The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints -

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

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