Browsing No 255 - October, 2003 by Title
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ItemThe Abacus of History. "The History Wars" by Stuart Macintyre and Anna Clark and "Whitewash: On Keith Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History" By Robert Manne (ed) [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Birch, TonyBoth "Whitewash" and "The History Wars" suggest that the discipline of history in Australia is a battlefield for the nation’s hearts and minds. But, more explicitly, it is a plaything for particular ideological forces. At present, we have a group of populist conservatives waging not a history war but a propaganda one — and a cultural and political struggle. It is an issue for all of us, not just historians. ItemAdvances, Contents, Letters, Imprints and Contributors.(Australian Book Review, 2003-10)This item includes miscellaneous pieces from this issue. ItemAmong the Chinese. "From Rice to Riches: A Personal Journey Through A Changing China" by Jane Hutcheon. [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Torney-Parlicki, PrueThe opening scene of "From Rice to Riches" has the author travelling in a taxi with a camera crew through the city of Bengbu in China’s central Anhui province. A furtive glance in the mirror of her powder compact convinces Jane Hutcheon that they are being followed by Chinese officials. Determined to escape their pursuers in order to obtain the interviews needed for an investigative report on the pollution of the nearby Huai River, the crew twice changes taxi before diving into a crowded street market. It is a fitting introduction to a book that is largely about journalism and the means by which journalists — in this case, foreign correspondents — get their stories. ItemThe Amplitudes. "The Global Reach of Empire: Britain's Maritime Expansion in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, 1764 - 1815" by Alan Frost [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Merwick, DonnaFrost’s British empire of the eighteenth century may not be the one that others prefer to write about. He doesn’t take naked imperialism to task as others do. He doesn’t make it his job to look closely at the other side of the beach. He is concerned with the terrible personal cost —to sailors, whalemen, soldiers — of trafficking imperialism. And the story he tells is as complex an account as any historian might care to undertake. ItemAsian Challenges. "Facing North: A Century of Australian Engagement with Asia, Vol. 2, 1970s to 2000" by Peter Edwards and David Goldsworthy (eds) and "Losing the Blanket: Australia and the End of Britain's Empire" by David Goldsworthy. [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Gyngell, AllanThe second volume of "Facing North" deals with contemporary and sometimes contentious events. Many of the policy makers are still active (Alexander Downer and John Howard beam out from the book’s cover), and the issues are still in play. David Goldsworthy has made another important contribution to Australian diplomatic history in "Losing the Blanket: Australia and the End of Britain’s Empire". Goldsworthy’s broad theme here is the connection between the end of Britain’s empire in the 1950s and 1960s, the loosening of Anglo–Australian relations during the same period and the broader development of Australian external policy. In both these books, Australian diplomatic history throws light on the contemporary challenges facing Australian foreign policy. ItemBehind the Poppycock. "Bamboo Palace: Discovering the Lost Dynasty of Laos" by Christopher Kremmer [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Walker, NicolaWalker first met a refugee from Laos, a teacher in her former life, while working part-time in a miserable egg-packing factory in the early 1980s. She had only a hazy notion of what had brought Ping to this country. Christopher Kremmer’s "Bamboo Palace" has now clarified those circumstances, and what a sad and painfully human story it is: of a 600-year-old socially iniquitous, politically benign kingdom destroyed and replaced by a totalitarian state. ItemA Brace of Martins. "The New World of Martin Cortes" by Anna Lanyon [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Ball, MartinIn 1519 the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés marched into Tenochtitlán (Mexico City), heart of the Aztec Empire. Thus began the often tragic history of European colonialism in the Americas. Anna Lanyon’s previous book, "Malinche’s Conquest" (1999), retraced and recovered the extraordinary life of Cortés’s translator and lover, the native American woman Malinche. The present book does the same for their child, Martín Cortés. ItemThe Brothers Who Ate the Wind. "Mao's Last Dancer" by Li Cunxin. [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Grove, RobinDetermination, and its collision with what resists it, is central to the story of "Mao’s Last Dancer". Cunxin’s resistance to the systems of oppression was sustained by the constant presence in his mind of the Li family and of his undauntable mother above all. The book is like a testimonial sent home, or a letter to the deepest part of himself in the years of growing up. This moving and extraordinary tale combines tenderness with strength, just as Li Cunxin’s dancing still lives in the mind’s eye, unique in its blend of softness and moral power. ItemBush's Barbecue. "Howard's War" by Alison Broinowski [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Altman, DennisTo write a political polemic requires both acidic wit and the ability to recognise the limits of one’s case, neither of which is Broinowski’s forte. Her case is stronger now than when, a few months ago, she finished what must have been a remarkable feat of quick writing, and her warnings that the war will only unleash greater discontents and suffering seem prescient. I am in agreement with at least eighty per cent of her critique. Still, reading "Howard’s War" left me strangely dissatisfied. ItemA Comet of Wonder Fallen to Earth: The Diaries of Miles Franklin.(Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Brunton, PaulFranklin published fifteen books in her lifetime becoming a respected literary figure in Australia in her last twenty years. But none of the books would be quite the success that "My Brilliant Career" was, at least in her own mind. In the period immediately following its publication, when Franklin was taken into Rose Scott’s glittering circle, she was regarded, she believed, as a ‘comet of wonder’ by many people. She rather liked that. By the time she wrote about this in her diary in April 1949, she added the phrase ‘God knows why’. The comet had plummeted to earth. Now she had the gnawing doubt that perhaps she really was not a great writer. Franklin's diaries bring her to life in all her infinite variety.‘I bewilder myself, I’m so complex,’ she wrote to Emma Pischel, a friend from Chicago days, in May 1947, ‘so how cd he who knows me not, be able to unravel me?’ The diaries help in the unravelling process. ItemCracks and Crevices. "History on the Couch: Essays in History and Psychoanalysis" by Joy Damousi and Robert Reynolds (eds) [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) MacKinnon, DollyThese essays explore the legacy of Freud and the post-Freudian evolution of ideas by Erik Erickson, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein et al. with varying degrees of success. Many of the essays read easily, while some are opaque because of their theoretical foregrounding. These essays ask us questions we may not have thought of, nor had the courage to ask or even answer. The best essays in the collection provide a complex rereading of historical events through the lens of psychoanalysis. They show us the value of the evidence to be found between the ‘cracks and crevices’ of the past, and reveal the history of the unconscious and its role in forming individual and collective histories. ItemCreative Choices. "Explorations in Creative Writing" by Kevin Brophy. [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Tucker, RobynKevin Brophy shows us his skills as an entertainer in "Explorations in Creative Writing". He has read widely and has a diverse collection of tales to tell, from the mundane to the fantastic. The story, anecdote and fragment are all part of his performance. We shift between a reading of Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’, to the ‘agenda of the couch’ and even to writers’ accounts of visits to analysts (Lacan’s consulting rooms — shabby!). Like the best entertainers, Brophy knows how to tell a good story. His writing has an admirable lightness of touch, alternately reflective and playful, and conveys a sense of the vitality of its subject matter. ItemDry Norms. "The Default Country: A Lexical Cartography of Twentieth-Century Australia" by J.M. Arthur [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Burridge, KateVocabulary is linked to culture in perhaps an obvious way. But it’s not just suasive words and expressions that we have to guard against. There are also the structural patterns of language. These are loaded with bias, too, and they operate at a much more subtle level. It would be interesting to go beyond the lexicon and to see how the relationship between non-indigenous Australians and the Australian place is revealed in those aspects of our language that are more than theoretical. But for those who love words, Arthur presents a lexical treasure trove, full of wonderful insights and illuminating examples. We need more works like "The Default Country" to explain language, and also to expose it. ItemEthel's Storm in a Teacup. "The Ern Malley Affair" by Michael Heyward [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Kershaw, AlisterAlister Kershaw’s review first appeared in the September 1993 issue of "ABR". UQP was the original publisher of "The Ern Malley Affair." ItemFamilial Thrills. "Lethal Factor" by Gabrielle Lord. [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Caterson, SimonThis is a crime novel written largely in headlines. "Lethal Factor" is replete with references to such choice items as bio-terrorism, the conflict in the Balkans, paedophilia, Nazi war criminals, strange goings-on in the Catholic Church and academic plagiarism. Such manifold topicality is no guarantee of success in a thriller, and the particular merit of "Lethal Factor" lies not in its wide coverage of current affairs but rather the attention it pays to the detail of everyday life and relationships. ItemFive-Finger Exercise with Doctors and Insects. "A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies" by John Murray. [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Borghino, JoseMurray knows what he’s doing with the short story form. Hardly a wrong note is sounded or tentative step taken in 274 pages. This is an assured début. Murray is of the ‘epiphanic’ school of short story writers who leave a narrative dangling at a moment when the protagonist has reached an understanding about himself, or his past, or the world. Often, this comes about after some meditation on the past, the evocation of a memory or, most typically, in the feeling of loss when thinking about the past. ItemFixing the Bounds. "The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas" by Anne Salmond. [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Frost, AlanAnne Salmond has been assiduous in searching the records, archival as well as published; and her knowledge of Maori history and ethnography allows her to write authoritatively about culture contact. There are some very good aspects to this book; nonetheless, it is not altogether successful, faltering in editorial matters large and small, and in organisational ones. Readers will learn much from this work. However, with more time spent on it and with the benefit of rigorous editorial advice, it might have been a really distinctive study, rather than one with some distinctive aspects. ItemA Forest of Distinctions. "With Intent To Destroy: Reflections on Genocide" by Colin Tatz [review](Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Gaita, RaimondI will say straightaway what I most admire about this book. It’s the way the author is present in it, the way his voice informs the content and is informed by it. Although "With Intent to Destroy" is a personal book, the self does not intrude in the many bad ways it often can. It’s personal in the way real conversation is personal, made so by the presence in it of people who speak authoritatively from their experiences because, as Kierkegaard put it, they have lived their own life and no one else’s.