conversation yesterday is in a class of its own…
Vidal sprinkled an almost limitless supply of bon-mots across our recent history. Vidal sprinkled an almost limitless supply of bon-mots across our recent history. Antidote Films

Lest we forget: Gore Vidal and the United States of Amnesia

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia – by the Australian film-maker Nicholas Wrathall – has been doing the rounds of festival circuits since its release last year, and is currently showing at special…
We all know a good review when we read one – but what actually differentiates a good review from a bad one? We all know a good review when we read one – but what actually differentiates a good review from a bad one? Hartwig HKD

Here they are: the rules for book reviewing

Good book reviews are all alike while every bad review is bad in its own way. In Australia reviews are often bad in many different ways. Historically the trade has consisted of retired English academics…
A Million Windows asks a good deal of its readers, requiring us to piece together elements through patterns of connections rather than through a clear narrative line. A Million Windows asks a good deal of its readers, requiring us to piece together elements through patterns of connections rather than through a clear narrative line. runmonty

A look through A Million Windows by Gerald Murnane

Gerald Murnane’s most recent novel, A Million Windows, might be read as a meditation on the relation between sound and silence. At the heart of the novel, though only revealed at the end, is a secret that…
McBride’s narrative of trauma negotiates the burdens of Irish literary, religious and cultural history. McBride’s narrative of trauma negotiates the burdens of Irish literary, religious and cultural history. Mysi

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – so form an opinion

For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say. The foundational challenge of Eimear McBride’s novel is plainly visible in its opening lines, above: the incomplete…
The financial model for Australian poetry publishing is rich and rare. The financial model for Australian poetry publishing is rich and rare. Erich Ferdinand

Profit is rare, but poetry’s weird blooms persist

Recently on The Conversation, I described a remarkable moment of language experimentation highlighted by recent Australian poetry prizes. Panning out to a wider view of contemporary Australian poetry…
What is lost and gained when book reviewers remain faceless? What is lost and gained when book reviewers remain faceless? Scott Beale / Laughing Squid, laughingsquid.com

Anonymous book reviews don’t foster our literary culture

The Saturday Paper publishes anonymous book reviews and, occasionally, reviews by identified critics. That anonymity was a much-discussed feature when the paper launched in March, and the debate continues…
A deeply moving novel about loss, grief and an unconventional coming of wisdom. A deeply moving novel about loss, grief and an unconventional coming of wisdom. yaruman5

The case for Randolph Stow’s To the Islands

Randolph Stow’s To the Islands (1958) is an astonishing novel, a work of poetic skill and political subtlety – and one that is rarely mentioned today. Its omission from Australian literary syllabuses and…
New technologies are helping adventurous readers find new contexts for their favourite novels. New technologies are helping adventurous readers find new contexts for their favourite novels. sama093

Lose yourself in books no more – interactive maps show the way

Ever get lost in a book? A new online database of crowd-sourced information called Placing Literature allows readers to explore the settings they are reading about through an interactive map. To me, this…
Read on for some pointers … although all will be revealed next week. Read on for some pointers … although all will be revealed next week. Paul Bence

Who will win the 2014 Miles Franklin Award?

When Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North was published last year, one reviewer proclaimed he had just read the winner of the 2014 Miles Franklin Award. Flanagan’s novel has now got as…
From suicide to heroin addiction, young adult fiction creates open discussion about the darker issues in our society. From suicide to heroin addiction, young adult fiction creates open discussion about the darker issues in our society. Flickr

Young adult fiction’s dark themes give the hope to cope

Problem or issue-based young adult novels are not new occurrences. From John Green’s Fault in Our Stars (2012) to Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007), books aimed at readers as young as 12, and as…
Is using a vast vocabulary such a good thing anyway? Is using a vast vocabulary such a good thing anyway? Candice Albach/ Raul Pacheco Vega

Shakespeare had fewer words, but doper rhymes, than rappers

New York-based data scientist and designer Matt Daniels recently noted Shakespeare’s much touted vast vocabulary and charted how many different words Shakespeare used in comparison to contemporary hip-hop…
There’s renewed interest in poetry that takes risks and engages inventively with form. There’s renewed interest in poetry that takes risks and engages inventively with form. Tian Yang

