Arts and Letters Report: January/February 2016

By Jennifer Ann DAVIES

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser


LITERATURE – How to read!


“…The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.” Wallace Stevens.


There is no single way to read well, though there is a prime reason why we should read.

Reading well…is…the most healing of pleasures…It returns you to otherness…

Critics and masters, Samuel Johnson and William Hazlitt practise their art to make what is IMPLICIT in a book finely EXPLICIT!

The wonderful, wise, nourishing and beautiful writing of Harold BLOOM, in “HOW TO READ AND WHY” warns us to leave behind ideological expectations in order NOT to defraud our still developing selves, cognitively and aesthetically! P.23

Dr Johnson advised: “Clear your mind of cant!”

That WAS c a n t.

Cant:   -speech overflowing with pious platitudes, the peculiar vocabulary of a sect or coven.

Our own universities have empowered the covens of gender, sexuality and multiculturalism.

How can the Language of these covens replace ‘original’, beautiful, rich parody and literature?

The idiosyncratic must be considered!

Bloom states that as an authentic reader, you will automatically illuminate others – let self improvement suffice and do not attempt to improve others!

Self-trust, usually, cannot come without years of deep reading.

Bloom argues that not only are Shakespeare’s works still pervasive, but also that his works contain “…every principle of reading…” and that Shakespeare’s DIFFERENCE is a cognitive power, posited by him, received by us – “…in a quest of a mind more original than our own…”.

The writer then claims that the loss of irony is the death of reading! p.25

“Look at Dickenson, Johnson, Emerson, Montaigne, Thomas Mann…irony – ironic juxtapositions! However – IRONY demands a certain attention span, and the ability to sustain antithetical ideas, even when they collide with each other!”

“READ DEEPLY,” writes Bloom, “…not to believe, not to accept, not to contradict, but to learn to share in that one nature that writes and reads.”

This text bridges worlds and bonds readers. It is devoured, pondered and studied in both the academic and lay worlds of myriad readers.

“How to Read and Why”, BLOOM, Harold, Touchstone, New York NY 10020, 2001.


LITERATURE – Love, Friendship and Hope!

Poignant, topical yet thematically timeless, a story of exile and survival…

Beautifully written, funny, disturbing, heart-breaking….and at times, familiar –

“BLACK MAMBA BOY” is a vivid tale of love, friendship and boundless Hope!

Nadifa MOHAMED begins….”I tell this story of war and of my father, I tell you because no-one else will…”

“…oversized glasses perched on his bulbous nose; his ma’awis hitched up around his knees. To see his knees buckling under the weight of his thin body hurts me, but I respect those knees for walking across continents, for wading through the Red Sea……I will sing the song of those knees…I am my father’s griot, this is a hymn to him….”

“Black Mamba Boy”, MOHAMED, Nadifa, Harper Collins, London, W6 8JB, 2010


LITERATURE – Action and International Intrigue!

Action careens between Moscow, Helsinki, Athens, Rome and Washington D.C. in a masterful thriller lifted from the dossiers of intelligence agencies on either side of the Atlantic.

“Red Sparrow” delivers spell-binding intrigue and authenticity and insider detail, from veteran CIA officer and author, Jason MATTHEWS. 

Interestingly, in addition to primary themes, woven with threads of multi-linguistic flavours – “Dobre vecher, dyadya…” another strand emerges, when the heroine, Russian Dominika Egorova, is popped upon the page in front of the Reader! Dominika is an only child – her mother, concert-master in the Moscow State Symphony; passionate and spectacular, she was thwarted in the cold-blooded, delusional, over-managed system which promoted toads and dismissed the energetic, enlivened, beautiful, creative Aliveness that morphed into dismissal, danger and/or death for the genuinely talented!

Dominika’s father is quieter, avoiding controversy, even though he rejected the imbalance and illogic of the Soviet system, and despised the top-heavy, favouritism of the cheloveki – the insider’s sloth and self-indulgence that crushed the human spirit, and robbed Russians of their lives, country, their patrimony… p.25

As a five year old, Dominika demonstrated evidence of a prodigious memory – reciting Pushkin – identifying each concerto of the wonderful Tchaikovsky – seeing the music in colours – hearing stories and words in colour – a fascinating character – a fascinating synesthete! Simon & Schuster, London, UK, 2013.

Literature – an AUSSIE find! ‘FATHER BOB’!!

Sydney’s Sue WILLIAMS has authored a lively, honest, revealing book “Father Bob” – The Larrikin Priest! – copyrighted and first published by Penguin Australia in 2013, this wonderfully Australian life story is prefaced thus…..

“All that is required for evil to prevail

Is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund BURKE.

This is a favourite quote, repeated with absolute conviction, throughout this engaging life story of Father Bob Macguire!

Radical? Zany? Idiosyncratic? Unusual! Loving! Bursting at the seams with a genuine common humanity – a great read!

A true Wordsmith; sad child; replanted Celt, like so many of us, this extraordinary human being is happy to have published “…the good and the bad…warts ‘n’ all….the saintly and the devilish…”

In addition to the delightful subject and ethos, reflection our own, Williams has interwoven and underpinned the very personal with substantial socio-cultural history, solidifying a rare and non-inflated validity in a grand piece of Australian literature!

ART VIEW – Visual Arts – Cairns Regional Gallery

I have mentioned The Climbing Tree prior to this – however, the display is still open!

Internationally recognised artist, Hiromi TANGO, established her career in art, focussing on sculpture, photography, video and performance, and her art practice encourages audience participation via workshops and sessions.

ART MAGIC: THE CLIMBING TREE is a sculptural installation that extends floor-to-ceiling, with sprawling branches and brightly coloured tendrils that will continue to ‘grow’ throughout the exhibition!   All Welcome!



Displayed in Cairns until 13th March 2016

Cairns Regional Gallery

This wonderful TREAT was developed by Rockhampton Art Gallery, to showcase their remarkable


Supported by Museums & Galleries Queensland

the collection is now touring to venues

in Queensland and interstate!

Some of the regional galleries included in the tour are in:

  • Caloundra
  • Tweed
  • Gladstone
  • Dubbo
  • Winton
  • Mackay
  • Cairns

This is a wonderful opportunity for those of us in Regional Queensland!

CREAM chronicles the development of modernism in Australia and articulates its stylistic diversity and influences. This begins with Grace Cossington Smith’s Drapery in the studio 1940, which demonstrates the predominance of post-impressionism and European influences in Australian art at that time. It also indicates an end point for Euro-centric influences and the new era of a truly Australian style!

Dynamics change and choices become more abundant – Salut! to our Regional Gallery and its gradual, though obvious growth!


‘The Phantom’ – Cairns Civic Centre


Performances to be announced next Newsletter

Some wonderful work is being done at junior levels in the world of theatre/drama/the arts! I hope to be able to bring you further details by the end of this first academic semester!!

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