Reviewer: KN

By this author


Books October 13, 2018

Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead

Many high-profile authors, from J. M. Coetzee to Yann Martel, have turned their attention to human–animal relations. This is often framed in terms of the “ecological turn”, apparent perhaps most obviously in cli-fi, or climate-change fiction. …

Books September 15, 2018

Melodrome

Marcelo Cohen’s novella Melodrome is the third book in Giramondo’s Southern Latitudes series of work from writers in the southern hemisphere. It is also the second from an Argentinian, demonstrating how Latin America has continued to shine …

Books September 08, 2018

Catching Teller Crow

Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina are a sister-and-brother team of Aboriginal writers who come from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Catching Teller Crow isn’t their first collaborative effort, but it …

Books July 28, 2018

A Superior Spectre

Angela Meyer’s first novel, A Superior Spectre, is a superior ghost story. It is a tale of two protagonists, a 19th-century Scottish woman and a 21st-century Australian man, who come to haunt each other, thanks to a pseudo-pharmaceutical that …

Books July 07, 2018

Antidote to a Curse

Antidote to a Curse, the first novel of the Maltese–Australian James Cristina, is an ambitious debut. It is excitingly difficult to classify. It is an erotic story and an international mystery. It is a celebration of Melbourne – with references …

Books June 29, 2018

and my heart crumples like a coke can

Poetry and comedy meet in Ali Whitelock’s poetry collection and my heart crumples like a coke can. As in a stand-up routine, these poems offer sharp social observation, frankness played for laughs and nourishing doses of swearing. And as with …

Books June 23, 2018

Ayiti

Roxane Gay is well known as a social commentator and writer of nonfiction. She is the author of Bad Feminist, a book of essays advocating an intersectional feminism, and of the memoir Hunger, which reveals her gang rape at age 12 as …

Books June 02, 2018

Small Wrongs

Kate Rossmanith’s Small Wrongs: How We Really Say Sorry in Love, Life and Law is a hybrid work of ethnography and memoir, focused on remorse. Wide-ranging, the book considers remorse in relation to the Catholic practice of confession, according …

Books May 19, 2018

Flames

Flames, a first novel by the Tasmanian Robbie Arnott, begins with a protagonist, Levi McAllister, observing his mother returning from death, her waist trailing a “peacock tail of vegetation” and her head adorned with “cascading fronds of …

Books April 21, 2018

A Sand Archive

Gregory Day, like Tim Winton, is an Australian novelist connected with an Australian place. While Winton writes about Western Australia, Day’s points of reference typically lie along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. Like his earlier work, Day’s latest …

Books March 10, 2018

The Book of Joan

As a work of literary fiction, The Book of Joan is an unusual beast. Part cli-fi dystopia, part superhero narrative, Lidia Yuknavitch’s latest novel revises the Joan of Arc myth to craft a secular, feminist, environmentalist fantasy. The action …

Books March 03, 2018

Apple and Knife

This new story collection by the Indonesian-born Intan Paramaditha uses horror as a vehicle for representing the experiences of women living in patriarchy and for expressing feminist anger. The results are both unsettling and intoxicating. Often revising …

Books January 27, 2018

Dyschronia

In our era of climate change, prophecies about our future are commonplace. Scientists are our key prophets nowadays – though they are often repudiated or betrayed, like the religious prophets of old – but writers also increasingly offer their prognostications. …

Books December 02, 2017

Millefiori

If your problem with rap is that you can’t hear the words – or you think you won’t want to – Omar Musa’s new poetry collection Millefiori might change your mind. Musa is a Malaysian-Australian rapper, with two solo records, but he is …

Books November 25, 2017

Domestic Interior

It is hard to read Fiona Wright’s new collection of poems, Domestic Interior, without her award-winning and much-publicised essay collection, Small Acts of Disappearance, in mind. That book dealt with Wright’s eating disorder and …

Books November 18, 2017

Future Home of the Living God

Future Home of the Living God is another example of the growing genre known as climate-change fiction or cli-fi. Louise Erdrich is a multi-award-winning American writer whose mother is First Nation (Chippewa) and whose father is German-American, …

Books October 21, 2017

Friend of My Youth

“No one is sure any more what the novel is,” asserts Amit Chaudhuri in Friend of My Youth. When he tells people that he is a novelist, they sometimes ask, “Fiction or nonfiction?” This book mischievously adds to the confusion. It exists …

Books September 16, 2017

Flights

How does one approach the art of travel writing? Some writers observe themselves as much as other people and places; others report on adventures in exotic locales; others look for the authentic through the anthropological. Flights, a travel book …

Books August 26, 2017

The History of Bees

Cli-fi – climate change fiction – has become so popular it has achieved the status of a genre. That makes it more easily identifiable and more marketable, but it also comes with pitfalls. Conventions carry the risk of appearing formulaic and repetitive. …

Books July 22, 2017

Taboo

Some of the most exciting, tonally ambitious and uncompromising fiction that has been published in Australia in recent years has come from Aboriginal authors – most notably, the remarkable Waanyi writer Alexis Wright and the extraordinary Noongar writer …