2014 is a rich and radical time in Australian poetry

Do you think of poetry as a quaint hobby or an antiquated riddle? Think again. If you haven’t been keeping up with Australian poetry this year, you’re missing some of the country’s most exciting avant-garde…
Historical fiction rewards both the readers and writers who love it. Historical fiction rewards both the readers and writers who love it. Carsten Tolkmit

Historical fiction deserves a future – and at present it’s looking good

Historical fiction is booming. The much-publicised success of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is just the tip of the iceberg for a genre that rivals…
This quest is frequently represented as the illusion created by flat landscapes, by plains, with the promise on the horizon. This quest is frequently represented as the illusion created by flat landscapes, by plains, with the promise on the horizon. Monash University

The case for Gerald Murnane’s The Plains

It could be claimed (and I am about to) that Gerald Murnane’s 1982 novel The Plains has the most compelling opening in Australian fiction: Twenty years ago, when I first arrived on the plains, I kept my…
What links the former Soviet Union to the Russia we know today? What links the former Soviet Union to the Russia we know today? Rob Ketcherside

Back in the USSR: my life as a ‘spy’ in the archives

Spies were a glamour news item in Western (and Soviet) press in the 1960s; it was the age of Kim Philby, British spymaster-cum-Soviet spy, and the endless media hunt for the “fifth man” of the Cambridge…
Democracy is deeply defective but it’s all that we have. Democracy is deeply defective but it’s all that we have. Justus Hayes

The case for The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? Welcome back to our occasional series in which our authors make the case for a work of their choosing…
Valley of the Dolls is a novel about wanting. Characters want something badly. Valley of the Dolls is a novel about wanting. Characters want something badly. Marta Manso

Valley of the Dolls: 40 years since the death of Jacqueline Susann

This year marks 40 years since the temple of airport fiction lost its Chief Vestal. Author Jacqueline Susann maxed out her mortal coil back in 1974, on September 21, felled by cancer. She was only 56…
Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter is not your standard bushranger confessional, it’s a searing document of prophecy and self-mythologisation. Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter is not your standard bushranger confessional, it’s a searing document of prophecy and self-mythologisation. Raymond Barlow

The case for Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? See the end of this article for information on how to get involved. Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter was…
David Ireland’s 1976 novel The Glass Canoe leads its readers into the world of a dying tribe of drinkers. David Ireland’s 1976 novel The Glass Canoe leads its readers into the world of a dying tribe of drinkers. matthewwu88

The case for David Ireland’s The Glass Canoe

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? Welcome back to our occasional series in which our authors make the case for a work of their choosing…
We’re into awards season – so lets look at the awards. We’re into awards season – so lets look at the awards. Lukas Coch/AAP Image

Women’s writing at the Stellas, Miles Franklin and Kibble awards

As the award season gets into swing, the number and quality of books published in 2013 show that this was another bumper year for work by Australian women. The winner of the 2014 Stella Prize for Australian…
Did you get a card for the bard? Intrigue around Shakespeare the man continues unabated. Did you get a card for the bard? Intrigue around Shakespeare the man continues unabated. Wikimedia Commons

To b-day, or not to b-day: what a piece of work is Shakespeare

In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the conspirator Cassius bitterly describes the position of Caesar in Rome. He says: … [H]e doth bestride the narrow world Like a colossus, and we petty men Walk…
Telling stories for black and white alike involves a difficult negotiation of cultures and contexts. Telling stories for black and white alike involves a difficult negotiation of cultures and contexts. Luke Redmond

The case for Gularabulu by Paddy Roe

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? Welcome back to our occasional series in which our authors make the case for a work of their choosing…
A family’s fluctuations in fortune impact upon “the dark side of their married life". A family’s fluctuations in fortune impact upon “the dark side of their married life". Amanda Slater

The case for The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? Welcome to our occasional series in which our authors make the case for a work of their choosing. See…
Commissaire Maigret is about to spring back into life. Commissaire Maigret is about to spring back into life. FaceMePLS

Inspector Maigret’s return is a case well won for crime fiction

Before Kurt Wallander, before Harry Hole, and before Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, the lone, towering figure of non-Anglo-American detective fiction was Maigret. Appearing in 75 novels and 28…
A Western, set in the south, featuring European gothic – what’s going on? A Western, set in the south, featuring European gothic – what’s going on? Image courtesy of FOXTEL.

