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The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature 
by William Wilde, Joy Hooton and Barry Andrews.
Oxford, 740 pp., £30, June 1986, 0 19 554233 9
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... in the English language must henceforth be treated. This change of attitude, which was inevitable and has been slowly imposing itself over the present century, is still not well understood and has scarcely yet been accepted. It arises from the fact that English is now a literary language in some forty countries all over the ...

Two Voices

Seamus Heaney, 20 March 1980

The New Cratylus 
by A.D. Hope.
Oxford, 179 pp., £12.75, November 1979, 9780195505764
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... There is a certain pleasure in listening to people we know rehearsing their prejudices and enjoying our assent to their own enjoyment of themselves. A.D. Hope takes for granted that kind of assent: he comes on in this book as the character we have known in the past, the contrary traditionalist renewing the vows of his poetic faith and pronouncing against old heresies ...

Tales of Hofmann

Blake Morrison, 20 November 1986

Acrimony 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 79 pp., £8.95, October 1986, 0 571 14527 2
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Idols 
by Stephen Romer.
Oxford, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1986, 0 19 281984 4
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Opia 
by Alan Moore.
Anvil, 83 pp., £4.50, August 1986, 9780856461613
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New Chatto Poets 
edited by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 79 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 7011 3080 6
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A.D. HopeSelected Poems 
edited by Ruth Morse.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 85635 640 9
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The Electrification of the Soviet Union 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 69 pp., £8.95, August 1986, 0 571 14539 6
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... the sequence ‘My Father’s House’ records the son’s growth from childhood to manhood, and the father’s from early to late middle age: each poem denotes some new phase, and usually low point, in the relationship. The father’s absences and absent-mindedness, his ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1985

The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... The Oxford Companion to – or Bumper Book of – English Literature was first published in 1932 and updated in three subsequent editions and many reprints. It has now been extensively re-edited by Margaret Drabble, aided by an impressive list of experts. The original editor, Sir Paul Harvey, explained that his intention was to be useful to ordinary everyday readers ...

Advice for the New Nineties

Julian Symons, 12 March 1992

HMS Glasshouse 
by Sean O’Brien.
Oxford, 56 pp., £5.99, November 1991, 0 19 282835 5
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The Hogweed Lass 
by Alan Dixon.
Poet and Printer, 33 pp., £3, September 1991, 0 900597 39 9
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Collected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £18.95, November 1991, 0 85635 923 8
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... Every poetic rebellion hardens sooner or later into an ossification of style and language and needs replacement by something at the time believed to be its opposite. In the 20th century it has been sooner rather than later, so that in Britain the almost art-for-art’s-sake purity of Imagism was replaced by the socially-conscious, deliberately objective poetry of the Thirties ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Little Magazines in Canberra, 9 July 1987

... here, in verse, on my recent trip to a Conference on Literary Journals in Canberra, Australia, and on the death-struggle that did not take place there, but perhaps should have, between – shall we say – Theory and Practice. I won’t go into all that again, although there is plenty more that could be said. By someone ...

Foreign Body

Tim Winton, 22 June 1995

Patrick White: Letters 
edited by David Marr.
Cape, 678 pp., £35, January 1995, 0 224 03516 9
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... Loved and loathed, Patrick White loomed over Australian literature for decades as a distant, grimacing colossus. There was simply no way around him, no way he could not be taken into consideration. Not only did he appropriate the physical and spiritual landscape in his major novels, The Tree of Man, Voss and Riders in the Chariot: in cultural terms he became the landscape ...

Australia’s Nineties

Clive James, 15 July 1982

Christopher Brennan: A Critical Biography 
by Axel Clark.
Melbourne, 358 pp., £20, May 1980, 0 522 84182 1
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... Brennan was fully conscious of the artistic problem posed by isolation from Europe, and no Australian poet since has been fully disabled by it. Brennan’s life and death dramatised the problem once and for all. It was and is a true ...

Grumbles

C.K. Stead, 15 October 1981

Flaws in the Glass: A Self-Portrait 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 272 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 9780224029247
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... which poets Europe ought, in due course, to favour. Wordsworth was admired at home but not abroad; and since Arnold was sure Wordsworth as a poet in English ranked second only to Shakespeare and Milton, and that among European poets of the 18th and 19th ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Two weeks in Australia, 6 October 1983

... Australia?’ There was a punishing stress on the second syllable and the tone was one of idle disbelief: ‘But why?’ This was over seven years ago. I had just been invited to a literary festival in Adelaide; no fee, but they’d pay my Qantas. It seemed to me an Opportunity Not to be Missed. In the week or so before I set off, however, almost everybody I bumped into (including at least one Australian) seemed to think that I’d gone off my head ...

Marvellous Boys

Mark Ford, 9 September 1993

The Ern Malley Affair 
by Michael Heyward.
Faber, 278 pp., £15, August 1993, 0 571 16781 0
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... poet was born on 14 March 1918, in Liverpool. His father, wounded in the war, died in 1920, and soon after that the family moved to Australia, settling in Sydney where his mother had relations. He left school at 14, and worked over the ensuing years at a random series of jobs, as a garage mechanic, an insurance ...

Never further than Dinner or Tea

Alexander Nehamas: Iris Murdoch, 4 March 1999

Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch 
by John Bayley.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £16.95, September 1998, 0 7156 2848 8
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... with great difficulty, her 27th novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, in which readers found several errors and inconsistencies; it was to be her last. Her philosophical work had already stopped. To a friend’s question about her writing, she replied that she felt she was ‘sailing into the darkness’. Then the disease deprived her of the ordinary abilities to ...
The Movement: English Poetry and Fiction of the 1950s 
by Blake Morrison.
Oxford, 326 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 9780192122100
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The Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945-1980 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 299 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 19 214108 2
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... It seemed to be happening only yesterday, but Blake Morrison was born in 1950, and for him the Movement is something you have to work on in a library. So it suddenly comes to seem rather remote, as deep in the past as those files of the Spectator where he found the famous pieces by J.D. Scott and Anthony Hartley, or the scripts of John Wain’s Third Programme magazine First Reading, or copies of the Reading limited editions of Wain and Amis ...

Standing up to the city slickers

C.K. Stead, 18 February 1988

Selected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 151 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 85635 667 0
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The Daylight Moon 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 86 pp., £6.95, February 1988, 0 85635 779 0
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... was hardly more than a timber shell with an iron roof – there was no lining or ceiling, and conditions were primitive. He was a fat boy, and still quakes inwardly when he finds himself in a school-yard, remembering taunts of long ago. (One of his cleverest poems, ‘Quintets for Robert Morley’, is a tribute to ...

Dreamtime with Whitlam

Michael Davie, 4 September 1986

The Whitlam Government 1972-1975 
by Gough Whitlam.
Viking, 788 pp., £17.95, July 1986, 0 670 80287 5
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... occasion was less exotic than it sounds. Unesco was holding an acrimonious meeting in Bulgaria, and Mr Whitlam was present as Australia’s ambassador to Unesco. We met in the hotel foyer, among the polyglot delegates. Whitlam is a very tall man, with grey hair brushed back, well-dressed and genial. When he comes into a ...

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