Cheryl reviews ‘Radical Gratitude’ by Andrew Bienkowski and Mary Akers
Cheryl reviews ‘Elizabeth in the Garden’ by Trea Martyn
There are nine short stories in this collection, plus “Moon River” a moving memoir of the death of the author’s mother.
Typically of Hospital’s work, there are other considerations in “Moon River” than just the central story. For instance, the author entwines her family history with the history of the Brisbane River since European settlement, and there is a graceful meditation on the precarious nature of memory, something Hospital has pondered in earlier works.
In the Wesley Hospital, Hospital’s mother has difficulty remembering a Sunday lunch cruise down the Brisbane River which occurred only a few months before. There are also whole decades of valuable family time missing, unable to be recalled. Yet, towards the end of her life, when her whole tribe gathers from all over Australia, and, in Hospital’s case, South Carolina, to say goodbye, the old lady is so elated that she adds her voice to a spontaneous family singsong. Hospital says, “My mother sang lustily, words and melody alighting on her like a flock of doves from the top hat of a magician.”
Hospital’s work can be read viscerally but it should never be underestimated. For underneath the seduction of the story there are layers of meaning waiting to be excavated. No fare for the intellectually lazy, Hospital’s texts expect her readers to take nothing for granted, and may even expect personal decisions to be made about how a story should end. Who is Joshua in that disturbing tale, “Afterlife of a Stolen Child,” which is told from the point of view of all the main players? Don’t expect to be told, dear readers, for it’s up to you to decide.
Read Hospital’s work with due care and consideration and you will be richly rewarded.
Brisbane author and artist, Rachel Claire, has written and illustrated a book for children which will enchant the child in all of us. Paying homage to the verse of Hilaire Belloc and Lewis Carroll, this book also has a serious environmental message, so is very much a tale for the 21st century.
Watch this space for a reading of this delightful little book, or, if you’d prefer, you could go to
The Booker Prize is usually controversial and last year was no exception with the appointment of the former MI5 Director General, as chairwoman of the judging panel.
There was the usual conjecture about the quality of the work, and why other titles did not make it to the short list. Reading the winning novel, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, I have to admit that I was disappointed in it because I had previously read Patrick de Witt’s rather wonderful story, The Sisters Brothers, and much preferred it. Read on…
More than just very satisfying, it is probably essential to have a good book to read in the hiatus between Christmas and New Year and even a little beyond, before we go back to our normal lives working or studying. Something that we can reflect upon while doing those other necessary things. At year’s end I read the latest Peter Corris crime fiction, Torn Apart and a nonfiction by PD James, Talking About Crime Fiction, which didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know about this particular genre and did not compare at all favourably with Kate Summerscale’s wonderful nonfiction, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (which I have also reviewed), that also gives us a history of the detective novel. But then I picked up something completely different in Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, and was immediately charmed by the wisdom, the wit and the lucid writing style employed to display these qualities.
Manhood for Amateurs is a memoir of the masculine roles Chabon has played and continues to play in his life. It is offered as a series of essays – 39 of them – featuring many of the nagging little worries we have all experienced – men and women – in our own roles as children, spouses and parents. The essays are divided into ten parts which have words like Techniques, Strategies, Exercises, Styles, Elements, Patterns, Studies, Elements, and Tactics in their headings, but feature completely personal and therefore identifiable conundrums which most of us have stumbled over but probably did not have the time to analyse as we struggled to get back on our feet. That’s why this book is so valuable. It is a kind of navigation marker to our own lives and attempts as parents, lovers, dutiful sons and daughters.
by Susana Fortes, translated by Adriana V. Lopez.
“Robert Capa” is the name and persona invented by Gerda Taro to successfully market photographs taken by herself and Endre Friedmann in Paris in 1935.
Gerda was born Gerta Pohorylle in Stuttgart, a Jewish citizen who fled the Nazis to Paris where she met Hungarian Endre Friedmann, also Jewish. He was taking photographs and developing them in the bathroom of his tiny flat with red cellophane wrapped around the light, as he had been shown by another emerging artist, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Gerta changed her name to “Gerda” because it sounded less Jewish, Endre became Robert Capa, Gerda’s creation of the successful American photographer who was rich, talented, and a womaniser. Gerda established herself as Capa’s agent, managing to get commissions for newspaper stories and advertisements.
Robert Capa was sent to Spain to cover the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. While he was away, Gerda developed her own distinct style of photography, but sold her pictures as Capa’s work without ever getting acknowledgement for them.
Prior to conjuring Robert Capa from thin air, Gerta had been sharing an attic in the Latin Quarter with her friend, Ruth Cerf. Multilingual Gerta had easily been able to pick up poorly-paid work typing up scientific journals, but felt the need to do something more satisfying. Returning to her flat one evening, she found that the door had been forced, and stepping inside, that their living space and possessions had been trashed. Captain Flint, their pet parrot, was floating in a pot of boiling water, his neck broken. Racist slogans had been painted on the walls.
Shocked and frightened, Gerta briefly gave way to tears, but then, realising that she was reacting as her tormentors wanted her to respond, she took the Leica camera that she had slung over her shoulder on her way home from work, and started photographing. She had found her profession: she would become an important witness to the cowardice and brutality of such thuggish behaviour. Read on…
The intriguing title refers to a liminal space where great ideas are developing without reference to what the economic rationalists would arrogantly call “the real world.” In the foreword to his cornucopia, Simon Leys recalls a couple of years he spent in impoverished students’ digs in Singapore, where young, fertile minds were developing into greatness, a “hall of uselessness” at that time, because they seemed to have no applicability to practical life outside. It was the kind of germination process which the best universities today protect when they are not worrying about having to fund themselves.
The essays mainly focus on the art of the written word. Leys looks at Western literature through the works of Cervantes, Hugo, G.K. Chesterton, Orwell, Waugh, Nabokov, Simenon and some others. The Third Part, on China, is framed by regard for the written word over the spoken, and the notion of Chinese culture enduring in memory and calligraphy rather than in architecture. Even his analytical piece, “The Cambodian Genocide”, makes reference to Kafka and Primo Levi before going further into that dark place.
Other essays include an hilarious dispute with Christopher Hitchens, whose ungentlemanly title of his article about Mother Teresa prompted Leys to defend the lady in “An Empire of Ugliness.”
Simon Leys is the pen name of Pierre Ryckmans who was born in Belgium and settled in Australia in 1970. We are truly blessed to have a writer of this calibre living amongst us.
Black Inc: $29.95
Australians have been led to believe for many decades that The First Fleet’s primary aim was to cleanse British society of its convict population by dumping it on these shores. Furthermore, it was believed the voyage itself was poorly planned and haphazardly equipped.
Emeritus Professor of History at La Trobe University, Alan Frost, has recently published evidence to the contrary. In The First Fleet: The Real Story, Frost proves the venture was meticulously planned, well-provisioned, and, considering the fact that this was a long voyage of eight months and one week, amazingly safe. Read on…