Browsing No 242 - June / July 2002 by Title
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ItemAbiding Arabs in Australia. "Arab-Australians Today: Citizenship and Belonging", by Ghassan Hage (ed.). [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Yeatman, AnnaThis important collection raises fundamental questions about citizenship and belonging in an historical era in which identity is even more ethnicised than it used to be, and where struggles over access to citizenship, dispossession and colonialism are heavily invested with ethnic and racial features. The book contains Australian histories of Arab (primarily, but not exclusively, Lebanese) immigrant communities and of the discrimination and exclusion they have faced at different stages in Australia. However, the most theoretical of the articles offer insights that are of value to all who seek to understand immigration, exile and minority status in relation to citizenship in the state societies of the modern West. ItemAdvances, Contents, Letters, Imprints and Contributors.(Australian Book Review, 2002-06)This item features miscellaneous information from this issue. 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. 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. 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. ItemCinemadope. "Philosophy Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Philosophy", by Christopher Falzon. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Pataki, TamasChristopher Falzon, a philosopher at the University of Newcastle, has written what seems to me, overall, an admirable introduction to philosophy. His selection of philosophical themes is balanced and judicious, and his presentation is unusually lucid and economical. His idea of using film as a resource to illustrate and explore philosophical ideas will appeal to most beginners, and probably assist with the marketing problem. Falzon’s book is not about the philosophy of film, although his discussion does shed light on the philosophical content of some films. It is an invitation to philosophy that domesticates its subject by using film to illustrate, dramatise and, occasionally, propose philosophical themes. 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. 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. 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. ItemFrom Terra Australis to Australia. "Matthew Flinders: Personal Letters from an Extraordinary Life", by Paul Brunton (ed.). [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Thompson, JohnSuperbly edited by Paul Brunton, one of the reigning doyens of Australian manuscript curatorship, the letters have been published as the inaugural volume in a publishing partnership between the Sydney antiquarian booksellers Hordern House and the State Library of New South Wales. With flair, elegance and deep respect and affection for his subject, Brunton has provided an excellent short biography of Flinders and a thoughtful introduction to the letters themselves. To these he has added an impeccable apparatus of notes, illustrations and a bibliography. Brunton’s scholarship is of a high order. ItemGreen Dreams. "The Wearing of the Green: A History of St Patrick's Day", by Mike Cronin and Daryl Adair. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Campion, EdmundEach year, around 17 March, someone asks, ‘What is St Patrick’s Day all about?’ and each year someone gives a different answer. This capacious book is a compendium of all the answers. There is no single answer to the question, because each celebrant has his or her own take on the day. Academics Mike Cronin and Daryl Adair have combined to produce a fact-filled study of how St Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in New York, Dublin, Sydney, Melbourne, and some British and Canadian cities. This is dedicated work, for writers and readers alike, as events, statistics, history, memories, comments and stories compete for attention. The authors achieve a lofty impartiality, allowing readers to make up their mind about what is being read, and not invading the telling of the stories too much. The book will be a trove for journalists who have to write one of those 17 March articles. ItemHybrid Space. "A Little Bird Told Me: Family Secrets, Necessary Lies" and "Savage Imaginings: Historical and Contemporary Constructions of Australian Aborigines", by Lynette Russell. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Guest, KateFrom both Lynette Russell’s memoir and her scholarly study we can draw the same sad conclusion: the gulf of understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous society has led to a damaging, though not deadly, fracture of the Aboriginal community and culture. This conclusion is hardly revelatory but, in partnership, these books do shed light on the subtler effects of systemically racist public policy on private worlds. "Savage Imaginings" explores the discourses that have shaped public perceptions of ‘the Aborigine’, while "A Little Bird Told Me" journeys into a concealed family history to uncover the cross-generational secrets and hurt that stemmed from such perceptions. 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. ItemLabor's Grand Emotional Refugee. "Keeper of the Faith: A Biography of Jim Cairns", by Paul Strangio. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Haigh, GideonPartly, Strangio's book is burdened by not being a book. It is a Ph.D. It has been edited to a degree but, frankly, should have been completely rewritten. "Keeper of the Faith" is not the dreariest Ph.D redux I've read, perhaps because I have always found its subject interesting. But it is, frankly, often as not, a lifeless and repetitive reading experience. The phrase 'agent of social change', or some minor variation on it, must be repeated a thousand times. The obvious, especially where it concerns Cairns's ambivalence about organised democracy, is often laboured to death. The book conveys little sense of what Cairns is like to be with or to observe, of his personal tastes, of his opinions beyond politics, or even if he has any. The book scarcely contains any anecdotes, the stuff of life in biography. Instead, there are endless slabs of quotes from press reports. One of the very few descriptive comments concerns Cairns's 'trademark parliamentary style', which was 'an impassive monotone, his face expressionless': it could describe Strangio's utterly wooden prose. 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. 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. ItemMasterly Tales. "The Fig Tree", by Arnold Zable. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Varga, SusanHow does Arnold Zable do it? After two finely wrought, deceptively simple books on Holocaust themes, he has brought out another, linking tales of the Greek island of Ithaca with the stories of his parents, Polish Jews, and their contemporaries who settled in Melbourne just before or just after the Annihilation, as Zable prefers to call the Holocaust. It is tempting, and dangerous, for a writer to return perpetually to the obsessions that drive him. The Holocaust and its manifold aftermaths is a literary seam in danger of being mined to exhaustion. But Zable’s heritage, replete with a strong Yiddish-Polish culture, is so rich, his approach so fresh, that his readers will follow him willingly down some well-worn paths. 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.