Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader

  • Kisses of the Enemy by Rodney Hall
    Faber, 622 pp, £12.95, January 1989, ISBN 0 571 15091 8
  • Postcards from Surfers by Helen Garner
    Bloomsbury, 180 pp, £11.95, January 1989, ISBN 0 7475 0272 2
  • Forty-Seventeen by Frank Moorhouse
    Faber, 175 pp, £10.95, August 1988, ISBN 0 571 15210 4

The most striking feature of contemporary Australian writing – or so it is now claimed – is the robust health of its fiction, notably of two contrasting fictional modes: the short story and the massive novel of national identity. Poetry, the dominant genre of the late Sixties and early Seventies, no longer holds undisputed pride of place, a development attributed in part to the proliferation of state and academic subsidy, in particular the creation in 1973, by the Whitlam Labour Government, of the Literature Board of the newly-formed Australia Council. Behind established international figures such as Patrick White, Thomas Keneally and now Peter Carey crowds a small army – a second wave, as it were – of grant-garlanded and prize-bedecked novelists and storytellers, many of whom, especially those whose reputations derive initially from short fiction, have benefited from the Board’s largesse. The recent publication in Britain of works by three such figures – Rodney Hall, Helen Garner and Frank Moorhouse – provides a convenient occasion for assessment.

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