True Detective lassos the Yellow King in Hollywood South

This article contains spoilers. Ne raillons pas les fous; leur folie dure plus longtemps que la nôtre … Voila toute la difference. So begins The Repairer of Reputations, the opening story to Robert W Chambers…
Who draws the line on what is and isn’t acceptable for children’s viewing? Who draws the line on what is and isn’t acceptable for children’s viewing? Karen Eliot

Nudity in kids' books is nothing to worry about

What deadly affront would cause a group of conservative booksellers – and a rather attractive golden retriever – to protest by doffing their duds to pose in the buff? The cause was the savaging of a children’s…
Set in the 1890s, this is one of few novels about a girl’s maturation that has come to be understood as a “classic”. Set in the 1890s, this is one of few novels about a girl’s maturation that has come to be understood as a “classic”. State Library of Victoria

The case for Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? Welcome to our occasional series in which our authors make the case for a work of their choosing. See…
This sassy new prize may not be so hot. This sassy new prize may not be so hot. Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Folio Prize nominations reveal underlying cultural chauvinism

The winner of The Folio Prize is announced on 10 March. This prize may be young, but it has already administered some high profile snubs. Its creation was in itself an implied criticism: founded as a response…
Bryson gives us a comprehensive and rigorous exploration of the Azaria Chamberlain case. Bryson gives us a comprehensive and rigorous exploration of the Azaria Chamberlain case. matthiassiegel

The case for John Bryson’s Evil Angels

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? Welcome to our occasional series in which our authors make the case for a work of their choosing. See…
Has the mining industry drowned out the arts in Western Australia? Not at all – the mines are fertile ground for storytellers. Has the mining industry drowned out the arts in Western Australia? Not at all – the mines are fertile ground for storytellers. AAP Image/Rebecca Le May

Mining for stories: the boom-and-bust mining literature cycle

It is often difficult to ascertain how the location or culture that you live within is perceived by others, but travelling to other parts of Australia or indeed the world as a Western Australian it’s usually…
“Scott’s novel is not in denial of the brutal realities of the colonial process.” “Scott’s novel is not in denial of the brutal realities of the colonial process.” sarah_browning

The case for Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance

If you had to argue for the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing, what would it be? Today, we start an occasional series in which our authors make the case for a work of their choosing…
Krasnaya Polanya, the site of the Sochi 2014 games, has long been a haunt of Russian artists and intellectuals. Krasnaya Polanya, the site of the Sochi 2014 games, has long been a haunt of Russian artists and intellectuals. EPA/Michael Kappeler

Writing the Caucasus: Sochi and Russia’s literary retreats

Sochi – currently hosting the Winter Olympics – looks like the beach resort it is, situated on the blue waters of the east coast of the Black Sea, and enjoying a sub-tropical climate. There is what looks…
Tomes of war stories. Tomes of war stories. gfpeck

Glory, farce and despair: the many stories of World War I

Anniversaries encourage reflection. Now, 100 years after the start of the Great War, anyone who follows current affairs or reads a newspaper is part of a cultural conversation, a widespread reassessment…
None of these Victorian-era New Zealand women became a Henry Handel Richardson. None of these Victorian-era New Zealand women became a Henry Handel Richardson. Thiophene Guy/Flickr

Why New Zealand has no great 19th-century novel

Historically, geographically, culturally – there are many points of comparison between Australia and its neighbour to the east, New Zealand. But there are notable differences. This week, The Conversation…
The godfather of punk. The godfather of punk. zapdelight

The beat goes on: 100 years of William S Burroughs

When William S Burroughs returned to New York City in 1974, after two decades of peripatetic rambling, dubious pleasure and restless escape, the rising rock poet Patti Smith expressed her deep pleasure…
Plot – above all else – has proven successful for Australian author Reilly. Plot – above all else – has proven successful for Australian author Reilly. Peter Morris/Pan Macmillan.

