Being Wagner

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(by Simon Callow) (2017) Wagner was the Richard Nixon of Art: Revered, and reviled. Hugely accomplished and hugely flawed. Shining Knight and Scaly Dragon. So many words have been written by him, about him, for him and against him that when our literary friend Janelle sent us this book as a gift, it evoked a wan sigh – another Wagner book by an enthusiastic amateur, you might say!  Quelle Horreur you might say! Well, you all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!  This is a lovely book, full of sound insight and as easy to slip between its sheets as…

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Pride With Prejudice

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Jane Austen (16 December 1775 to 18 July 1817) “Her acute sense of character, her bland irony, her exquisite powers of organisation and presentation, turned the uneventful lives of well-fed people in quiet corners into enchanting novels.”* She may have belonged, as Edward Said claimed, ‘to a slave-owning society,’ but Jane Austen was a great writer – one of the very greatest – of small things, and the interior of the provincial English mind. She wasn’t so fussed about ‘themes.’ She wrote about girls looking for a man to marry, which was of prime importance then; today, 200 years after her premature…

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Rockin’ All Over the Place

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Launch of Beyond the Rock by Janelle McCulloch The Avenue Bookstore, Albert Park, Victoria (4 April 2017); Matilda Bookstore, Stirling, SA (6 April 2017) The Varnished Culture schmoozed in Albert Park at the Avenue (honourably mentioned in our summary of Melbourne bookstores) for the launch of Beyond the Rock (reviewed here). Bob Sessions recalled the modest success of the book on its publication by Penguin in 1967, and its stunning re-boot upon release of the film in 1975. (It is their second biggest Australian sell after A Fortunate Life). Author Janelle McCulloch gave a talk and afterwards, a Q & A, in…

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Beyond the Rock

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(by Janelle McCulloch) (2017) Do you know where you were in the early afternoon of August 8th 1975? Thanks to Janelle McCulloch, I do. I was at the world premiere of Peter Weir’s film Picnic at Hanging Rock. It is not that I could ever forget that day – it changed my life – but I was not sure of the date. The closest I have come to finding a description of the feeling which this film aroused in my upon my first viewing  is C S Lewis’s explanation of what he calls “joy.” This is from his memoir – “Surprised…

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Gwen by Goldie Goldbloom

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(2017) It is difficult to see, from reproductions of Gwen John’s paintings, why her lumpy daubs are thought by many to be better than the skillful if dull portraits painted by her brother, Augustus John.  Goldbloom is at pains in Gwen, her novelised version of Gwen John’s life, to say that it was so, that even Augustus knew it.  Nor is it easy to understand, at this distance, just why women found those lumpy bawds Augustus and the sculptor Auguste Rodin to be utterly irresistible, but again, apparently they did – or at least the artistic ones like Gwen and Dorelia (the mistress…

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