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Happier Days

Rosalind Mitchison, 4 April 1991

Scottish Voices 1745-1960 
by T.C. Smout and Sydney Wood.
Collins, 334 pp., £16.95, August 1990, 0 00 215190 1
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... Here is an anthology of pieces drawn from published hooks on life in Scotland, mostly memoirs and mostly familiar to historians. Old friends include George Robertson, Joseph Mitchell, Thomas Somerville and Ramsay of Ochtertyre. The accounts are separated into themes, such as school, factory and mine, leisure, crime (though none of the memorialists claim active participation in this ...
... present, bronze on a tall plinth – His plain Victorian three-piece suit bulks large, Befitting Sydney’s first successful exporter Of refrigerated foods – while, lower down This plush declivity, one finds a bubbler Superfluously shaded by a small But intricate gun-metal baldacchino, Sure-footed as a Donatello font. Thus in a sculpture court less ...

White Lie Number Ten

Nicholas Jose: Australia’s aboriginal sovereignty, 19 February 1998

Race Matters: Indigenous Australians and ‘Our’ Society 
edited by Gillian Cowlishaw and Barry Morris.
Aboriginal Studies Press, 295 pp., AUS $29.95, March 1998, 0 85575 294 7
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Aboriginal Sovereignty: Reflections on Race, State and Nation 
by Henry Reynolds.
Allen and Unwin, 221 pp., AUS $17.95, July 1996, 1 86373 969 6
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... that befitted a burgeoning colony. Today the site is the forecourt of the new Museum of Sydney, with the ghostly floor-plan of the original residence picked out in white on the granite flagstones. At its perimeter, adjoining a row of Victorian terraces once used for Customs and Immigration, stand 29 pillars of sandstone, steel, I-beam and ...

In the Tart Shop

Murray Sayle: How Sydney got its Opera House, 5 October 2000

The Masterpiece: Jørn Utzon, a Secret Life 
by Philip Drew.
Hardie Grant, 574 pp., AUS $39.95, October 1999, 1 86498 047 8
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Jørn Utzon: The Sydney Opera House 
by Françoise Fromonot, translated by Christopher Thompson.
Electa/Gingko, 236 pp., £37.45, January 1998, 3 927258 72 5
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... of a saw-toothed roofline on the Olympic logo, and the world knew which city staged the games. Sydney Opera House is the only 20th-century building that has become a city’s icon – Big Ben, Miss Liberty and the Eiffel Tower date from the 19th – and may well rank with Hagia Sophia and the Taj Mahal as our era’s legacy to the ages. How did an ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Only God Forgives’, 29 August 2013

Only God Forgives 
directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
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... director award at Cannes in 2011 and Only God Forgives has already been named best film at the Sydney Film Festival. Like many artists keen on violence, Refn has a sentimental side. He worries about children even as he shows us more ripped and smashed human bodies than several years’ worth of newsreels. You can see why Refn wanted Ryan Gosling to play ...

Here you are talking about duck again

Mark Ford: Larkin’s Letters Home, 20 June 2019

Philip Larkin: Letters Home, 1936-77 
edited by James Booth.
Faber, 688 pp., £40, November 2018, 978 0 571 33559 6
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... it is more troublingly figured as actively damaging rather than merely dreary.Larkin’s father, Sydney, met his mother, Eva Day, in the summer of 1906 in Rhyl in North Wales. She was twenty, and on holiday with her parents; he was two years older, and on a cycling tour. Although both were extremely shy, they were also attracted to each other as opposites ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Man on Wire’, 11 September 2008

Man on Wire 
directed by James Marsh.
August 2008
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... coups, a wire-walk between the towers of Notre-Dame, and the same thing between the pillars of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The wonderful word ‘funambule’ is used several times, evoking the famous 19th-century Théâtre des Funambules and its appearance in Les Enfants du Paradis. The word means what it says, bringing together the Latin terms for ...

