ROSEMARY Sorensen writes ( Review , June 16- 17) that she was unable to find the works of Miles Franklin award winner Elizabeth O’Conner ( pictured) in a public library. This is not surprising, given that the books could be described politely as culturally insensitive if not just blatantly racist.
In Steak for Breakfast, O’Conner takes on the role of ‘‘ memsahib’’ while her black ( Aboriginal) servants are variously described as pathetic, dusty, dishevelled, smelly and likened to ‘‘ Macbeth’s witches’’. To reinforce her feelings of superiority she takes comfort in ‘‘ the family silver’’ and thoughts of ‘‘ mother’’ and ‘‘ home’’ while casually telling a man to ‘‘ give that woman of yours a good hiding. That’s what she wants.’’ While the whites are able to have ‘‘ steak for breakfast’’, the black servants ‘‘ roast the discarded ribs over an open fire down at the swamp’’. Is this book a part of our literary heritage and one we are supposed to respect and conserve? Ian Percy Balgownie, NSW I CONSIDER Rosemary Sorensen’s article on literary prize- winners ( Review, June 16- 17) to be mean- spirited and unfair to Barbara McNamara ( Elizabeth O’Conner). The Miles Franklin award in 1960 for The Irishman followed the success of her biography Steak for Breakfast , which was popular enough to be serialised on ABC radio. John R. Horne Dunedoo, NSW IN terms of literary one- hit wonders, you would have to include George Turner, whose novel The Cupboard Under the Stairs was joint winner of the Miles Franklin award in 1962 with Thea Astley’s The Well Dressed Explorer . George Turner went on to have a second career as a writer of science fiction. Maybe embarrassment that the Miles Franklin was given to a writer who later was identified with a much maligned genre is why he doesn’t rate a mention. Mark Phillips St Peters, NSW WHILE I am not a Shakespearean scholar, I do know that there have been doubts about the authorship of works attributed to Shakespeare for about 200 years. Peter Craven ( Review , June 2- 3), must know that, and perhaps is caustically referring to it when he writes of the ‘‘ English department type with a professional grievance against dead white males’’. So, his confident assertion that Shakespeare’s reputation is ‘‘ sure and indisputable’’ is on shaky grounds. My old edition of the works of Shakespeare does not mention this controversy; I hope that the new Royal Shakespeare Company edition does, even if only to dismiss its validity. Ken Moore Glamorgan Vale, Queensland I ENJOYED Sebastian Smee’s discussion of six great Australian paintings ( Review , April 28- 29). I live in Turkey and have dragged my copy of Review with me from Australia. Smee’s article was informative yet touched with personal opinion and emotion, often missing in art criticism. Best of all, it was easily read. Nice. Kylie Ellis Cayeli, Turkey