Review of Images of Society and Nature, Seven Essays on Australian Novels by Brian Kiernan
The critical—no, let me alter that—the crucial essay of this collection of seven is the last, in which Mr Kiernan sums up and generalizes. The first six are individual studies of separate authors: Furphy, H. H. Richardson, Christina Stead, Xavier Herbert, Patrick White, Keneally. Within this scope there is a further narrowing-down, for convenience, to selected novels: in Christina Stead's case, Seven Poor Men and For Love Alone. In Keneally's, only Larks and Heroes. That is reasonable. But what I find a little—perhaps more than a little—difficult to swallow, and this is brought out by the implications of 'The Australian Novel and Tradition', the seventh essay, is that this selection represents Kiernan's endeavour to lay down a canon. I dispute and protest very vigorously against the imputation that the Australian stock of literature at present has reached a status and a dimension about which it is appropriate to be canonical.
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Published 1 May 1972 in Volume 5 No. 3.