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C.K. Stead writes about Christina Stead

C.K. Stead, 4 September 1986

Ocean of Story: The Uncollected Stories of Christina Stead 
edited by R.G. Geering.
Viking, 552 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 670 80996 9
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The Salzburg Tales 
by Christina Stead.
498 pp., £4.95, September 1986, 0 86068 691 4
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... editor of the Kenyon Review, who had accepted a story of mine. He asked was I related to Christina Stead. I had never heard of her. He told me she had written one of the great novels of the century, The Man Who Loved Children. When my story appeared someone wrote to Janet Frame recommending it. She wrote to say how much she’d enjoyed it but asking why I was ...

Has been

C.K. Stead, 21 January 2016

... Peter Reading, 1946-2011) ‘The only permanence I suppose is in having been’ –                     thus           in four words             conjugating present and past         that one may say ‘has been’       drunk and (I guess, not having seen it) sober             a half century at words for animals, people, plants the planet ...

Sylvia Plath

C.K. Stead, 12 May 1994

... Ten days after I was, you were born. Heading out past sixty, I’m still hanging on But you baled out at thirty, telling the world ‘Dying is an art. I do it exceptionally well.’ Now you’re a young poet of deserved fame, I An ageing one of modest reputation. From where I sit, cool Daddy looks at you. He sees the pain, and the brat – and the brat in pain ...

The Radiant Way

C.K. Stead, 15 September 1988

... A good student, ‘The place is lumbered,’ he tells me ‘with a Rump of ageing Hippies’ – and it’s true I can see Blakemen trapped in their burning beards and hair. For lack of invention the Age strikes some to pillars of Marxist/Feminist/Post-Structuralist salt. Stiff-jointed liberals dance to escape insult. ‘Academics are Saussure they know everything’ goes the graffito, ‘they know Foucault about anything ...

Play It Again

C.K. Stead: For Les Murray, 17 September 1998

... For Les Murray on his 60th Birthday, 17 October 1998 Corporate raider in the larder of language with more than a tyre to spare and girth to go he lacks the classic pose of restraint his motto ‘Never say When’ his poems pack-horses unloaded line by line under a blazing sky or in the downpour that speaks in gutters and spouts of Excess. Here the Golden Disobedience is practised ...
... In my game (and yours, reader) it was always the Frogmen had the clever theories. We did the dirty work using the English language like a roguish trowel. Tonight, two rubberised heads have set their Zodiac on course from Okahu Bay. Past the container port, around Marsden Wharf, they’re ferrying a transitive verb called Bomb. In a hired campervan a man and a woman smoke, check their watches, and bicker ...


C.K. Stead, 22 December 1983

... Twirling an angry necklace on her fingers under the     lamp she was saying she couldn’t stand her teachers or her mother or her life and on the other     couch her mother who said she had sulked all afternoon was saying ‘Why hasn’t anyone any      pity for me?’ and that she was so tired she could scream and scream and scream. Sorry for them both I said     nothing, knowing if silence wouldn’t help it couldn’t make anything worse ...

The Gift

C.K. Stead, 30 June 2011

... Brasch in his velvet voice and signature purple tie complained to his journal that you had ‘interrupted’. I wasn’t sorry. That was Somervell’s coffee shop nineteen-fifty-three. Eighteen months later you and I were skidding on the tide-out inner- harbour shelvings below your house from whose ‘small room with large windows’ you saw that geranium ‘wild on a wet bank’ you suggested was ‘the reality prior to the poem ...

Nine Ways of Looking at a Fantail

C.K. Stead, 10 September 2009

... 1. I lift the lid on our compost bin. At the corner of sight, Fantail flickers like migraine through the sudden insect cloud. I am supplier – flies the supplies. 2. Feather-weight, Fantail bounces back off invisible ropes. He has perfected the hook and the jab. Dancer he is deft snatcher in flight of invisible snacks. 3. Scriptwriter also of dark memorials, it’s said he conceals in that innocent twitter a summons to attend below- ground your contract’s final signing ...

A Warm Wind from the East

C.K. Stead, 16 July 1981

... Our friend the novelist seventy – eight next week and he says he’s written his last book can’t think any more can’t write connected sentences can’t remember the plots of his favourite Dickens he used to rehearse scene after scene not even sometimes the names of his own novels can’t answer letters put down among cups pills other letters where forgotten one moment means the next draws a total blank in a room full of books piled up to be knocked at a giddy turn across his unswept floor ...

Here to take Karl Stead to lunch

C.K. Stead, 30 January 1992

Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation 
by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 242 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1021 0
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... to a dinner party; there were tickets to the show and references from the stage to ‘the little Stead family’; Barry took us to supper afterwards. It seemed that nothing had changed, except that there were now no dips into alcoholic despondency, and in fact no alcohol. I told him how a few years previously I had hesitated outside the Theatre Royal Drury ...

Dream on

C.K. Stead, 3 December 1992

A World of My Own: A Dream Diary 
by Graham Greene.
Reinhardt, 116 pp., £12.99, October 1992, 1 871061 36 9
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... In my experience the dreams that are recovered (most are lost) fall into two categories – the majority, which are pedestrian and seldom interesting, and the few which are so different from the many as to belong almost to a distinct category of experience. Vivid, full of atmosphere, these latter are insistently ‘significant’ beyond their literal import while at the same time resisting any simple symbolic interpretation; and if they can be retained through the levels of waking, they often seem worth recording ...

The Master

C.K. Stead, 30 November 1995

Shards of Memory 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 272 pp., £15.99, July 1995, 9780719555718
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... Henry James’s injunction to the novelist was ‘Dramatise! Dramatise!’ Ezra Pound advocated ‘the presentative method’. A dozen lesser but important voices have urged that modern fiction must enact, not tell. The strongest intellectual pressures on the serious novelist in this century have all been, that is to say, in the direction – the ultimate direction – of the playscript or the screenplay and away from the elaboration of prose as prose ...


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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... melodramatic. Australia has produced at least three major novelists since the 1930s – Christina Stead, Xavier Herbert and White. In 1975, two years after White’s Nobel award, Herbert published his greatest novel, Poor Fellow My Country, and I remember wondering whether Australia had got its Nobel too soon. On reflection, I think it unlikely Herbert would ...

Perfect Companions

C.K. Stead, 8 June 1995

Christina SteadA Biography 
by Hazel Rowley.
Secker, 646 pp., £12.99, January 1995, 0 436 20298 0
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... was better described as ‘fair of face’ or‘ill-favoured’ if the subject were not Christina Stead (1902-83) and the question had not figured so importantly in her conception of herself. The pictorial evidence is contradictory; but it appears that as a young woman she had good features, a fine, keen, intelligent face, somewhat spoiled by prominent front ...

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