Improving one’s plot in life: why Matthew Reilly’s books sell

I don’t know whether Australian author Matthew Reilly ever studied Aristotle, but he certainly studied action novels. As the subject of tonight’s Australian Story on ABC, Reilly’s affinity with the Greek…
Filer’s work is based on experiences as a psychiatric nurse. Filer’s work is based on experiences as a psychiatric nurse. Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Nathan Filer’s stunning debut wins Costa book award

“I live a Cut & Paste kind of life”. So the narrator of Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall tells us. But in terms of its daring exploration of a life little understood and left in shadow, there is…
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face. Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face. Wikimedia Commons

A Robert Burns is for life, not just for 25 January

On 25 January, people all over the world will congregate to feast upon a spicy sheep’s stomach – but not before they’ve recited a poem in its honour. The occasion is Burns Night, the poem is Robert Burns’s…
However you read them, there are some hot books this summer. However you read them, there are some hot books this summer. Leonard John Matthews

Australian literature and summer – books that sizzle

Summertime and reading always went together in my family. Whether we were sunbathing on hot silky beach sand or cooling off in the back yard under a shady plum tree, our books came too. In those pre-digital…
Writers such as Sheldon are easy to knock – if you haven’t read them. Writers such as Sheldon are easy to knock – if you haven’t read them. rocketlass

Other sides of midnight: what we can learn from Sidney Sheldon

I was somewhere in the middle of Howard Jacobson’s 2010 Man Booker Prize winner The Finkler Question and finding it uncompelling. (Sorry, Howard.) I needed a potboiler pick-me-up stat. What better than…
Australian reading experiences weren’t limited to the pages of printed books – as this screenshot from Christy Dena’s AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS demonstrates. Australian reading experiences weren’t limited to the pages of printed books – as this screenshot from Christy Dena’s AUTHENTIC IN ALL CAPS demonstrates. Christy Dena/Universe Creation 101

We are our stories: Australian reading experiences in 2013

I spent most of 2013 living overseas and from afar Australia’s beauty and its fault lines came into sharp focus. In my reading I found myself searching for insight, and three Australian stories stood out…
One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. kieri d l h

Welcome to the global boudoir, where sex is so bad it’s gaga

Do you remember how people used to walk about with ghetto blasters, so you could hardly escape the high-volume throb of some visceral drumbeat? Being alive now is like having your head permanently wedged…
What time is it in Europe? Why are we still looking to the north Atlantic for cultural role models? What time is it in Europe? Why are we still looking to the north Atlantic for cultural role models? leoplus

How to read Australia’s literary obsession with the North Atlantic

Last weekend columnist and broadcaster Phillip Adams published a piece in The Australian lamenting what he called the “coca-colonial cringe": Like you I measure my life with American movies, music and…
Hilary Mantel: unprecedented success, but not the whole story. Hilary Mantel: unprecedented success, but not the whole story. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Women’s prizes inspire some and wind others up – perfect

The Costa book awards shortlists have been announced and the one thing that dominates people’s first reactions has been the fact the fiction shortlist is made up entirely of women authors. Is the response…
Football, with its passion, drama and larger-than-life characters, has all the elements for a good literary genre. Football, with its passion, drama and larger-than-life characters, has all the elements for a good literary genre. Boris Roessler/EPA

From stadium to page: why football deserves more fiction

A great football novel is like a perfectly executed bicycle-kick goal, like players such as Argentine legends Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi; they come along once in a generation. Against the accumulated…
Lessing: “intellectually uncompromising”. Lessing: “intellectually uncompromising”. Juan Martin/AAP

Doris Lessing was a radical, in the truest sense

The writer and critic Margaret Drabble recently made an observation that I think is representative of the diverse and prolific career of the British author Doris Lessing, who died last night at 94: She…
Germaine Greer’s acquired work is enough to fill 150 filing drawers. Germaine Greer’s acquired work is enough to fill 150 filing drawers. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Why Germaine Greer’s life in letters is one for the archives

Earlier this week, as you may have read, the University of Melbourne announced it had acquired the archives of a former student, feminist scholar and writer Germaine Greer. The total cost of the archive…
Letters by Australian author Elizabeth Jolley have shed light on her family history. Letters by Australian author Elizabeth Jolley have shed light on her family history. ABC

