Books & Writing


Ashleigh Wilson’s essay ON ARTISTS is a pain in the arts.

Wilson quotes George Orwell- “If Shakespeare returned to Earth tomorrow and if it were found out that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the ground that he might write another King Lear.”

No. We would incarcerated the dastardly Bard like we would any criminal and he would write another masterpiece in jail. Artists are not above the law and artistic temperament is not a defence against abusive behaviour.

At a basic level its impossible to detach the artist from the art. As long as humans are making art, then the context of their lives influences the work they produce. But how can we measure the extent of that influence?

Art by its very nature emphasises the strengths of the talent as well as the flaws in the character. It is the perversions or predatory proclivity not the performance or art that are abhorrent.

Wilson also quotes Rachel Campbell-Johnston, chef art critic for the times – “it remains the duty of a civilised society to preserve art works that reveal our human nature – even with its worst flaws.”

Should Spacey be expunged from his body of work, made give back his Oscars?

Should Wagner be proscribed in Israel because of apparent anti-Semetic leanings?

This is part of a much older discussion about the nature of aesthetic judgement. When the German philosopher Immanuel Kant described the conditions by which we evaluate the beauty of “an object or a kind of representation” in his aesthetic treatise of 1790,The Critique of Judgement, he stipulated the essential quality of “disinterestedness.”

Disinterestedness is the attitude that permits us to assess work without the influence of an internal agenda or external interference—a requirement, in other words, that we understand a work of art purely on its own terms, unmarred by historical precedent, biographical detail, political, social or moral implication. If Kant were alive today, he would probably argue that only the work matters—not the men behind it, or their deeds.

ON ARTISTS by Ashleigh Wilson is published by Melbourne University Press.


The Sydney Writer’s Festival is coming to a close this weekend.

Each year, Sydney Writers’ Festival presents more than 300 events, attracting audiences of up to 100,000 for a week-long conversation of books and ideas. From 29 April to 5 May 2019, thousands of readers and hundreds of writers come together at the Festival hub at Carriageworks and venues across the city such as Sydney Town Hall and City Recital Hall.

The Festival programs some of the world’s most curious and compassionate, irreverent but respectful, intelligent and argumentative writers – from local and international contemporary novelists, screenwriters, musicians and writers of cutting-edge nonfiction, to some of the world’s leading public intellectuals, scientists and journalists. With the finest writing and storytelling at its core, the programming is driven by the ideas and issues that animate all types of literature.

The Festival is a not-for-profit organisation, and as such its aim is to be accessible to a wide range of audiences. This objective sees the Festival present many events for free during the May Festival, and was behind the launch of the Live and Local program in 2015.

Writers who have appeared this year include Richard Ackland, Monica Attard, Anna Broinowski, Julian Burnside, Jennifer Byrne, Louise Adler, Leigh Sales, Annabel Crabb and many other Australian and international writers.

Featured image- Glory Edimi and Tayari Jones at the Sydney Writer’s Festival


Does Robert De Niro play golf? On principle, he probably proscribes the putting and Penfold 7s , seeing how totally opposed he is to the golfing megalomaniac Donald Trump.

Bobby will probably like a new book out that seeks to explain Trump though.
Titled, COMMANDER IN CHEAT, it’s a scathing and insightful look at the current leader of the free world and self proclaimed leader boarder of the fairway.

Rick Reilly, a veteran writer for Sports Illustrated and ESPN and eleven times voted National Sportswriter of the Year, tees off with Trumps personal view of the game before chipping in to his professional interests.

Trump, it has to be said, has talents and skills as a golfer, but his achievements as a champion have been exaggerated no less truly by the man himself.

Like Auric Goldfinger, Trump likes to win, and cheating on the fairway is, to him, a fair way to win. Like Auric Goldfinger, Trump also owns most of the courses he claims club championship of.

With so much foozling, it’s bamboozling his score card is so low. For Trump it truly seems a case of different strokes for different folks.

