Robert Manne on having cancer: ‘I am interested in why I felt no fear’

The prolific writer and commentator talks about his second cancer diagnosis and rethinking his relationship with hospitals and his own body

Robert Manne is one of Australia’s most distinguished intellectuals and a frequent participant in public debate. He has written on everything from asylum seekers to the Holocaust to Wikileaks to the Stolen Generation. Manne’s politics also famously shifted in the mid 1990s from the right wing to the left.

But one form Manne hasn’t explored yet is the personal essay. A throat cancer diagnosis – first in 2008, then again last year – has given him reams of new material and experiences to chew over. In an operation late last year, he lost his ability to smell and to talk without the aid of a device.

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Closing Down: debut novelist Sally Abbott’s haunting vision of Australia’s future

The Richell prize winner, whose book is out this month, fears for a future blighted by environmental catastrophe
Speculative fiction usually starts with a “what if”: what if there was an environmental reckoning? What if we didn’t have enough water? What if the world was running out of food? What if that was coupled with a catastrophic global financial crisis? What would Australia look like? And how would its citizens cope? Debut novelist Sally Abbott, 57, didn’t start with the dystopian scenario, although her novel is certainly dystopian; she began with her characters. Continue reading...

Nikki Gemmell tells of the turmoil of losing her mother to suicide

The Australian author’s new memoir, After, explores her mother’s death, which forced her to confront the issue of euthanasia It’s October 2015 when the Sydney journalist Nikki Gemmell gets a call from the police. Her mother has died under suspicious circumstances. Can she come down to the morgue and identify her body? In the shock of grief, there is another reckoning. Did her mother take her own life? And if so, why? Continue reading...

Nikki Gemmell tells of the turmoil of losing her mother to suicide

The Australian author’s new memoir, After, explores her mother’s death, which forced her to confront the issue of euthanasia It’s October 2015 when the Sydney journalist Nikki Gemmell gets a call from the police. Her mother has died under suspicious circumstances. Can she come down to the morgue and identify her body? In the shock of grief, there is another reckoning. Did her mother take her own life? And if so, why? Continue reading...

Sarah Wilson on living with anxiety: there’s no sugarcoating mental illness

Her cookbook I Quit Sugar made her the face of health and wellness, but Wilson’s memoir, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, traverses much darker terrain If you’ve visited a bookshop in the last few years, you would have found it hard to avoid a tanned and lean Sarah Wilson beaming out at you from the covers on the front shelves. Her cookbooks, I Quit Sugar and Simplicious, have been bestsellers, and her name is synonymous with terms such as “clean living” and “vitality”.
Wilson’s latest book couldn’t be more different. The cover is dark blue, with an illustration of a gloomy octopus – even the title itself seems like something from a poetry collection with a small print run. Continue reading...

Jessa Crispin: the woman at war with lifestyle feminism

Before her Australian tour the Why I Am Not a Feminist author hits out at romance, self-care and women who claim to be radical without doing the work
I admit I picked up Why I Am Not a Feminist, a new polemic by the US writer Jessa Crispin, thinking she was some sort of female men’s rights activist and the book was arguing for a winding back of women’s rights. I was wrong. Continue reading...

Don’t feed the trolls: a survival guide for teen girl writers

Clementine Ford, Nakkiah Lui and other writers sit down with school-aged girls to share what they know about persevering, handling harrassment, and empathy When my first piece was published in 1998, my stories appeared on paper that was the size of a pillow case. There was no button the reader could click on to tell me what they thought of me after they’d read the headline. If people didn’t like my stories, I may – a week later – have gotten a letter in the mail. The letter would usually be written either in large CAPS or tiny spidery handwriting that slanted left and was hard to read. Sometimes a biblical bookmark would be included in the envelope. I wrote for the paper most days, on all sorts of topics. I would receive, on average, two letters a year. Continue reading...