Homage to the Provinces

Michael Wood, 28 May 1992

by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 575 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 00 272078 7
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by Manuel Vazquez Montalban, translated by Andrew Robinson.
Verso, 210 pp., £17.95, May 1992, 0 86091 353 8
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Cities of Spain 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 214 pp., £17.95, March 1992, 0 7195 4833 0
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Red City, Blue Period: Social Movements in Picasso’s Barcelona 
by Temma Kaplan.
California, 266 pp., $30, April 1992, 0 520 07507 2
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... quite different things. Barcelona is now a city of nearly four million inhabitants, the size of Sydney and Los Angeles, as Hughes says. The mention of Sydney is not an accident, since one of Barcelona’s appeals for Hughes is that it is ‘provincial’, an attraction ‘no doubt ... involved’, he says, ‘on a ...

Damaged Beasts

James Wood: Peter Carey’s ‘Theft’, 8 June 2006

Theft: A Love Story 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 269 pp., £16.99, June 2006, 0 571 23147 0
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... a tough dramatic alloy, delicate and robust at once: This paint was from Raphaelson’s, a small Sydney outfit who are amongst the best pigment makers in the world. In the five years I had been really famous I would use nothing else and now they had some new, very serious acrylic greens: permanent green, earth green, Jenkins green, titanium green, Prussian ...

In the Park

Peter Campbell: Frank Gehry’s Pavilion, 31 July 2008

... years later the grandmother of another Frank – Frank Gehry (b.1929) – poured out a pile of wood scraps for him to make things with. Today you can see him in Sydney Pollack’s documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry cutting and bending sheets of card and sticking them together to make models – inventing on the fly like ...

No Shortage of Cousins

David Trotter: Bowenology, 12 August 2021

Selected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen, edited by Tessa Hadley.
Vintage, 320 pp., £14.99, April, 978 1 78487 715 6
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The Hotel 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 256 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08065 8
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Friends and Relations 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Anchor, 224 pp., $16, August 2020, 978 0 593 08067 2
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... and Fleance, looks out of the window: ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood.’ The milieu’s ominousness reflects his current mood and supplies a further reason to act on it.The scene from Macbeth is the prime example of the creation of atmosphere provided by William Empson in Seven Types of Ambiguity. Empson had his suspicions ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... ill and like getting old, who prefer winter to summer and autumn to spring’. These Babes in the Wood crave the rainy, stained and soggy. Yet the later Murdoch was a hard-line Tory, who may well have been liberal in her aesthetics but was hardly so in her politics. She had right-wing views on most topics, and lambasted the work of Derrida while having only ...

Hug me, kiss me

Penelope Fitzgerald, 6 October 1994

Such Devoted Sisters: An Anthology of Stories 
edited by Shena Mackay.
Virago, 330 pp., £6.99, August 1994, 1 85381 755 4
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When the World Was Steady 
by Claire Messud.
Granta, 270 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 14 014099 9
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... had considered Angus, nor did they now. She got out the bottle of ink, and the pen with the cherry wood handle, which they shared, and began the letter.’ Loyalty, destructive here, often takes unexpected forms. In the passages included from Cranford, Miss Jenkyns, the elder sister, has long ago destroyed Miss Matty’s happiness by dissuading her from ...

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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... triumphantly, in my view – into poetry. Brennan’s background was the Irish famine. In Sydney he grew up speaking the language of the oppressor. But as a young Catholic with a failure for a father he had one conspicuous advantage among his handicaps. He was educated by the Jesuits of Riverview, who even in my time were still making sure that their ...


Andrew O’Hagan, 11 May 1995

... and fell into the middle of the room with me underneath it. I knew the face framed by that rickety wood. I’d seen it before, in that frame, and I knew who it was: my grandfather Michael. I knew that’s who it was though I’d never met him. The grandfather was covered in dust and damp patches dried in. But that was him: he had the darkest eyes I’d ever ...

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