Current Issue #488

Kerryn Goldsworthy:
Memories of The Adelaide Review

Some time in 1985, I was told by my friend and colleague Professor Brian Matthews about something called The Adelaide Review. It had been set up, he said, by a clever, eccentric, flamboyant bloke called Christopher Pearson, and I should check it out.

I had left Adelaide five years earlier to work at the University of Melbourne, but I was still homesick and I came home whenever I could. Brian said that Christopher was publishing short stories and I should send him one of mine.

So I got hold of a copy of the paper. I had never seen anything like this serious, in-depth examination of all matters Adelaide. And it had its light-hearted moments, too, like its personals column – the civilised and often very funny pre-internet version of a dating app – and a parody astrological column that included advice for a star sign designated ‘Ocelot (formerly Gemini)’.

I sent off one of my short stories. A couple of days later, the phone rang, and what ensued was a 90-minute conversation with Christopher (whom I had still not met) about punctuation. I had never met anyone else who was even more impassioned than I about the correct use and meaning of the semi-colon.

We were good friends over the second half of the 1980s, when he was still a ferociously independent thinker, probably about halfway through his marathon journey from the far left to the far right. He published some memorable writing during this period, notably some distinguished and often very funny writing about cricket by Brian Matthews, and a brilliant essay on ‘Weird Adelaide’ that he had commissioned from the legendary Barbara Hanrahan.

Our friendship began to fall away in the 1990s, but over lunch one day, when I was expressing disquiet about the direction of the universities and the way that my own unhappiness as an employee was exacerbated by persistent homesickness for Adelaide, he made me a startling offer. If I did decide to abandon academe and come home to take my chances as a freelance writer, he said, he would pay me for a monthly column in which I could write whatever I liked.

Christopher Pearson

It wasn’t the main factor in my decision to make the jump, but it certainly helped. And Christopher stuck to that commitment from the beginning of 1998 until the paper was sold in 2002. By then our politics were radically different, but he never told me what to write, he never told me what not to write, and he never edited my columns except for style or structure, about which he was, infuriatingly, always right.

For a few years after Christopher’s departure I continued as a columnist, now writing about local tourism. I owe to the Adelaide Review not only my survival as a freelancer in the early years, but also a knowledge of many South Australian places and experiences, including the perils of sharing the Sturt Highway with stretch limos full of already-tipsy Hooray Henries and Henriettas on their way to food and wine festivals in the Barossa, or teetering on the edge of a windy cliff on the uttermost toenail of Yorke Peninsula and realising belatedly that the sea had hollowed out the rock directly under the place I was standing.

Column-writing was hard discipline and it taught me a lot. The Adelaide Review gave me invaluable professional experience, a regular take on the life of the city, and seven years of steady work, and for all of those things I will always be grateful.

Kerryn Goldsworthy

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Kerryn Goldsworthy has written columns for The Adelaide Review, Australian Book Review, Eureka Street, and The Monthly. Her most recent book is Adelaide, in the NewSouth ‘City’ series, coming out in a new edition in November.

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Farewell to
The Adelaide Review
1984 – 2020

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