And then there’s foreign policy.

Why did Trump turn his back on Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane?
Why wasn’t Indonesia on the travel ban list? or the UAE or Saudi Arabia.
Why reverse the Cuban travel relaxation set up by Obama?

Golf is the answer.

In page after page, Reilly illustrates how Trump tramples the etiquette of the game. A cad to caddies, coarse on the course, the bogeyman of the bogey, Trump appears to be an A hole in one.

Reilly writes: “You cant kick and throw and foozle your way through a presidency. You cant cheat and fudge and fake running the world, for one good reason: You don’t own the course.”

COMMANDER IN CHEAT by Rick Reilly is published by Headline.


It’s on. It’s been called. May 18 we go to the polls for a Federal Election, the main event stoush between ScoMo and BilSho and you won’t want to be without the inadmissible highly risible OFFICIAL GUIDE TO ELECTION 2019.
Created by The Chaser Quarterly and The Shove, OFFICIAL GUIDE TO ELECTION 2019 is a truth telling title like no other. Succinct. Unpretentious. Telling it like it is. Calling the Scots, Shorten the odds with this comprehensive piss-take on a federal shit-fight.
Written by The Chaser Quarterly’s Charles Firth and The Shovel’s James Schloeffel, with contributions from Australia’s best comedy writers, it’s the definitive guide to the disaster that is Australian politics – just in time for the May election.

Including profiles of all 150 federal electorates (yes, they actually researched every single fucking one), an analysis on where the leaders stand on the key issues, and a handy step-by-step guide for drawing a cock and balls on your ballot paper, it’s the only book voters will need to fully misinform themselves.

The 100-page guide includes explainers about all the major themes in the election, including:
The Top 5 Prime Ministers of the Past 3 years
How It All Falls Apart: Labor’s plan for the first 100 days
A complete guide to our favourite National Party sex scandals so far this year
An overview of Australia’s micro parties (including Bill Shorten’s 21st birthday)
A handy Liberal Party Application Form for “Females”

Plus in-depth features:
Know your electorate. All the other guides will tell you the swings and demographics of the seats. Only The Official* 2019 Election Guide tells you which electorate has the most criminals (yep, it’s Wentworth).
Commentary from your favourite columnists: Andrew Bolt on why the obvious choice this election is Tony Abbott, Peter Credlin on why things were better when she was PM and The Guardian on why your election-night guacamole dip is not as ethical as you might think.
Quiz: Are You A One Nation MP? With all the comings and goings in One Nation, it’s hard to keep track of whether you’re a One Nation MP or not. Take our special quiz, and find out!

Last longer, feel more satisfied, this book will help you maintain an election for five weeks guaranteed.
But wait there’s more

The Chaser Quarterly & The Shovel Present:
It’s been more than 100 days since we had a new Prime Minister. Thank God the federal election is here!

The upcoming federal election promises to be full of suspense. Who will be the Liberal leader by then? How will Labor squander its unassailable lead? Will there be any National Party MPs not embroiled in sex scandals? What was the name of the Greens leader again?

Staged in the ‘National Tallyroom’, join Charles Firth (The Chaser), James Schloeffel (The Shovel), and Australia’s best television satirists, Mark Humphries (ABC-TV 7:30), Victoria Zerbst (SBS-TV The Feed) and Jenna Owen (SBS-TV The Feed) as they create all the drama of an election coverage live on stage, with none of the boring speeches.

Friday 26th April: Melbourne Alex Theatre, St Kilda
Saturday 27th April: Perth Astor Theatre
Friday 3rd May: Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre
Saturday 4th May: Canberra Playhouse
Thursday 9th May: Sydney Factory Theatre
Friday 10th May: Sydney Factory Theatre



At 104 Eileen Kramer has led an incredible life, some of which is vividly evoked in this book.

Born in Sydney in 1914, Kramer was an original member of Australia’s first modern dance company, the influential Bodenwieser Ballet, and has lived and danced everywhere from India to Paris, London and New York.