Books July 01, 2017

The Honeymoon Stage

According to the American poet Kenneth Goldsmith, we have entered an age of “post-internet” poetry, with poets making various uses of the internet without making “a big deal about it”. Oscar Schwartz’s first collection of poems, The Honeymoon …

Books June 24, 2017

Australia Day

Melanie Cheng won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for this collection as an unpublished manuscript – more evidence perhaps of the renaissance of the short story in contemporary publishing. It begins with a distinctly non-literary epigraph: …

Books June 03, 2017

Some Tests

Wayne Macauley is an Australian original. He writes in a tradition of dystopian satire – associated most famously with George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – but in a stripped-back and absurdist style. His …

Books May 20, 2017

Men without Women

Murakami’s fiction is instantly recognisable. There is usually a central enigma, cats, a missing person, a strange woman, surreal or playful events, Western pop cultural references, and long dialogues between characters who share their life stories …

Books April 29, 2017

Singing My Sister Down

Margo Lanagan’s Singing My Sister Down and Other Stories brings together selected stories from four previous collections with three new ones. They are almost all set in the archetypal world of mediaeval fantasy, popular in YA literature, a …

Books April 15, 2017

American War

Omar El Akkad is an Oregon-based award-winning journalist who has covered the war in Afghanistan and the military trials at Guantanamo Bay. His debut novel, American War, is science fiction, but its plot is ably informed by El Akkad’s understanding …

Books March 25, 2017

Bright Air Black

The story of Medea, icon of female vengeance, has inspired many storytellers. Pasolini and Lars von Trier have offered filmic adaptations. The poet Robin Robertson recently translated Euripides’ play. The novelist Christa Wolf published a feminist …

Books March 04, 2017

An Uncertain Grace

Krissy Kneen is known for her frank and feminist depictions of sex. Her latest novel again explores the erotic, playfully, controversially, but ultimately didactically. The novel is made up of different parts, introducing us to different characters. …

Books February 25, 2017

The Landing

Paul Croucher is the owner of Red Wheelbarrow Books in Melbourne’s Brunswick. The store’s name – recalling William Carlos Williams’ famous poem – suggests much about the provenance of his poetry. Croucher’s The Landing exhibits …

Books February 11, 2017

Storm and Grace

Kathryn Heyman’s Storm and Grace is essentially a novel about domestic violence, though you will find only veiled references to this subject in the recommendations on the book’s cover, which emphasise – somewhat disturbingly – the novel’s …

Books February 04, 2017

Down the Hume

Marketed as a hybrid of Christos Tsiolkas’s Loaded and Luke Davies’ Candy, Peter Polites’ Down the Hume is the story of a gay Greek man known as Bux, who finds himself in a masochistic relationship with an Aussie drug …

Books December 17, 2016

A Collapse of Horses

The stories in the American author Brian Evenson’s A Collapse of Horses are presented as “literary horror”. The New York Times has compared Evenson’s writing to that of Kafka and Poe, while also acknowledging the influence …

Books November 26, 2016

The Transmigration of Bodies and Signs Preceding the End of the World

Mexico’s Yuri Herrera is a rare thing: a writer to get truly excited about. This book, comprising two novellas, gives us Herrera’s work in translation for the first time. It is writing that is simultaneously concise and epic, dynamically plotted …

Books November 12, 2016

Children of the New World

Children of the New World is a stellar book of short stories by the American writer Alexander Weinstein, that shows how science fiction is arguably the essential genre for our age. The stories here present various futures, rooted in virtual …

Books October 08, 2016

The Better Son

Katherine Johnson’s second novel, The Better Son, is an example of a subgenre of Australian literature often called the Tasmanian Gothic. This type of story typically features an oppressive father and a buried secret, playing out a family …

Books September 03, 2016

Rupture

Susan Varga, a writer of fiction and nonfiction, turns her hand to poetry in this collection documenting her recovery from a stroke. Rupture is divided into six sections. The first, “Masterstroke”, is undoubtedly the strongest. The poems …

Books August 20, 2016

Heroes of the Frontier

Dave Eggers, an American writer and activist, is obsessed with his country and its foibles. Like Michael Moore, he portrays North America as both farcical and obscene, and his work is simultaneously exhilarating and distressing. Eggers’ Heroes …

Books July 23, 2016

Year of the Wasp

Joel Deane is a novelist, nonfiction writer and former political speechwriter. He is also a poet whose work successfully incorporates these other roles. His poetry has the narrative drive and desire to “say something” more typical of a fiction/nonfiction …

Books July 09, 2016

Ruins

This first novel by the Sri Lankan–Australian writer Rajith Savanadasa takes place in the latter stages and aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War, during which the Tamil Tigers fought for an independent homeland. It ended with the government accused …

Books July 02, 2016

The Toymaker

The male anti-hero is a popular character type recently. Mad Men, for instance, gave us Don Draper, a deceitful womaniser who was also tragically insecure, a man of the world as pitiful as a child. In this “post-feminist” age, the male …

Books June 18, 2016

The Hatred of Poetry

“Poetry is a word for a kind of value no particular poem can realise.” This is the problem identified by the American poet Ben Lerner in this lucid and engaging book – more a long essay – that seeks to understand poetry’s reviled status in …