It’s the purpose of Christmas, in my opinion, to poke a thermometer into the thick of our lives and stare. Each year during the holidays we’re asked to be at our most vulnerable, to look about our person with wide, wobbling eyes and ask ‘who loves me?’. Santa Claus, Michael Bublé and flammable pudding are all the hand that waves about to distract us from the pain of this exposure. It begins in sentiment, a rogue display of chocolate shaped like a family of reindeer or a viral ad about the friendship between a bear and a rabbit scored with […]
Forty five years ago as the King of Sweden was handing the Nobel Prize for Literature to Sidney Nolan in Stockholm in the early European afternoon of December 10, 1973, Patrick White was dining with Stephen Murray-Smith at the annual Overland dinner in Melbourne. The Prize had been a long time coming. White’s claque had been lobbying since the late 1960s. His advocate on the Committee, Artur Lundkvist, got him onto the shortlist in 1969 but Samuel Beckett prevailed. David Marr quotes a translation of a 1969 review where Lundkvist considers that White had given Australia something of a language of its own. For Australia […]
He sees me through the tall window and comes over, pressing against it. I slip to the floor and lean in, too. But the glass between us holds and it is cold. I cannot touch him. He was solid once, and warm. I wake. It is 27 days since I had him killed. I was 26 years old when a dog entered my life, 38 when he left, which means that for most of the 15 years I then lived in Australia, he was there. Time split—the hours carrying me away from when I had him, and deeper toward not […]
The summer break is one of the few times of the year that we switch off our screens for long enough to lower the height of that pile of shame beside the bedside table. There is still a magic to books, which provide enough space for a nuanced view of a topic, without reducing it to mere talking points. But reading a book takes time, and Prime Ministers have even less time than others. To make best use of a rare opportunity, Grattan Institute recommends each year a summer reading list for the Prime Minister. Summer reading shouldn’t just be […]
Of the few Indigenous Australian languages still spoken as a first language, Warlpiri is one of the most alive. My people have an earthy, often self-deprecating sense of humour. Their profound linguistic awareness leads them to invent hilarious jokes about their constant mispronunciation of English, and other Aboriginal languages, as well as the mispronunciation of Warlpiri by tin-eared English-speakers.
I promised my wife that she could throw the first stone. There’s a story called ‘The Lottery’. You might have read it. Carnage, very literary, hell of a twist, which is nothing really, not once you’ve come home late and your wife’s in bed, tears streaming down her face, and she can’t get out, not now, and you think, I know what I need to do.
The image of Australia is of a man in an open-necked shirt solemnly enjoying an ice cream. His kiddy is beside him. —Donald Horne. Have we done with the man in the open-necked shirt solemnly enjoying his ice cream? It would appear not. For a long time he was there in the flesh, as real as you or me.
Slippery vinyl, cold glass,
the old smoke of your uncle’s embrace,
pulse flamenco dancing,
as streetlights smudge to neon
in the click and hiss of an aluminium can.