Eileen originally wanted to be an opera singer and studied at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney. She came to dance relatively late in life, joining the Bodenwieser Ballet company, Australia’s first professional modern dance company, in 1940.

Sue Healey has produced a short film entitled Eileen about Kramer and she is regarded as a National Treasure by the Arts Health Institute .

Kramer left Australia in the 1950s, performing around the world and meeting contemporary artists who have gone down in history as legends – for example Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. In fact,  Armstrong taught her the twist in Paris!

Having travelled around the world for 60 years. Eileen returned to Australia permanently in 2014 at the age of 99. She wanted to hear the sound of a kookaburra and smell the gum trees again.

This is a relatively small book lavishly illustrated with both black and white photos as well as bold, colourful drawings by Kramer.

The book is divided into thirty four chapters, with an introduction by Tracey Spring. Each chapter is about a specific memory of a person or particular event, mainly spanning the five years of her life as a young woman from 1936 to 1940 when she lived at or near Philip St

It is vividly written one feels as if Kramer is talking directly to the reader. The book is beautifully presented and includes a table of contents at the front, as well as a list of photo credits at the back. Sadly there is no index provided at the back.

The many people written about include Rosaleen Norton, who would go on to become the ‘Witch of Kings Cross’, the learned and rather enigmatic Joan, and the beautiful model, Ann. Life in the area is described , and how the cityscape has changed greatly.( Not to mention her battles with bedbugs).

There is also a marvellous word portrait of her landlady and others as well as the homeless men who inhabited the Domain ( the ‘Domain Dossers ‘ ).As well,  there is a segment on her mother working as a store detective at Farmers.

We learn about Kramer’s private life to a degree and her relationships with three men over time in particular – Dr Richard Want , Darley and painter Rah Fizelle.

Kramer became a professional artist’s model, sitting for Norman Lindsey and other modern painters of Sydney. (A glamorous black and white photo is included ).Eileen’s first boyfriend, Dr Want , was a Freudian psychoanalyst and they would spend their Sundays at the Art Gallery of NSW and Speakers Corner at the Domain.

Many dancers and theatre people from the 1930s and 1940s remember Sydney’s Phillip Street as a place where they lived, including ballerina Tamara Tchinarova Finch who lived in a Phillip Street apartment with her mother when they decided to stay in Australia in 1939 after the tour by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet.

Dance lovers will be tantalised by the mentions towards the end of the book about Kramer’s discovery of and work with Bodenweiser … but there is lots more to be said – perhaps expanded into a second book focusing on that major part of her life ? At 104 Kramer is perhaps the longest-working dancer and choreographer in Australia, if not the globe , still going strong and an enormous inspirational force.

Published by Melbourne Books
B format 139x210mm Hard cover with cloth quarter bind
206 pages colour illustrations throughout
RRP: AUD$39.95 ISBN: 9781925556391


Bill Bryson – Observations on Life and the Human Body

Best known for his wickedly sassy travel books, Bill Bryson undertook the gigantean task of providing a layman’s take on science in the best-selling A Short History of Nearly Everything. For the past three years Bill Bryson has been taking a good long look at the human body. The result – his latest soon-to- be-released tome The Body; A Guide for Occupants.

Bill Bryson returns to Australia and New Zealand in September for a series of stage events in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland, titled Bill Bryson – Observations on Life and the Human Body, Live on Stage, presented by Lateral Events. Tickets went on sale on Friday 1 March at 12 noon. Continue reading Bill Bryson – Observations on Life and the Human Body


Author Katherine Kovacic

Art dealer and accidental sleuth, Alex Clayton made quite a splash last year in her debut adventure, THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN. A follow up caper was much anticipated and with PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS, author Katherine Kovacic has followed through.

Whereas THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN was a split narrative between Melbourne in 1999 and Melbourne circa 1930, PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS follows a single narrative stream which provides a narrower palette.

