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Sylvia Lawson: In Sydney

8 April 1993
... In Manufacturing Consent, the brilliant Canadian documentary about Noam Chomsky and the American media, one troubled citizen asks the literal hero whether he thinks there might come a day when ‘we could again be proud of our country’. He answers: ‘It depends what you mean by your country.’ Quite. No nationalist, I am tempted today to feel proud of my country; but by that I mean the 50-plus ...


Sylvia Lawson

20 April 1989
Daddy, we hardly knew you 
by Germaine Greer.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 0 241 12538 3
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... male. The grasp is above all a matter of writing; the prose is shot through with the knowledge of those ‘charms and incantations’, and the epigraphs, from Sophocles to Akhmatova, Tsvetayeva and Sylvia Plath, deepen the resonance. The Shakespeare scholar knows perfectly what she is doing in reversing the drama of the daughterless father; she had clung to the crumbs and rags of fatherly love and ...

Bags and Iron

Sylvia Lawson

15 August 1991
Patrick White: A Life 
by David Marr.
Cape, 715 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 224 02581 3
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... Gossip makes the world go round, and we always want the stories of the gods. So biography prospers, and whatever’s between its covers, the big one is always a glossy commodity, further upmarket than most fiction. The hype for this one was noisy and predictable: excerpts, interviews and even reviews focusing on homosexual love-lives, Patrick White’s awful temper, and the detective-biographer’s ...

All in the Family

Sylvia Lawson

3 December 1992
Letters to Sartre 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Quintin Hoare.
Radius, 531 pp., £20, December 1991, 0 09 174774 0
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Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvior, 1926-1939 
edited by Simone de Beauvior, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee.
Hamish Hamilton, 448 pp., £20, November 1992, 9780241133361
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... On these two sacred monsters, the tally of evidence is still incomplete: there’s another volume of the translation of Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres to come, and Quintin Hoare has translated only two-thirds of the Lettres à Sartre. But you could already tabulate the chronologies into a glorious, full-colour-coded spreadsheet jigsaw, mapping the stories from the Sartre biographies (Annie ...

Sickness and Salvation

Sylvia Lawson

31 August 1989
Aids and its Metaphors 
by Susan Sontag.
Allen Lane, 95 pp., £9.95, March 1989, 0 7139 9025 2
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The Whole Truth: The Myth of Alternative Health 
by Rosalind Coward.
Faber, 216 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 14114 5
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... Each of these polemical books considers health and illness in recent Western history. Each moves in to large areas of disputation and advertisement, involving sections of the medical and paramedical professions, the academy and the media, with populations of patients, families, commentators and consumers. Each is launched against beliefs and ways of speaking seen to be retrograde and damaging; each ...
18 February 1988
The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... Some of the best Australian history is cultural history, not just because better written, but because the culturati, eternally anxious to place themselves in a context, try hard to evoke it. SylviaLawson, a descendant of Henry Lawson, was a pioneer –the pioneer – Australian woman literary journalist in the Fifties. In the editorial office of Tom Fitzgerald’s Nation magazine in George Street ...


Sylvia Lawson

24 November 1988
Games with Shadows 
by Neal Ascherson.
Radius, 354 pp., £18, April 1988, 0 09 173019 8
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... The book’s title mocks the author’s own position. It comes from a newspaper column of 1985 in which he attacked what he saw as ‘the retreat from politics’ into nihilistic spectatorship, and thus passivity. ‘Games with shadows and changing reflections threaten the citizen’s most elementary weapon of self-defence: memory.’ Acutely and characteristically, he links passivity to unemployment ...

Island Politics

Sylvia Lawson: The return of Australia’s Coalition Government

12 November 1998
... The headline news around the South-East Asian crescent after last month’s Australian Federal Election was ‘Hanson Loses Seat.’ For the South China Morning Post, the Straits Time and the Nation in Bangkok, it seemed that Pauline Hanson, the red-haired maverick of the populist Right, was all that mattered about Australia. Ratih Hardjono, who works from Melbourne for Jakarta’s daily Kompas, led ...


Sylvia Lawson

18 February 1988
Australians: A Historical Library 
Fairfax, Syme and Weldon, AUS $695Show More
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... that far-off, foreign country where the press was the only mass medium, newspapers, like all media now, were never merely mirrors, but always agents, working on their worlds. Francis Adams and Henry Lawson are present in these pages as individual voices: but they were empowered by the Bulletin, which gave them and thousands of others their moments of public speech. Country-town newspapers were often ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: Costume Drama

11 October 2012
... exculpatory fantasies animate the sequence in a wonderfully mad way. ‘I stand for monogamy and chastity,’ Christopher Tietjens says, setting himself against the times as well as his devil-wife, Sylvia. The books are suffused with a seriously meant – if somewhat vague – neo-feudalism, partly in tribute to Ford’s friend Arthur Marwood, from whom he took Tietjens’s grand Yorkshire background ...
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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... of working in libraries (‘the lost oubliettes of unwisdom’) and the greater burden of teaching students who move from ‘their latest adventures in learning to spell/To a common obsession with Sylvia Plath’. These are not all hymns to boredom, however – far from it. ‘Working on the Railway’ broods on a dream of past railway travel as the poet reads ‘Lost Railways of England’ instead ...

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