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June 7, 2018


Essays: The Australian Face (editor Catriona Menzies)

by N@ncy

  • Title: The Australian Face: Essays from The Sydney Review of Books
  • Published: 2017
  • Editor: Catriona Menzies PikeEditor Sydney Review of Books.
  • She holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Sydney.
  • Editor: James Ley –  Professional literary critic. 
  • He holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Western Sydney.


What is the Sydney Review of Books?

The Sydney Review of Books was launched in 2013 out of frustration at the diminishing public space for Australian criticism on literature.


What is this book about?

To celebrate the Sydney Review of Books first five years online Ms Menzies and J. Ley have selected the ‘cream of the crop‘ out of more than 500 published essays over the years. This anthology contains  essays on Australian fiction, poetry and non-fiction.


What are essays for?

They are for thinking about things that need to be thought about. This book highlights several popular Australian authors ( H. Garner, A. Wright, M.B. Clarke and Les Murray (…could win Nobel Prize!). But I enjoyed discovering a forgotten Australian poet, Lesbia Harford, the literature scholar John Frow (impressive credentials!) and Moya Costello.

This book not only reveals the mainstream writers….but also  extremely talented essayists like Jeff Sparrow, Julieanne Lamond and Ben Etherington.


Here are some of my notes:


#ExcellentEssay: Gut Instinct by James Ley

  1. James Ley is not only editor but has contributed a
  2. brilliant essay about H. Garner’s House of Grief.
  3. He examines Garner’s style in this book about a slow
  4. grinding process of two court cases the
  5. provide the narrative spine of the book.


#ExcellentEssay: The Brain Feign by Ben Etherington

  1. Ben Etherington’s essay was a refreshing critical look at a number of
  2. Australian book reviewers
  3. ….offering a ‘chorus of weak cheers’ about recent publications.
  4. Etherson’s complaint in his essay is that critics
  5. summarise the content, recapitulate the blurb,
  6. describe the author’s reputation but none of the critics work
  7. to demonstrate WHY the novel deserves a prize or not!


#NotAFan: Sings for the Soul by Anthony Ullmann

  1. Unfortunately I gave up on Anthony Uhlmann’s essay.
  2. This my be very well MY problem…and not reflection on the writer.
  3. But read the essay yourself…and let me know what YOU think!


#ExcellentEssay: Render It Barely – Jeff Sparrow

  1. Impressive essay by Jeff Sparrow about a forgotten Australian poet
  2. Lesbia Harford.
  3. I knew nothing about Jeff Sparrow or Lesbia Harford.
  4. Ms Harford’s poems are worth reading
  5. …especially her love poems and factory poems
  6. …but Sparrow emphasizes
  7. that they should be read with the
  8. …knowledge of what was happening in
  9. Australian society (rise of Marxism and the Communist Party,
  10. the working class demanding rights, the world WWI and
  11. in the poet’s own life (lovers Guido Baracchi and Katie Lush).
  12. I am eager to read more articles written by Jeff Sparrow!
  13. Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor, and broadcaster.
  14. He writes a fortnightly column for The Guardian and was the contributes
  15. regularly to many other Australian and international publications.
  16. He was the immediate past editor of literary journal Overland.
  17. I enjoy is style:
  18. …he does not want to preach…. he wants to teach.


#ExcellentEssay: The Australian Face by Julieanne Lamond

  1. Ms Lamond discusses The Barracuda by Christos Tsjolkas.
  2. She compares it to the author’s popular novel The Slap.
  3. Australia in The Slap: why hatred can hold communities together.
  4. Australia in The Barracuda: shows the absurdity of
  5. …the idea that Australia is a classless society.
  6. Sounds like these books are filled with some ‘fireworks’!


Last thoughts:

  1. This is one of the best anthologies of essays I’ve ever read
  2. Another  collection of eassys I enjoyed
  3. …was Zadie Smith’s  Feel Free.
  4. I’m including The Australian Face review on the
  5. Australian Women Writers Challenge. #AWW2018
  6. I feel Ms Catriona Menzies-Pike should enjoy some praise for
  7. guiding The Sydney Review of Books and together with J. Ley
  8. …selecting some great pieces of writing.
  9. Discover the rest of the essays  yourself!
  10. #GreatRead 



2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 8 2018

    I loved Ellen van Neerven’s book from a few years ago & I’m keen to read some more by her. How was her essay on desert writing?


    • Jul 8 2018

      I read this book a few weeks ago….I’ll “re-read” the essay and
      add my thoughts to this blog post, oke?



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