Reviewer: CG

By this author


Books August 04, 2018

No Friend But the Mountains

“In the dead of night, at the peak of darkness, one is reminded more than ever of the power of the fences,” writes Behrouz Boochani. “The prisoners exhale a raw horror and deep hopelessness; they hold onto their nightmares – hold the nightmares …

Books July 28, 2018

The True Colour of the Sea

“Dan dropped dead on the sand and that was that.” In the first sentence of the first story in this very enjoyable new collection, Robert Drewe establishes the sea as a place of both death and sly comedy. There is a hoary literary convention of the …

Books June 02, 2018

Waiting for Elijah

Before his death from a policeman’s bullet at the age of 24, Elijah Holcombe had been an intelligent, personable and well-loved young man at university in Sydney as well as in his rural New South Wales community. Like his father, Jeremy, however, he …

Books April 27, 2018

Curry

In Curry: Eating, Reading and Race, Naben Ruthnum takes a bite at what he calls “currybooks” – food-centric memoir and fiction from the South Asian diaspora. Their recipe, as for curry itself, he explains, is flexible. Most, however, contain …

Books April 13, 2018

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia is a mosaic, its more than 50 tiles –  short personal essays with unique patterns, shapes, colours and textures – coming together to form a powerful portrait of resilience. Some contributors, such as footballer …

Books March 31, 2018

The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted

It’s the late 1960s in the small town of Hometown, Victoria. People gather at the pub to watch Bellbird and Pick a Box, or drop in at the butcher shop of “Juicy” Collins for a gossip. Winds of change may be sweeping through places …

Books March 17, 2018

Two Sisters

The Jumas were in many ways a typical immigrant family. The father, Sadiq, was the one who decided they would leave Somalia for Norway in pursuit of a better life. He was open-minded, a poet and multilingual; he loved his new country and the opportunities …

Books February 17, 2018

The Melody

Somewhere in Europe, on a dark night, in a decaying seaside villa, a lonely old widower confronts an intruder in his kitchen. Alfred Busi has long been accustomed to the nightly din created by wild dogs, cats, monkeys, deer, pigs and rats that ferret …

Books February 03, 2018

Peach

“Thick stick sticky sticking wet ragged wool winding round the wounds …” The stuttering, staccato poetry of Emma Glass’s dark and surreal debut novel grabs you by the throat from the very first sentence and throws you straight into the head of …

Books December 16, 2017

Sisters

Sisters is a spare and compelling novel in fragments, a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing, a Chinese landscape painting with as much void as ink. It is composed of obsessively recalled conversations, physical details, dreams, photographs …

Books October 07, 2017

The Trauma Cleaner

This is a book as multifaceted as its subject. It’s a meticulously put-together biography of a fastidiously groomed woman whose business it is to clean up after murder, suicide and hoarding messes. It’s a wondrous portrait of an inspiring character …

Books September 23, 2017

Home Fire

Home Fire is a novel of such acute insight into our contemporary condition that it’s a bit of a shock to realise it’s based on a play written 2500 years ago. Author Kamila Shamsie signals her debt to Sophocles’ Antigone with her …

Books September 16, 2017

Detours

A self-described “lanky, shaggy D-list” celebrity and dandy who strives to be Noël Coward but fears he is Steptoe, Tim Rogers, lead singer of You Am I, reveals that these days the “swagger” in his walk comes from two knee reconstructions. “This …

Books September 02, 2017

The Book of Dirt

Bram Presser once came upon his grandfather in the backyard of his Melbourne home. The old man, a Holocaust survivor, was running his fingers through the dirt and incanting a prayer. Suddenly, he thrust a fistful of earth at the sky. When he turned, Presser …

Books July 15, 2017

Draw Your Weapons

“War,” observes the American theorist and former theologian Sarah Sentilles, “is right here”: on the television, in the drone factory an hour’s drive from her home in Idaho, and in the form of an art student, Iraq war veteran and former Abu …

Books June 24, 2017

Selfie

Who hasn’t wondered: “Who am I?”? In Selfie, Will Storr asks: “What is ‘I’?” Storr, an award-winning British journalist and author of books including The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, embarks …

Books June 03, 2017

The Nothing

“I imagine things for a living,” remarks the narrator of The Nothing, “and the imagination is the most dangerous place on earth.” Waldo, once a famous and charismatic film director and rake, is now old and decrepit, the possessor of “most …

Books May 20, 2017

New Philosopher, Issue 16

In the way of an amuse-bouche: the average Brit spends five hours a week watching television food programs but only four hours a week cooking; when noise exceeds 89 decibels, the brain has trouble discerning salty from sweet, but umami is unaffected by …

Books May 13, 2017

The Only Girl in the World

The Etruscan god Orcus feasted on human flesh; his name inspired the French word “ogre”. The word makes its appearance very late in Maude Julien’s harrowing, heartbreaking, and against-all-odds uplifting memoir The Only Girl in the World, …

