Browsing No 242 - June / July 2002 by Issue Date
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ItemMighty Monash. "War Letters of General Monash", by Tony Macdougall (ed.). [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Ryan, PeterThis little book — 224 pages of modest but well-made paperback — may seem at first sight to be a mere shortened reissue of "War Letters of General Monash", edited by Frank Cutlack, and issued in 1934. They were written (mainly) to his wife from Gallipoli and France. Make no error: this new book is a great deal more than that. For one thing, its appearance now vindicates again the faith of Monash himself. These "Letters" are a timely — even an overdue — reminder of an outstanding Australian life. ItemScabs in the Cloth. "Ladies Who Lunge: Celebrating Difficult Women", by Tara Brabazon. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Lusty, NatalyaTara Brabazon’s "Ladies Who Lunge: Celebrating Difficult Women" is a collection of essays on feminism and popular culture. Addressing a range of subjects — including aerobics, wrestling, Miss Moneypenny, Anita Roddick and the pedagogy of Sylvia Ashton Warner — Brabazon’s material on the whole does justice to her general contention that feminist readings of popular culture need to be fearless and bold. Arguing that feminism requires a (metaphoric) equivalent of the movie "Fight Club", Brabazon suggests that feminist critique is at its sharpest when it reads against the grain of mainstream thinking. For the most part, these essays do just that. ItemThe Cow-pat Agenda. "Fields of Discovery: Australia's CSIRO", by Brad Collis. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Robin, LibbyIf you are looking for a rattling good yarn of national success that is, for a change, neither military nor sporting, "Fields of Discovery" is your book. Rich with Eureka moments, Brad Collis has created a great read. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is ‘an Australian icon’ according to the book’s front flap. It provides a framework for a national(ist) story with scientists as heroes. Science is a very important and distinctive aspect of Australian nationhood, but frequently sidelined by cultural historians. The challenge is to write an interesting narrative about ‘Big Science’, which is typically dominated by large teams of workers and labyrinthine administrative structures. Collis has grasped the nettle of the ‘human-sized narrative’ with great success. ItemWorms and Fishes. "Lifeboats for Victoria: The Story of Lifeboats and Their Crews in Victoria 1856-1979", by Marten A. Syme. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Hill, BarryIt is the story of these boats and their communities that we have here, told for the first time by Marten Syme in his crisp, impeccably researched, beautifully illustrated and produced little book. For a short book that could have happily been much longer, Syme has done a splendid job, subtly evoking the political and psychological realities. He calculates that between 1857 and 1940 the lifeboat service in Victoria carried 440 people to safety at a cost of thirty-eight pounds per life. ItemSpanish Epiphanies. "Night Train to Granada: From Sydney's Bohemia to Franco's Spain: An Off-beat Memoir", by Grahame Harrison. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Kitson, JillThis is not a travel book. Grahame Harrison snapped the minute photographs of Spain that cover this book’s jacket in the 1950s. Inside is the memoir he waited half a century to write: about his experiences in Granada under 'franquismo', Franco’s version of fascism, and his earlier, intellectually formative years as a member of the Sydney Push. He brings to these recollections the deeper insights of an historian in love with his subject. ItemAfter the Academy.(Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Goldsworthy, KerrynHaving elderly parents is a common condition of middle age, and so is the compulsion to examine your life so far and see how you feel about the shape of it. And for women, middle age means adjusting once and for all to the fact that you either have children or do not have them, and either way it will affect the choices you make, the way you are perceived in the workplace, the way that you relate to whatever other family you have, and the quality of your own old age. Asked now to write about this mid-life shift and its aftermath, I can see for the first time that, if I hadn’t already come home, my mother’s death would probably have brought me back. ItemA Beginning. "Telling Stories: Indigenous History and Memory in Australia and New Zealand", by Bain Attwood and Fiona Magowan (eds.). [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Russell, LynetteThis book capitalises on the recent interest in indigenous history and storytelling. Bain Attwood and Fiona Magowan have compiled a satisfying, well-rounded and important collection. The Introduction outlines their aims while contextualising the project. "Telling Stories" grew out of an awareness that the relationship between the past and the present has become increasingly contentious, and that control of historical knowledge production has emerged as a central concern for indigenous and settler historians (and storytellers) alike. Although the editors note, somewhat cautiously, that there is ‘nothing new about indigenous story-telling or history-making’, the ensuing ten chapters reject this claim. Attwood’s chapter on the ‘stolen generations narratives’, for example, clearly demonstrates that there is much that is new. Overall, the collection, despite some unevenness in scholarship, shows that much is still to be learned. ItemBattle of September 11. "September 11 and the Agony of the Left", by Gregory Melleuish and Imre Salusinszky. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Carroll, JohnAt present, there is no more important subject for serious reflection than September 11 and its consequences. Those consequences range across a wide spectrum, from the military and diplomatic at one end — practical action to destroy al-Qaeda and its leadership — to the cultural at the other end, cued by the metaphysics of "Heart of Darkness". In Australia, the first book to take up this challenge has just appeared. "Blaming Ourselves: September 11 and the Agony of the Left" is a diverse collection of essays that reflects on the significance of the terrorist attack on New York and Washington. As with most essay assortments, the quality is uneven, and, in this case, the title misleads: only a third of the book is devoted to Leftist reactions to September 11. The editors, Imre Salusinszky and Gregory Melleuish, made a mistake in choosing a political orientation for their collection. Neither the Left nor the Right are coherent entities any more. In relation to the grave issues of the time, it is a distraction and wasted effort to conjure up an ideological enemy and imagine that, by humiliating it, progress has been made. September 11 is so difficult and engaging a topic that dwelling on the foolishness of some Left opinion seems trifling. ItemCoetzee's Siberian Wastes. "Youth", by J.M. Coetzee. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Davidson, JimIn "Youth", the South African novelist J.M. Coetzee (who has recently taken to the Adelaide Hills) continues the project he began some years ago with "Boyhood". We are told by the publishers that this is a novel; indeed, the use of the third person throughout makes this plausible. But there is little doubt that it is autobiographical, if not autobiography; if it is a novel, then the claim resides essentially in its being an exploration of mood and feeling, rather than external events — with perhaps an occasional fictional elaboration. Whatever the case, Coetzee is intent on tracking the Siberian wastes of himself. ItemNot So Tickety Boo. "Rich Kids", by Paul Barry. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Griffen-Foley, BridgetPaul Barry’s "Rich Kids" tells the story of both One.Tel, the telecommunications company launched by Jodee Rich and Brad Keeling in 1995, and Imagineering, a software company, which was founded by Rich in 1981 and also collapsed. Despite the widespread heartache, Rich, Keeling and some key executives emerged from One.Tel with millions of dollars from bonuses, royalties and selling shares. "Rich Kids" is a tale of breathtaking greed, self-aggrandisement, mismanagement, ineptitude and duplicity. ItemAdvances, Contents, Letters, Imprints and Contributors.(Australian Book Review, 2002-06)This item features miscellaneous information from this issue. ItemFacets of Love. "Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy", by John Armstrong. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Levy, NeilLove is a central preoccupation of art and literature, of popular culture and autobiography. This book is an attempt to understand its central themes, to discover why love is so important to most of us, why we seek it, and why we so frequently fail to hold on to it. John Armstrong is a philosopher whose primary interest is aesthetics. Accordingly, his meditations on love often proceed by way of reflection upon works of art and literature. ItemLord of the Flies with Grown-Ups. "Batavia's Graveyard", by Mike Dash. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Goldsworthy, PeterThe Batavia, the finest ship of the Dutch Golden Age, left Amsterdam for the colony of Java in October 1628 on its maiden voyage. Approximately three hundred men, women and children were on board. It was wrecked on Houtman’s Abrolhos, a string of Western Australian atolls. Pelsaert set off in a small boat with his second-in-charge, the ship’s skipper, and reached the city of Batavia (now Jakarta) in an epic of small-craft navigation. In his absence, a group of men led by Undermerchant Jeronimus Cornelisz established a reign of terror on the island known as Batavia’s Graveyard. Killings commenced, at first secretly, and on semi-judicial disciplinary grounds, then more openly. ItemKeating the Fascinator. "Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM", by Don Watson. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Blewett, NealWhat is it about Paul Keating that so fascinated his retainers? Six years ago, John Edwards wrote a massive biography-cum-memoir taking Keating’s story to 1993. Now Don Watson has produced an even heftier tome. Narrower in chronological span — 1992 to 1996 — Watson is broader in his interests, more personal, more passionate. While not the masterpiece it might have been, "Recollections of a Bleeding Heart" remains the most compelling contemporary portrait of an Australian prime minister. Paul Keating has found his Boswell. "Recollections" is really three books in one: a subtle and sympathetic analysis of the many facets of the twenty-fourth prime minister; a narrative of high — and low — politics in the Keating years; and a compendium of the political wit and wisdom of Don Watson. ItemShrinking the Language. "Glory", by Sarah Brill and "Runestone", by Anna Cidor and "Swan Song", by Colin Thiele. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Newell, PatriceThe books under review here cater for widely differing age groups. The difference is not dictated by language — the level of English in each could be handled by any competent nine-year-old — but by their subject matter. "Runestone", the first in a series by Anna Ciddor, is set in Scandinavia during Viking times. Colin Thiele’s "Swan Song" is a step back in time. In "Glory", Sarah Brill’s first novel, readers will have dined on anorexia and adoption worries, and been exposed to suicide by page seventeen. By the book’s end, Brill’s fifteen-year-old heroine has left home, got a job, lost the job, lost her virginity, experimented with a smorgasbord of drugs, shacked up with a loser, faced eviction and experienced homelessness. ItemNew Pearls in the Magic Garage. "Magic Garage", by John Donnelly. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Broinowski, AlisonJohn Donnelly’s "Magic Garage", with a stunning cover by Amelia Mollett, comes as a welcome surprise. Donnelly the insider prefers to avoid the foreigners’ Jakarta. Knowing his way around, he takes you off the highways and into the alleys and canals of Setiabudi, a fringe settlement targeted by corrupt developers and the even more corrupt army. You meet the ‘little people’ of Setiabudi who get in their way; you taste their salads and satays, sample their herbal medicines, smell their drains, see them bleed. All Donnelly’s ordinary people are manipulated and deceived by the system, but they are no slouches at manipulating and deceiving each other, whether they deal in Amway, massage, holy water, secrets or sex. ItemLetter from New York.(Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Altman, DennisDid September 11 reinforce the centrality of New York in the global imaginary, or did it, rather, mark the symbolic end of New York as the centre of the world? In a perverse way, it seems to have done both: the assault on the World Trade Towers was clearly an assault on the symbols of global capital, but it also showed that even hegemonic powers are vulnerable. Americans speak of their loss of innocence, echoing the rhetoric of previous shocks — the Cuban missile crisis, the war in Vietnam — but the world they inhabit is rather different from that of the Cold War. It is unlikely that any country has ever enjoyed such unrivalled economic and military power while remaining so untouched by the world they dominate. The paradox is that the country most responsible for promoting globalisation is at the same time the country least touched by the flow of ideas that globalisation represents.