Fiction and lies: what we learn from Elizabeth Jolley’s love letters

In 2012 Fremantle Arts Centre Press published The House of Fiction, a memoir by Susan Swingler. Last night the ABC’s Australian Story followed up with a program on Swingler and her book. Why all this interest…
Reflected glory. Reflected glory. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Youngest author, longest book, final Commonwealth Booker

New Zealand author Eleanor Catton has become the youngest ever author to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize for English literature. The 28-year old author won for just her second novel, The Luminaries…
Master of the short story: Alice Munro. Master of the short story: Alice Munro. Julien Behal/PA

Alice Munro Nobel a victory for the neglected short story

The announcement of Alice Munro as 2013’s winner of the Nobel Prize for literature marks the high point in the 82-year old writer’s long career, but also a significant recognition for the form with which…
Seamus Heaney up close with the local environment. Seamus Heaney up close with the local environment. Burns Library, Boston College

Seamus Heaney - the death of a naturalist

The sudden death on Friday of the Irish Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney has focused international minds and media on the power of poetry to affect our lives. This is especially true from an environmental…
Fact meets fiction. Fact meets fiction. Ian S

Tragic realism: the rise of Mexican narcoliterature

Crime fiction has become a truly global genre. Books based in Reykjavik, Oslo, or Barcelona now vie with home-grown works set in more recognisable, down-at-heel locations like Manchester or Northampton…
A proposed sequel to Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are has ended after his publisher sought an injunction, claiming breach of copyright. A proposed sequel to Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are has ended after his publisher sought an injunction, claiming breach of copyright. EPA/Frank Armstrong

Where the wild things aren’t: Sendak sequel stymied by US copyright law

It seems we won’t be checking up on Max and the “Wild Things” any time soon. A campaign on crowdfunding website Kickstarter to fund a sequel to the late Maurice Sendak’s bestselling picture storybook Where…
A graphic novel has been added to the year 12 English curriculum. A graphic novel has been added to the year 12 English curriculum. Graphic novel image from www.shutterstock.com

Teaching graphic novels as literature: The Complete Maus enters the curriculum

Next year, senior students in Victoria will be able to study a graphic novel, The Complete Maus, as part of the prescribed English curriculum. As a literary and artistic form, graphic novels combine the…
Does Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby fail to meet its grandiose expectations? Does Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby fail to meet its grandiose expectations? AAP/Warner Bros

The Great Gatsby: death by glitter or a thought-provoking spectacle?

It’s impossible to see a film with the hype of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby without preconceptions. The build-up to this film has been overwhelming with trailers splashed across screens everywhere…
Literary critical terms and theories have been adopted by education institutions as a way to provoke thought on the relationship between humans and the environment. Literary critical terms and theories have been adopted by education institutions as a way to provoke thought on the relationship between humans and the environment. Thomas Bristow

Ecocriticism: environment, emotions and education

How can art and literature help us imagine a climate-changed world? In 1995, ecocritic Lawrence Buell argued that apocalypse is the single most powerful master metaphor that environmentalism has at its…
Reading from an early age can instill healthy habits for a lifetime. “Possum Magic”, by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas. Reading from an early age can instill healthy habits for a lifetime. “Possum Magic”, by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas. Scholastic

Worth a thousand words: the top 10 best Australian children’s picture books

The academics and the “mummy bloggers” are in furious agreement – reading picture books to children is one of the best things you can do for a child’s development. It also happens to be, in the opinion…
Our obsession with worlds worse than our own says more about our future than we might realise. Our obsession with worlds worse than our own says more about our future than we might realise. x ray delta one

Science fiction and dystopia: what’s the connection?

