Reviewer: Peter Craven

By this author


Culture June 20, 2020

The Trials of Portnoy

It’s instructive to remember what a relatively illiberal society Australia was only a few decades ago and this account of the obscenity court cases about Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint in the early 1970s – written by a young author …

Culture May 30, 2020

The Dragons and the Snakes

David Kilcullen is the former Australian army officer who was seconded to the surge force in Iraq at the special request of then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in lieu of people of much higher rank, and he is brilliant. His Quarterly Essay about …

Culture May 16, 2020

The Ratline

This is the story of the kind of Nazi no one wants to know about: one you might find sympathetic. Philippe Sands, barrister and professor of law, has written the weirdest and most compelling possible account of Otto von Wächter, who rose to be a governor …

Culture May 02, 2020

The Adversary

This is a rather extraordinary first novel. It is written in a style that ravishes the reader because it is constantly inventive and nervily inflected with a maximum suggestiveness. Ronnie Scott is superb at capturing the intimations and innuendos that …

Culture March 14, 2020

The Mirror and the Light

Hilary Mantel has been at it for years now with her Wolf Hall/Thomas Cromwell novels and they are a thing of wonder. The nasty Cromwell – not to be confused with the English Civil War chap who ruled a monarchless Britain with a fist of iron …

Culture March 07, 2020

A Couple of Things Before the End

Every so often we’re reminded with a jolt that Australian realism doesn’t – to use Patrick White’s phrase – have to be dun-coloured. In fact it can be kinky, it can be ludic, it can be in the tradition of that shaggiest of shaggy-dog stories, …

Culture November 02, 2019

Yellow Notebook

The myth of Helen Garner’s diaries is immense. When she published Monkey Grip 40-odd years ago, with its riveting depiction of emotional and drug squalors in inner-urban Melbourne, she evoked a world that had never been written about before. …

Culture October 19, 2019

The Second Sleep

Robert Harris is arguably the classiest trashmeister alive, unless we include le Carré, or Thomas Harris on the long-ago basis of the first two Lecter books. But it’s Robert Harris who gave us Fatherland, with its central conceit of the Nazi …

Culture August 17, 2019

The Borgias

You couldn’t make up the Borgias. After Giuliano della Rovere – the man who would become Pope Julius II, the great warrior Pope who commissioned the Sistine Chapel ceiling from Michelangelo – finally took the chair of St Peter in 1503, he said, …

Culture June 15, 2019

Faber & Faber: The Untold Story

Faber & Faber always looked like the class act of British publishing. You could tell their paperbacks were just hardbacks slumming it – they even had the same superior paper and on top of that there was the myth of T. S. Eliot as the far-seeing …

Culture June 08, 2019

Everything in Its Place

It’s not hard to see why Oliver Sacks captivated the world. The great neurologist – whose case histories in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat could almost have been science fiction had they not been so crystalline and so compassionate …

Culture March 02, 2019

Nobody’s Looking at You

Janet Malcolm is the most celebrated essayist in America since Susan Sontag, and if something makes you say essayist – despite the books demolishing covens of psychoanalysts, or the monographs on everyone from Chekhov through Gertrude Stein to Ted Hughes …