Books April 08, 2017

The Songs of Trees

I want David George Haskell’s ears. He hears a hairy woodpecker working on green ash as “marching-band drummer, too stoned to care” and a pileated woodpecker, tapping away at the same tree, as “old man in no hurry to nail loose boards”; another …

Books April 01, 2017

The White Queen: One Nation and the Politics of Race

Some people consider Pauline Hanson to be the Donald Trumpette of the Antipodes, the local queenpin of an international populist movement. Hanson herself promotes this narrative. Yet as David Marr asserts in White Queen, hers is indisputably …

Books March 25, 2017

The Rules Do Not Apply

With a loyal wife at home and a hot lover on the side, Ariel Levy confesses: “I thought I could be like a French man with a mistress in a movie … that I could step outside of my life for a few gleaming hours from time to time and then return to …

Books March 18, 2017

Insomniac City

When the writer and photographer Bill Hayes first met Oliver Sacks, the author of many much-loved books including Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, dubbed “the poet laureate of medicine” by The New York …

Books February 18, 2017

The Disappearance of Émile Zola

In 1893, Britain and the British literary world feted the visiting French novelist Émile Zola so grandly and warmly that he fantasised about one day returning to London and living there “incognito”. Five years later, in the early hours of July …

Books February 04, 2017

4321

Paul Auster’s new novel, 4321 opens with a story wrapped around a pun. It finishes, nearly 900 pages later, with the revelation that the pun is part of a much bigger joke. Relax – I’m not going to spoil the ending. But the pun goes like …

Books December 03, 2016

Innocents and Others

Two friends, Meadow and Carrie, grow up to be filmmakers, grow apart, and come together many years later. Innocents and Others is a novel about their friendship. It is also about what it means to make films and what films are made to mean. …

Books October 22, 2016

Time Travel

Time flies, time flows. Time is money. Time is like an arrow, a ladder, a river, a maze. Time marches on, time runs out, time is up. We waste it, we spend it, we kill it. Time is all we have. And if it didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it – then …

Books September 17, 2016

Fair Game

Scientology has been in and out of the news since its inception more than 60 years ago, thanks to tax rorts, allegations of espionage, excruciating celebrity supporters and the wacky ideas of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who saw it as his mission to help …

Books August 27, 2016

The Cosmopolitans

Qayenaat floats on the edge of the contemporary art scene in Bangalore. In her early 50s, her own artistic ambitions long forgotten, she ekes out a living as an editor. Her name signifies “all of God’s creation”, or the world. Her father, a public …

Books August 20, 2016

Position Doubtful

While surveying the Tanami Desert in 1962 for a stock route, Kim Mahood’s father chanced upon a prominent sandstone hill – “the best landmark for thirty miles around”, as he later wrote. Yet the aeronautical map he was using labelled the hill …

Books July 30, 2016

Release the Bats

“I bet you could wallpaper the planet with books that never got to page two,” writes DBC Pierre. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, given how many books did but shouldn’t have bothered. At the same time, there are a lot of would-be writers …

Books July 09, 2016

Black Teeth

Jason Ginaff is a twentysomething hacker who does deep background checks on job candidates for corporations. In his spare time, he uses his skills to search for the father he never knew. Success brings trouble in the form of Rudy Alamein. Rudy’s father …

Books July 02, 2016

The Girls

Fourteen-year-old Evie first comes across the girls in a park in her home town of Petaluma, only about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco but which feels a million miles from excitement. It is the summer of 1969, and the hippie counterculture …

Books June 11, 2016

In the Darkroom

Susan Faludi (Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women) was tidying away files for a book she’d written on the subject of masculinity when she received an email from her long-estranged father. He’d titled it “Changes”. A …

Books May 07, 2016

Educated Youth

Educated Youth opens in Shanghai in the mid-to late 1980s, some 10 years after Mao’s death. Most of the 14 million zhiqing, “educated youth”, whom he condemned to indefinite rural exile during the Cultural Revolution, had made …

Books April 16, 2016

The Argonauts

Not many books that take love and motherhood as central themes would open with a line like this: “…the words I love you come tumbling out of my mouth in an incantation the first time you fuck me in the ass, my face smashed against the cement floor …

Books April 02, 2016

The Media and the Massacre

There are things we know about the Port Arthur massacre of April 28, 1996, things that can be proved and measured. We know, for example, that Martin Bryant, then 28, arrived at the tourist site armed with high-powered weapons. We know that he used these …

Books March 19, 2016

Meanjin, Autumn 2016

In her essay “Listening”, psychotherapist Zoë Krupka maps out how we listen – rebelliously, in surrender, in ways that empty us or fill us up. Reading is a kind of listening. There are essays, poems and stories in the second edition of Meanjin

Books March 12, 2016

The Midnight Watch

In the early hours of April 15, 1912, Herbert Stone, the second officer aboard the steamship SS Californian, responsible for the midnight watch, observed a ship in the distance firing white rockets. The Californian, on its way from …