The future in science fiction is often presented in a dystopian setting. Certainly films such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca and Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men follow this pattern…
Reading the same book can bring students closer together as a group. Reading the same book can bring students closer together as a group. Students reading image from www.shutterstock.com

A journey with The Boat: students connect over a common story

First-year undergraduate students at the University of Melbourne have been invited to participate in a new initiative. “Melbourne Summer Reading” identifies a book which speaks to some of the big issues…
Cosmopolis' adaptation by David Cronenberg (left) is the first time Don DeLillo’s work has hit cinemas. Cosmopolis' adaptation by David Cronenberg (left) is the first time Don DeLillo’s work has hit cinemas. EPA/Joao Relvas

Visions of financial ruin: Cronenberg brings DeLillo’s Cosmopolis to the big screen

New York writer Don DeLillo’s 2003 novella Cosmopolis has been adapted into a blockbuster film by David Cronenberg, to be released in Australia today. The film, with an all-star cast including Robert Pattinson…
Past the Shallows is set on Tasmania’s rugged south coast. Past the Shallows is set on Tasmania’s rugged south coast. bravoechnovember

An iceberg in treacherous waters: Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows

MILES FRANKLIN REVIEW: The winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin Award will be announced this week. In preparation, The Conversation brings you academic reviews of the five novels shortlisted for Australia’s…
After 70 years, Mein Kampf is to be re-printed. After 70 years, Mein Kampf is to be re-printed. Michael Dawes

Is Mein Kampf still too dangerous?

Almost 70 years ago, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in the bunker of the Reich Chancellery, marking the downfall of one of the most murderous regimes the world has ever seen. Decades later, there is still…
Changing the rules of the Vogel would be like changing the rules of the AFL. Let’s not spoil the theatre. Changing the rules of the Vogel would be like changing the rules of the AFL. Let’s not spoil the theatre. Flickr/Michael Spencer

The theatre of the game: why the Vogel age restriction works

A student in Japan once told me that old age is the best cure for youth. It took me a long time, and a lot more life experience, before I finally figured out what she meant: there is no way to avoid the…
Gunter Grass caused a stir with his anti-Israel poem, but political poetry often misses the mark. Gunter Grass caused a stir with his anti-Israel poem, but political poetry often misses the mark. AAP/Marcus Brandt

Political poetry took down Günter Grass … but is it any good?

The world of political poetry has suffered some significant losses in recent months. Václav Havel, a poet long before he was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic…

End of year report (letter to Hisham)

The following is a poem commissioned by The Conversation from Sydney City Poet, Kate Middleton on the year that was. Did you read about the MARS-500 simulation? Six men in isolation sharing a broken English…
Steve Jobs' desire for an enduring memory of his work led him to engage a biographer. The book has become his obituary. Steve Jobs' desire for an enduring memory of his work led him to engage a biographer. The book has become his obituary. EPA/Britta Pedersen

The power of biography: Why Steve Jobs' legend will live on

Steve Jobs' “official” biography was always going to be a bestseller, with its promise of a candid examination of the inner workings of the world’s most successful salesman and the company he twice built…
aapone file switzerland britain literature julian barnes original. aapone file switzerland britain literature julian barnes original.

Julian Barnes' Sense of an Ending a ‘fine and curious’ short novel

Julian Barnes’ 11th novel represents an interesting choice for the judges of this year’s Booker Prize, and it goes without saying that a prize like this is always going to arouse criticism and even controversy…
It’s fourth time lucky for Julian Barnes in the Booker Prize. It’s fourth time lucky for Julian Barnes in the Booker Prize. EPA/Alessandro Della Bella

Booker victory for Julian Barnes but should the focus be on ‘readability’?

Julian Barnes today won the Man Booker Prize for his novel about a childhood friendship and the fragility of memory, The Sense of an Ending. This is the fourth time he’s been nominated, and Barnes declared…
Thousands of Brits moved to Australia for the thrill of a more glamorous life. But many struggled. Thousands of Brits moved to Australia for the thrill of a more glamorous life. But many struggled. Flickr/MarkFaviellPhotos

A moving history: how personal stories illuminate the past

Published biographies, and indeed many histories, are often about the famous, rich or powerful. And most often, they’re about men. I’ve preferred to research and write about so-called “ordinary” men and…
Kim Scott’s tale of early settler relations has been applauded by the literary community. Kim Scott’s tale of early settler relations has been applauded by the literary community. The Trust Company

Kim Scott leaves competition for dead in all-male Miles Franklin win

Western Australian author Kim Scott won the Miles Franklin Literary Award for the second time last night with his fifth novel, That Deadman Dance. Described by one judge as “post-reconciliation” fiction…

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