Stephen Romei

is a writer, editor and critic.

By this author


Culture September 02, 2023

Ordinary Gods and Monsters

Remember the Shakespeare you had to read in high school? Did you love it or hate it, or sit somewhere in between? Personally speaking, I’m Macbeth and a heart emoji. I suspect when the teenage Chris Womersley read Romeo and Juliet, …

Culture July 29, 2023

The Pole and Other Stories

What is love? It’s a question we’ve struggled with since Eve, Adam, the asp and the apple. It has inspired a billion songs. The one that comes to mind as I think of J. M. Coetzee’s The Pole and Other Stories is the 1939 jazz standard …

Culture July 01, 2023

I’d Rather Not

The Irish writer and wit Oscar Wilde said we can be in the gutter but look to the stars. The Melbourne-based writer and humorist Robert Skinner agrees on the location but what he sees is the gutter. “Say what you want about rock bottom,” he writes …

Culture April 29, 2023

Aphrodite’s Breath: A mother and daughter’s Greek Island adventure

It is 2019 and the Australian journalist and writer Susan Johnson, 62, and her mother Barbara, 85, have moved to the Greek island of Kythera. The reasons for the move appear simple on the surface but are complicated underneath, sparking the apprehension …

Culture February 25, 2023

Fog

The titular fog in Tom Petsinis’s new novel is literal and metaphorical. Fog unfolds in Melbourne on the “foggiest night in decades”. The more threatening mist, however, is inside the head of the main character, Nick Mangos, who is in his …

Culture October 22, 2022

The Passenger

Cormac McCarthy’s The Passenger, his first novel in a decade, asks more questions than it answers. In that sense it’s more like his 1985 masterpiece Blood Meridian, which Ridley Scott and others have tried and failed to film, than …

Culture October 08, 2022

When Jokers Were Kings: A love story

John Tesarsch, a barrister turned writer, almost puts the case for the defence when discussing When Jokers Were Kings, his novel about an Elvis Presley impersonator. “There is nothing easy about writing comedy,” he said in a recent interview. …

Culture July 02, 2022

The Diplomat

“Hopefully the worst was behind me: detox, collecting Gertrude’s ashes, London, the twenty-four-hour flight, aeroplane food, customs, sniffer dogs. All I had to do now was survive the rest of my life. Which was no small order, of course.” This …

Culture June 18, 2022

Horse

It is a truth universally acknowledged that journalists start their careers in unexpected places. For Sydney-born Geraldine Brooks it was compiling the horse-racing results for the then Fairfax press. Some decades, five novels and an unexpected lunchtime …

Culture April 23, 2022

Other Houses

In her visceral, compassionate 2017 biography The Trauma Cleaner, Sarah Krasnostein prodded open doors we prefer to keep shut. She detailed the life and work of Sandra Pankhurst, founder of Specialised Trauma Cleaning Services. Cleaner and biographer …

Culture March 05, 2022

Diagnosis Normal: Living With Abuse, Undiagnosed Autism, and Covid-Grade Crazy

Where to start with this memoir by the Sydney journalist, writer and academic Emma A. Jane? Perhaps here: “On a good day, I can pass as normal but not for too many minutes.” Or here: “ … having considered my time on the planet with as much perspective …

Culture February 19, 2022

The Grass Hotel

Craig Sherborne’s new novel, The Grass Hotel, might be seen as the third instalment in a trilogy that started with his outstanding memoirs Hoi Polloi (2005) and Muck (2007). For this reader, those semi-autobiographical volumes …

Culture January 22, 2022

Dark Matter: Independent Filmmaking in the 21st Century

You could describe 60-year-old Michael Winterbottom as a prolific British filmmaker. He has more than 30 movies to his name, from dramas such as Welcome to Sarajevo to comedies including The Trip series starring Steve Coogan and Rob …

Culture October 09, 2021

Bodies of Light

“At night I lay in bed and counted the bodies I’d left behind … I pictured them all laid out in a paddock like human dominos. I had no way of knowing what happened to any of them.” So speaks the narrator of Jennifer Down’s novel Bodies …

Culture July 17, 2021

The Others

Who – or what – are The Others? This question is asked from the opening pages of Mark Brandi’s exquisite new novel. Are they decivilised humans, as in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? Are they members of an off-the-grid cult? Are they something …

Culture May 22, 2021

The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen: Travels with My Grandmother’s Ashes

Lotty Kneen of Queensland – aka Dragica Marusic of Slovenia, the stern and silent maker of papier-mâché dinosaurs, dragons and elves, the grandmother who raised Brisbane-based author Krissy Kneen – was “the fiercely beating heart of the family”, …