author: Brian Matthews

  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Our neighbour Sam

    • Brian Matthews
    • 04 August 2020
    19 Comments

    Our neighbor Sam is in his mid-seventies. He takes things quietly, enjoys a chat where our two gardens converge at a corner of the lambing paddock that unfolds beyond our shared wire fence and, regularly in summer, Sam is partial to a few cooling drinks.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Finding fragments of a father

    • Brian Matthews
    • 02 July 2020
    3 Comments

    Daddy Cool is a thoroughly absorbing biography, witty, astonishing, often intensely moving, effortlessly in charge of a crowded and potentially confusing canvas (readers of a certain age will recognise names like Jack Davey, Roy Rene, Dick Bentley, Willie Fennell).

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Illness and the indescribable

    • Brian Matthews
    • 03 April 2020
    3 Comments

    Illness, so apparently explicit and ever more obvious as it progresses, in fact defies definition: submitting apparently to scientific and medical description, it escapes into a quality of pain, exquisite loss or appalled helplessness that is often most clearly captured at the heart of great works of art.

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  • ENVIRONMENT

    Writing in the apocalypse

    • Brian Matthews
    • 06 February 2020
    3 Comments

    I’d never heard of McKenzie Funk until I came across his marvellous review essay, 'Smoked Out'. I eagerly read on beyond the genial opening paragraphs and almost immediately, I found myself on familiar, if deadly, ground.

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  • ENVIRONMENT

    Climate science for the birds

    • Brian Matthews
    • 01 November 2019
    3 Comments

    The scene I have described was more than purely peaceful. In these iron days, to write about or seriously discuss the world of nature and its phases and complexions can be a political act, 74 years after Orwell wondered about that very same point in 'Some Thoughts on the Common Toad'.

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  • ENVIRONMENT

    Memories to pique climate conscience

    • Brian Matthews
    • 29 August 2019
    6 Comments

    There are thousands of Australians old enough to remember: hot summers starting before Christmas and tailing off into autumn in the weeks after their return to school; the buddings and flowerings and wiltings in suburban gardens and country main streets; the first chill in the air as they unwrapped their Easter eggs ...

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    The sometimes ironic perception of 'things'

    • Brian Matthews
    • 02 August 2019
    4 Comments

    Robert Harris' The Gang of One ranges through Harris' five published books and a number of uncollected poems. Early work grows from his occasionally lonely, knockabout life and reveals not only a talent for catching the essence of fleeting memories and perceptions but also a mordant touch that gives edge to memory.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    An Orwellian view of climate change

    • Brian Matthews
    • 12 July 2019
    6 Comments

    By 'belly to earth', Orwell meant not only the uncomplicated, hands-on approach he threw himself into at Wallington. It also denoted a quality of engagement with the natural world that he saw to be threatened by the nature of what he considered to be the 'evil' times in which he lived — a feeling familiar to many in 2019.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    A medieval light on modern day darkness

    • Brian Matthews
    • 22 May 2019
    1 Comment

    For modern readers of Huizinga's The Autumn of the Middle Ages, there is a curious kind of double vision. While 21st century life has incomparably eclipsed medieval counterparts, there are aspects of the comparison that remain at least intriguing and, in some cases, enlightening.

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  • ARTS AND CULTURE

    Echoes of Auschwitz in Manus memoir

    • Brian Matthews
    • 27 March 2019
    6 Comments

    Like Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi in his works, Behrouz Boochani's No Friend but the Mountains exemplifies among many other things 'the possibilities of human decency' despite the Manus prison's squalor. Like George Orwell in another time and place, he is buoyed by hope in irrepressible nature.

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  • INTERNATIONAL

    Passport paradox at the Israel-Jordan border

    • Brian Matthews
    • 22 January 2019
    5 Comments

    As you couldn't enter Jordan with a passport in which there were Israeli stamps, officials in the Australian Embassy advised us to arrange a second, 'clean' passport. This was a weird business because we would be entering Jordan from Israel — our physical presence in Israel would deny the cleanliness of our passports.

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  • AUSTRALIA

    Philistine invasion is cringe-worthy indeed

    • Brian Matthews
    • 17 December 2018
    7 Comments

    Simon Birmingham's recent vetoing of 11 humanities research projects is a good example of cultural cringe's transmutation into populist philistinism. Scientific research projects are often more opaque to the uninitiated than humanities projects but are usually safe from ignorant criticism because their importance is assumed.

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