The Weekend Australian story: ‘Tales Of The City’, August 2010

A story for The Weekend Australian’s Review: a profile of Brisbane author and journalist Matthew Condon [pictured below], framed around his latest book, Brisbane. An excerpt from the published story is below.

Brisbane author and journalist Matthew CondonTales of the City

by Andrew McMillen

Matthew Condon’s literary ‘love letter’ to Brisbane is set to reignite debate about the Queensland capital’s historical origins.

HOW does one write a book that captures a whole city? This is the question that confronted Queensland writer Matthew Condon, who describes the opportunity to write Brisbane, the second book in publisher NewSouth’s series devoted to Australian capital cities, as the “singular most simplistic, liberating brief that I’ve ever received”.

Commissioning editor Philippa McGuinness told Condon to approach the book any way he wished, “which on the one hand is brilliant”, says the author, “but on the other, when you come down to writing [it], trying to put your arms around an entire city, it was very difficult. I deliberated for months and months: how do you go about it? Then I decided that it really is impossible to do it thoroughly. It would be endless. The city is organic. It’s constantly shifting and changing. So I had to give myself limitations.”

Eventually, Condon decided to ground his book in an examination of the location where explorer John Oxley first landed on the Brisbane River in 1824. “I decided, ‘Look, I’m going to go to where X marks the spot, where Oxley came ashore. That’s the Caucasian history of the city. I’ll start there, and I’ll see where it takes me’.” Notebook and camera in hand, the author visited the granite monument. Located at North Quay, which was erected to celebrate the centenary of Oxley’s landing, he says “it’s possibly the most unimaginative foundation stone of any city in the Western world . . . I stood there with the traffic roaring on both sides, and something about it struck me as wrong.”

Full story available on The Australian’s website.

If you have any interest in the story behind the Queensland capital, I highly recommend checking out Condon’s Brisbane.

This was a particularly enjoyable feature to write, as Matthew is one of my favourite feature writers – I hold his work for The Courier-Mail’s QWeekend magazine in high regard.

Comments? Below.
  1. Barb says:

    Matthew, I only purchased this book yesterday afternoon & have enjoyed browsing it as it is like having a chat with a knowledgeable old friend.

    I have 2 problems though, so far. The information given regarding the Burra Charter requiring “City Hall to be restored as Sallyanne altered it” is totally incorrect. Did you not refer this information to a Heritage Architect, instead taking the word of an Engineer as gospel? If paint scrapings are taken it will be possible to ascertain the original colour of the walls & restorers are then required to use these original colours. Point 2. When I went to school we were taught that the plural of roof is roofs, there is no such word as rooves. Perhaps rules have changed since then?

  2. Juha Korpine says:

    Dear Sir,

    I am trying to get a contact with a long lost friend, Philippa McGuinness, originally from Brisbane Australia. We studied together at UMASS in USA many years ago.

    If you find a way to reach her, please let her know my contact info.

    Juha Korpinen


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