‘This wonderful, mysterious and compelling collection of essays prompts us to consider Barry Hill’s unusual place in Australian letters…The essays are like jewels in a necklace, each glistening with its own beauty but together making something of greater elegance.’ Tom Griffiths
‘A rich gift. Thirty two invitations to share the speculative adventures, in friendships, in family, in the world of politics and moral and spiritual commitment, of “a man in his wholeness, wholly attending”. An extraordinary revelation of the considered life.’ David Malouf
‘Reason, as passionate analysis and the higher Reason of moral law, runs through this astonishing collection of essays as a lifeline cast to us in a loveless world bereft of justice. At last we have the proper lens for getting Barry Hill into focus: so varied and extensive is his accomplishment as a writer—in poetry, fiction, social and cultural history, and criticism—that we need this book to gather together in one place an adequate reflection of all that achievement. This is “Man Thinking”, in Emerson’s phrase—the work of a finely honed intellect and a capacious spirit—that educates us in the full range of our humanity. Like DH Lawrence, Rabindranath Tagore, and John Berger—all of whom he writes about cogently—Hill shows how a life of writing is a life of thinking, when both the mind and the heart are animated by love and by reason.’ Paul Kane, Vassar College
‘These are intimate, stylish essays. This collection showcases Barry Hill’s remarkable intellectual curiosity and erudition. From questions of belonging and attachment, to global challenges of survival, belief and knowledge, Barry unflinchingly pushes through new frontiers to reveal, with passion and precision, new ways of seeing and feeling.’ Julianne Schultz, Griffith Review
Barry Hill is a multi-award winning writer of poetry, history, biography, fiction and reportage. This collection of essays, variously published in Australia, India and London, includes ‘satellites’ of his major works—such as Sitting In (1992), a landmark memoir in Labour History; Broken Song: TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (2002), a literary biography on Aboriginal and frontier poetics; and Peacemongers (2014), a pilgrimage book about Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi in the years leading up to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Other essays are new: ‘Brecht’s Song’, on his working-class mother; ‘Dark Star’, an expansion of his meeting with Christina Stead on her 80th birthday; ‘Loving Roughneck’, his critical appreciation of John Berger; and ‘On the Edge of the Cliff’, on his private meeting with the Dalai Lama in the Blue Mountains. As has been the case with his book-length works, Hill’s essays collected here are ground-breaking: freshly, deeply researched, genre-crossing, multi-disciplinary, combining the candidly personal with the philosophical.
Barry Hill was born in Australia and educated in Melbourne and London, where he worked as an educational psychologist and a journalist for The Age and the Times Educational Supplement. He left newspapers to write full-time in 1976; his first book, The Schools, won the National Book Council prize. As a freelance columnist for The Age he established himself as the country’s first radio critic, and between 1980 and 2010 he wrote many works for ABC Radio National. His libretto Love Strong as Death was performed at The Studio at the Sydney Opera House in 2004. His fiction is widely anthologised, including in Chinese and Japanese translations. ‘The Mood We’re In: circa Australia Day 2004’ won the Alfred Deakin Prize for the Essay. His acclaimed poetry includes Ghosting William Buckley (1993), and Naked Clay: Drawing from Lucian Freud (2012), which was shortlisted for the UK 2013 Forward Prize. In 2009 Hill was shortlisted for the Melbourne Prize for Literature. Between 1998 and 2008 he was Poetry Editor for The Australian, and between 2005 and 2008 a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne. He lives by the sea in Queenscliff with his wife, the singer-songwriter Rose Bygrave.