Books February 06, 2016

The Interpreter

Felix Bellamy is a domestically inclined Swiss bureaucrat with a healthy distrust of polyglots: “Languages are like toothbrushes: the only one you should put into your mouth is your own.” To his distaste, he is put in charge of the interpreters’ …

Books January 23, 2016

Girl Waits with Gun

Thirty-five-year-old Constance Kopp, the irresistibly straight-shooting narrator of Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits with Gun, is tall, strong, fearless and disinclined to domesticity. She shares a house in rural New Jersey with her sisters, Norma …

Books November 28, 2015

The Devil Is a Black Dog

Sándor Jászberényi writes world-weary prose that drinks heavily, dangles a cigarette from its lips and has a $5-a-day whore on its arm. It likes short sentences and doesn’t worry too much about literary niceties, such as avoiding repetition. (Or …

Books November 21, 2015

The Sympathizer

“The best kind of truth,” observes the narrator of The Sympathizer, “[is] the one that meant at least two things.” The illicit son of a young Vietnamese woman and a European priest, he is also a communist mole working for the General, …

Books November 14, 2015

Thirteen Ways of Looking

The words of Dublin-born writer Colum McCann sing with poetry. There’s poetry in the story of a day in the life of an elderly New York judge that ends in murder. There’s poetry in the story within a story of a homesick marine passing a New Year’s …

Books November 07, 2015

The Brain Electric

Our brains tell our hearts to beat and our lungs to expand. They co-ordinate the complex nerve and skeletal movements that allow us to climb the stairs or reach for a glass of water. We may imagine that our brains are primarily for thinking. Yet “at …

Books October 24, 2015

Death by Video Game

In Death by Video Game Simon Parkin quotes Scientific American warning about a type of game that is particularly dangerous on account of the obsessive practice necessary for proficiency; according to the magazine, it leaves players …

Books October 17, 2015

Spinster

Kate Bolick, growing up middle class on the east coast of the United States in the 1970s and ’80s, absorbed a particular truth: “You are born, you grow up, you become a wife.” Prone to long-term, heterosexual relationships, she nonetheless found …

Books September 19, 2015

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

“This is the story of a jinnia, a great princess of the jinn… who loved a mortal man long ago… and of her many descendants, and of her return to the world, after a long absence, to fall in love again, at least for a moment, and then to go to war.” …

Books August 08, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

In To Kill a Mockingbird, the young Scout Finch sneaks into the “coloured balcony” of the courthouse in fictional Maycomb County, Alabama, to observe the trial of Tom Robinson, a young black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. …

Books August 01, 2015

How to See the World

A recent story in The Monthly about the sex trade in the Philippines described “Hadrian’s Extension”, an impoverished area not far from Manila that even people living nearby had no idea existed: “Google Street View has never been down …

Books July 04, 2015

China Rich Girlfriend

Wealthy people have problems, too. Colette Bing, for example, once had a “terrible addiction” to international luxury spa resorts yet none met her exacting standards. So the twentysomething fashionista got Daddy, one of China’s richest men, to …

Books May 30, 2015

Naked at Lunch

Mark Haskell Smith begins his journey into the culture of nudism making up reasons not to leave his room at the nudist resort, compulsively checking his body in the mirror (though for what, he’s not exactly sure: “Gravy stains?”). What’s more, …

Books May 02, 2015

Bloodhound

Many readers know Ramona Koval as one of Australia’s most respected literary journalists and broadcasters. Few would be aware that for decades she has been tormented to the point of obsession by a secret that her mother took to her grave: was her …

Books April 11, 2015

The Lifted Brow, Issue 25

“Is it too late to spit on Hegel?” From its first sentence, the editorial in the newly revamped journal The Lifted Brow feels a bit like a test: are you cool enough for this party? “We freebleed on Hegel,” it says, assuming …

Books March 28, 2015

The Four Books

During the Great Leap Forward of 1958, the Chinese Communist Party ordered Chinese citizens to throw their pots and pans into furnaces to make the steel that would allow China to quadruple its industrial production. But all they produced was pig iron, …

Books March 14, 2015

One of Us

On July 22 , 2011, at the height of Norwegian summer, a man drove a van with a bomb in it up to a government building in Oslo. He lit the fuse and walked away. The massive blast killed eight people and injured hundreds more. As emergency services scrambled …

Books February 14, 2015

The Utopia Experiment

Had his Utopia Experiment ended differently – that is to say, had it ended well – Dylan Evans might have chosen to begin his story atop the Pyramid of the Magician. It was there in the ancient Mayan city of Uxmal, in 2005, that he had the epiphany …

Books February 07, 2015

Wolf, Wolf

“A man is a strange thing.” So remarks the blind, dying patriarch Benjamin Duiker in a tape recording he makes for his son Mattheus (Mattie) in lieu of the conversations they never seem to be able to have. Benjamin concedes he never “talked much …

Books November 01, 2014

The Yellow Peril

In 1912-13, with the serialised publication of The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu, Arthur Henry Ward, a one-time London bank clerk and music hall lyricist who wrote stories under the pen name Sax Rohmer, breathed life into one of the 20th century’s …