The setting is the early 21st Century, a couple of years on from her previous adventure, and involves murder and forgery, an ancient curse and a little known Brett Whitely.

The curse belongs to Edwin Landseer’s Man Proposes, God Disposes, a grizzly polar bear painting that is damaged when a packer has a turn. Credence for the curse is consolidated when conservator Meredith Buchanan carks it while repairing the canvas.

Alex and her cohort, art conservator, John Porter want to know the why and wherefore of Meredith’s demise, and the questions come up with some blood stained answers, mingled in the mess of Alizarin Crimson.

A whodunit romp through the avarice and exploitation in the art world,
PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS wears its scholarship – both art and veterinary – with fine, light strokes.

Kovacic sheds light on Alex’s backstory and teases out more of her relationship with John. And there’s ample time with Alex’s pooch, Hogarth.

A study in nice people with nasty streaks, people who aren’t bad for nothing, PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS is a worthy sequel to The Portrait of Molly Dean, a stand alone plot-boiler but also a terrific teaser for a series to follow.

PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS by Katherine Kovacic is published by Echo


“There is a gap in Australian theatre history, which often leaps from the huge one-off success of Ray Lawler’s classic, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll in 1957 to the emergence, at the end of the 1960s, of the ‘New Wave” in Australian theatre, a period when Australian writing and a distinctive Australia style dominated local stages for the first time. Few commentators have paid any attention to the immediately preceding period, however: it is though artists of the New Wave swelled up from nowhere.”

So write Robyn Dalton and Laura Ginters, two commentators who give rightful and detailed attention to the decade that produced the architects of the New Wave, undergraduates and recent graduates of Sydney University who were transforming drama on campus and the wider community.

Their book, THE RIPPLES BEFORE THE NEW WAVE, is an informed and fascinating read, a sweeping saga of a massive swell of ambition, audacity and talent that powered the surge of creativity and cultural transformation we benefit from today.

The authors argue that this group had a bigger influence on Australian cultural life than any single group before or since, and when you see the roll call, there seems little doubt. Among their number are Clive James, Germaine Greer, Bruce Beresford, Robert Hughes, Mungo MacCallum, Madeleine St John, Les Murray, Bob Ellis, Eva Cox, Richard Brennan, Jill Kitson and Leo Schofield. Continue reading THE RIPPLES BEFORE THE NEW WAVE: DRAMA AT THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY 1957-63


Vitreous humour takes on a whole new definition in HUNTER, Jack Heath’s eye popping sequel to Hangman, the delicious debut of his anthropophagus shamus, Timothy Blake.

After severing ties with the FBI, Blake is currently employed as a body disposal agent for Charlie Warner, queen bee king pin crime boss of Houston, Texas. Blake’s biz is making evidence inadmissible by turning it edible.                  Continue reading HUNTER: SIZZLING SEQUEL TO HANGMAN


George Bernard Shaw, using Colonel Pickering as his mouthpiece in the play, Pygmalion, says: “There’s always something professional about doing a thing superlatively well.”
Guess that qualifies Thom Jones posthumous collection of stories, NIGHT TRAIN, professional.

These new and selected stories are superlatively well written, muscular, sinewy, tooth and claw ferocious, and sometimes, deeply, darkly hilarious.                    Continue reading NIGHT TRAIN: NEW & SELECTED STORIES BY THOM JONES


Richard James Allen


Hot off the press from the University of Western Australia Publishing comes this wonderful book, THE SHORT STORY OF YOU AND I, the latest by Richard James Allen .

Allen is an Australian born poet whose writing has appeared widely in journals, anthologies, and online over many years. Former Artistic Director of the Poets Union, Inc., he has written ten books of poetry and edited a national anthology of writing for performance. Richard is also well known for his multi-award-winning career as a filmmaker and choreographer with The Physical TV Company and as a performer in a range of media and contexts.                   Continue reading THE SHORT STORY OF YOU AND I