Showing all posts tagged: Catriona Menzies-Pike

Critic Swallows Book marks 10 years for Sydney Review of Books

14 August 2023

Critic Swallows Book, by Sydney Review of Books, book cover

Book cover of Critic Swallows Book, published by the Sydney Review of Books.

Australian literary criticism journal, the Sydney Review of Books (SRB), has been online for ten years. To mark the occasion, SRB has published a book, Critic Swallows Book, containing twenty-two essays, written by contributors over the past decade:

It includes essays on decolonising Australian literature and revisiting the classics, on blockbuster fiction and book-length poems, on modernism in the Antipodes and reading during the pandemic. Essays on Susan Sontag and Rita Felski sit alongside critical considerations of the work of Murray Bail and Joan London, of new books by Evelyn Araluen and Samia Khatun.

Hmm… Critic Swallows Book, if you think the title is riffing on Boy Swallows Universe, the 2018 novel by Australian author Trent Dalton, I think you’d be right. Catriona Menzies-Pike, editor of Critic Swallows Book, wrote a scathing critique of Boy Swallows Universe for SRB in May 2022.


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A critique of Trent Dalton’s novels by Catriona Menzies-Pike

23 May 2022

An in-depth look at the writing of Brisbane based Australian author Trent Dalton, in particular his two bestsellers Boy Swallows Universe, and All Our Shimmering Skies, by Catriona Menzies-Pike, editor of the Sydney Review of Books.

If Dalton’s prose style skims the surfaces of his characters’ lives, so does his thinking about the moral and political world. Dalton infantilises his audience by feeding them palatable maxims about history, society and human flourishing. The themes are repeated again and again in case the rowdy kids up the back aren’t paying attention.

It’s a longer read, but well worth the time. It seems to me effectively critiquing a work of fiction — as is writing a good novel in the first place — is an art form in itself. Many of the book reviews I read — and, doubtless — write myself, essentially summarise the plot and include a few words as to the merit or otherwise of the title. There’s nothing wrong with that, when choosing what to read next I often quickly look for a consensus, before deciding what to do.


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