In early December I wrote a post about online journal The Conversation‘s occasional series they call The case for …. I promised that I would write my own case, and I will – soon. It’s just that I feel like a – well – a reader in a library. So many great books to choose from. I think I know which one I’ll choose, but I’m still thinking …
In the meantime I thought I’d share another occasional series The Conversation has created in its literary area, Noted Works. They describe it as:
a new series on The Conversation devoted to long-form reviews of significant new books.
They go on to say that “If you’re an academic or researcher and you’d like to write on a recent work that has been a game-changer in your field, please contact the Arts + Culture editor.” So far it seems that not many have contacted the editor – but more on that anon. First I want to clarify these two literature-focused series: “The Case For …” is about arguing for “the merits of one Australian book, one piece of writing” which means it can be any sort of written work from any period, while “Noted Works” is intended to be long-form reviews of new works. Hmm, fair enough though the title “Noted Works” is not particularly self-explanatory. However, wot’s in a name? The important thing is that The Conversation is supporting the idea of long-form reviews.
But, although they announced this series in July last year, so far, if I have searched the site correctly, only three “Noted Works” reviews have been published. They are (in the order published):
- Carolyn D’Cruz and Mark Pendleton’s (ed) After Homosexual: The legacy of gay liberation (UWA Publishing): After Homosexual, reviewer Peter Robinson writes, is a celebration, or festschrift, of Dennis Altman’s Homosexual: Oppression and liberation which was published in 1971. Robinson argues that the book explains “the rhetoric and underpinning philosophies of gay liberation in the 1970s and queer social movements that have been bubbling along in the four decades since then”.
- Nicholas Clements’ The black war: Fear, sex and resistance in Tasmania (UQP): Reviewer Lyndall Ryan begins by contextualising this book as a descendant of the now well-known Australian “History Wars” in which historians argued, fiercely, over how we interpret the history of settlement in Australia in relation to our indigenous inhabitants. She then discusses Clements’ analysis of the “war” in Tasmania, arguing that his approach identifies a different way of looking at its major triggers, and confirms that it was indeed a significant war that should be recognised as such.
- Clare Wright’s The forgotten rebels of Eureka (Text Publishing) (My review): Reviewer Zora Simic‘s aim is to “locate The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka as part of the wider field of Australian feminist history”. She discusses the challenges feminist historians face in the inevitable “historical silences and ambiguities”, because, of course, women’s stories/lives/actions (like those of other disempowered groups) were regularly not deemed important enough to capture and document at the time. She argues that Wright’s history is as important for its contribution to the way history (women’s history) can be researched and written, as it is for the arguments she’s presented about Eureka.
So, here we have three thoughtful reviews tackling significant social/historical issues. It’s interesting that all three books featured to date are non-fiction, and all are historically focused. Where are the academics in literature? Surely there are recently published fictional works or poetry that warrant in-depth reviewing – from the point of view of their content and style, or perhaps in terms of their reception (or lack thereof), or even, say, exploring different theoretical approaches that might be taken to understanding them?
The three reviews I’ve described here were all published in July and August last year. Will there be any more or has this series died an early death? I hope not.