Reviews

Sue Smith’s Hydra: how love, pain and sacrifice produced an Australian classic

Running through Hydra, the new play by Australian playwright Sue Smith, is the myth of Icarus, the boy who flew so high that his wings melted and he crashed to his death in the sea near the Greek island of Samos. Alastair Blanshard The Conversation It is an easy myth to misunderstand. Moralists think it is a story that reinforces the importance of listening to your parents and sticking to the safe middle path – not flying “too close to ... Read More »

The best books by women of the 21st century

On International Women’s Day, writers and critics pick the best works by women since 2000 Martin Doyle The Irish Times SINÉAD GLEESON You don’t need me to tell you to read everything pre and post-2000 by the greatest Irish writer, Anne Enright (who just happens to be a woman) – but you really should. Or to read our poets: Eavan Boland, Rita Ann Higgins, Elaine Feeney, Sinéad Morrissey, Leanne O’Sullivan. You already know all about the success of Marian Keyes ... Read More »

A Man of Good Hope is no tale of triumph over adversity, but it is the story of many

In a world where so many are escaping brutality, war, persecution, and loss of land, is it possible to tell the story of just one displaced person, and in so doing, tell the story of many? William Peterson The Conversation With A Man of Good Hope, a theatrical adaptation of a biography of the same name by Jonny Steinberg, the Cape Town-based Isango Ensemble suggests the answer is yes. An energetic cast of over 20 actor-singer-dancer-musicians are shaped by director ... Read More »

Heaven and Earth in Chinese Art is an exercise in spectacle

The exhibition Heaven and Earth in Chinese Art, Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is the first major loan to Australia from this repository of what have become the canonical art works of… John Clark The Conversation It deserves to be seen by all those interested in Chinese art, and hopefully will be the precursor for many such loans in the future. Perhaps it will also prod the National Palace Museum in Beijing to do a major loan exhibition, ... Read More »

Imperial Exceptionalism

It is hard to give up something you claim you never had. That is the difficulty Americans face with respect to their country’s empire. Jackson Lears The New York Review of Books Since the era of Theodore Roosevelt, politicians, journalists, and even some historians have deployed euphemisms—“expansionism,” “the large policy,” “internationalism,” “global leadership”—to disguise America’s imperial ambitions. According to the exceptionalist creed embraced by both political parties and most of the press, imperialism was a European venture that involved seizing territories, ... Read More »

The art of distraction: Sebastian Smee’s Quarterly Essay

Guilty as charged. Yes, I spend too much time on social media. Yes, I have become more easily distracted. Yes, I have given up too much personal information to various apps and websites over the years. And yes, I have read a number of articles that articulate precisely how foolish, or at least, misguided this… Stephanie Trigg The Conversation And so when I opened up Sebastian Smee’s Quarterly Essay, Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age, I was ... Read More »

Malala’s new book brings voices of world’s displaced to the fore

As we ascend the lift in the Melbourne hotel where Malala Yousafzai is staying, we have a stowaway on board. Miki Perkins The Sydney Morning Herald Ten-year-old Dante Ascui is a capable assistant to his father, Age photographer Luis Ascui, carrying the tripod as we emerge into a large room with a view of the Yarra River. But for Dante, today is not about work. When his dad discovered his first booking of the day was to photograph Yousafzai, he doubled back ... Read More »

The ancient Greeks would have loved Alexa

Classical mythology is full of robots, automata, artificial intelligence and technology. Think not only Pandora, but self-opening gates and libation-pouring statues Peter Stothard The Spectator Among the myths of Ancient Greece the Cyclops has become forever famous, the Talos not so much. While both were monsters who hurled giant boulders at Mediterranean shipping, the… The Talos was more alien, by some accounts a mere machine, manufactured in metal by a god and pre-programmed only to sink ships and roast invaders ... Read More »

What Thucydides Knew About the US Today

On the morning after the 2016 presidential election I tried to distract myself by reading some pages of Thucydides that I had assigned for a class the next day, and found myself reading the clearest explanation I had seen of the… Edward Mendelson The New York Review of Books In the third book of his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides describes the outbreak of civil war on the northern island of Corcyra in 427 BC: There was the revenge taken in ... Read More »

Who’s Really Afraid of Nationalism?

Yoram Hazony has written a polemic against what he perceives as the conventional wisdom—a refutation of the “paradigm of the European liberals” for whom the European Union is the highest stage of political excellence. Michael Kimmage The National Interest Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism, (New York: Basic Books, 2018), 273 pp., $26.99. It was the best of times in Europe, in the 1990s, and it was the worst of times in Russia. The Soviet Union had ignominiously collapsed in ... Read More »

The Unstable Identities of The Caregiver

Samuel Park’s last novel explores how one person’s sense of self can be absorbed into another’s need. ROSA INOCENCIO SMITH The Atlantic The Caregiver BY SAMUEL PARK SIMON & SCHUSTER Samuel Park’s new novel, The Caregiver, is a study in fragility: that of bodies, of boundaries, and of identity itself. Centering on two relationships—a mother and her daughter, and the daughter and her patient—it explores the complex bonds between people who are linked by the need that one has for the… The Unstable Identities… Read More »

Religious freedom review enshrines right of schools to turn away gay children and teachers

Religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the government’s long-awaited… Jewel Topsfield The Sydney Morning Herald However the report, which is still being debated by cabinet despite being handed to the Coalition four months ago, dismisses the notion religious freedom in Australia is in “imminent peril”, and… The review was commissioned in the wake of last year’s same-sex marriage victory to appease conservative MPs who ... Read More »

Review: ‘Murphy Brown’ Returns, Not for the Better

When Murphy Brown (Candice Bergen) walks back into Phil’s Bar (now run by Tyne Daly as Phil’s sister, Phyllis), the studio audience applauds. Why wouldn’t they? The original “Murphy Brown” was a cultural milestone, and Ms. Bergen’s acid performance as a brilliant, abrasive TV journalist was a… James Poniewozik The New York Times In another episode, Murphy’s old colleague Jim Dial (Charles Kimbrough) tells her not to give in to pressure to interview the white nationalist blowhard Ed Shannon (David ... Read More »

The Australian war film Jirga is a lesson in Afghan forgiveness

It is cathartic when a war movie takes us far beyond the horror of bullets, bomb and blood into the other side of the battlefield — the emotional impact on individuals. Ehsan Azari Stanizai The Conversation The Australian production Jirga mines the depth of the heartache and guilt experienced by an Australian ex-soldier whose conscience has caught up with his participation in a night raid on a… In doing so, it moves away from run-of-the-mill cinematic depictions of this war, ... Read More »

In Esi Edugyan’s Novel ‘Washington Black,’ a Slave Escapes by Hot-Air Balloon

(This book was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018. For the rest of the list, click here.) By Colm Toibin The New York Times WASHINGTON BLACK By Esi Edugyan 334 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95 When the novel “Washington Black” opens, it is 1830 and the young George Washington Black, who narrates his own story, is a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation called Faith, protected, or at least watched over, by an ... Read More »

New book offers vital background on the Iran nuclear deal

Wendy Sherman may not have the highest name recognition outside of Washington — but that’s what you might expect from a former top State Department official whose job included delicate negotiations with old adversaries and… Jason Rezaian The Washington Post Now she has just come out with a new memoir that fills a valuable gap in recent history by providing a detailed look at the talks that led to the Iran nuclear deal. Sherman was the lead negotiator for the ... Read More »