Browsing No 246 - November 2002 by Title
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ItemBite Back. "Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice (Second Edition)" by Geoffrey Robertson. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Fraser, MoragGeoffrey Robertson's new edition of his magisterial "Crimes Against Humanity" demonstrates exactly why popular culture in the murderous twentieth century opted for a "Seven Samurai" (or "Magnificent Seven") version of retribution for crimes inflicted on peoples. It was so much more exciting - and cathartic - to watch a charismatic band of ad hoc avengers wreak rough justice than to wait upon the grinding-small processes of the law. But it is the compensating virtue of Robertson's book that it makes the convincing case for those legal processes. If you believe that knowledge, even terrible knowledge, is preferable to reactive ignorance, then "Crimes Against Humanity" is essential reading. The pity is that we may need a third edition sooner than any of us could want. ItemBreezy Bell. "The Time of My Life" by John Bell. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) McFarlane, BrianAutobiography inevitably involves some sense of reflection on, as well as selection from, the past; not merely a recital of factually affectless information. Australian theatrical producer, actor and company director John Bell offers a breezily easy read, rather than a notably contemplative approach to his life. His Prologue outlines his reasons for writing as being 'part personal, part professional', wondering 'how do you separate the strands?' The professional comes off best, and he articulates his notion that 'our actors should know something of their own theatre history and maybe the theatre-going public should too'. He doesn't altogether avoid the trap of listing titles of productions, with 'sterling performances', but his account of shifting theatrical tastes in the last few decades of the twentieth century is worth having. ItemDrunk With Science. "Regardfully Yours: Selected Correspondence of Ferdinand von Mueller" by R.W. Home et al. (eds). [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Thompson, JohnThese letters open a window onto the pioneering world of nineteenth-century Australian science. Their interest is both personal and public. They bring under fresh scrutiny a complex personal story of aspiration and failure, of high ambition and personal disappointment. In their preoccupation with indigenous plants of Australia, and with the introduction of exotic species, these letters speak to the environmental concerns of the twenty-first century. In a larger context again, these letters and Mueller's own professional life have much to say about the workings of Australian science, the pull and push between 'centres' and 'peripheries', issues that, even in a time of globalisation, remain intensely relevant today. ItemEschewing Jouissance. "Gender Trouble Down Under: Australian Masculinities" by David Coad and "From Camp to Queer: Remaking the Australian Homosexual" by Robert Reynolds. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Willett, GrahamAlthough called "From Camp to Queer", this book is really about the early years of the gay liberation movement in Australia - from 1970 to 1974. In that sense, "From Camp to Gay" would have been more accurate; the Epilogue on the rise of queer in the 1990s is pretty much an afterword. The early 1970s was an extraordinary period when gay people set out to challenge the criminalisation, vilification and self-loathing that they had inherited - to remake themselves and the world. It is a story that has been told several times now, even in relation to Australia. David Coad's "Gender Trouble Down Under" is also concerned with Australia's very queer history, but his is a broader canvas. He offers a survey of Australian masculinities since 1788, generally chronological, but, given its cultural studies approach, this neat narrative is constantly being disrupted. So the chapter that begins with the convicts lurches into anti-gay violence in the late twentieth century and youth suicide. Ned Kelly and his cross-dressing sidekick Steve Hart jostle up against Chopper Read. Bushwomen and their masculinity find themselves juggled with Dame Nellie Melba and Dykes on Bikes. It is all rather unsettling. It is, of course, meant to be. ItemThe Fall. "The Insatiable Desire of Injured Love" by Sally Morrison. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Falconer, DeliaSally Morrison's new novel is the story of 27-year-old Renata Ochiltree's recovery from a fall in Victoria's Cathedral Ranges in 1973 - a fiction based on Morrison's own accident in the same year and place. Stepping out to meet the arms of the rescuer, Renata instead finds herself broken at the bottom of the cliff. The novel takes place in hospital as Renata lies trapped in her bed with broken arms, a neck brace, a cracked skull and broken teeth. ItemFreud in London. "i am the voice left from drinking: the Models - from the 'burbs to 'Barbados' and beyond" by James Freud. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Nichols, DavidFreud has left the music business and alcoholism for a sober career in advertising. Several times he acknowledges his wife and children for providing the incentive: it's that kind of a redemption tale. Whether Freud's book provides any insight into the music industry of the 1970s and 1980s is another matter. Better books about Australian pop musicians remain to be written: conceivably, better books about James Freud himself. While this one has entertaining moments, an engaging if inconsistent style, and the added attraction of Freud's own testimony, a proper assessment of the radical and exciting world of 1980s pop is still in its infancy. ItemGirl Power Besting the Net. "Girl Heroes: The New Force in Popular Culture" by Susan Hopkins. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Lumby, Catharine"Girl Heroes" is a book that meditates deeply on the question of the image and objectification, and on what's at stake in the Nietzschean ideal of aesthetic subjectivity, a realm in which the divisions between illusion and reality, art and life, dissolve. Indeed, one of the things that makes this book so pleasurable to read is that the author has such a confident grasp of the ethical and broader philosophical terrain in which she's working that she's able to make it sound simple. ItemThe Great Riddle. "The Naked Fish: An Autobiography of Belief" by Ian Hansen. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Steele, PeterGiven life's pluriform character, any autobiography is inevitably selective: but this 'autobiography of belief' is more open to the variety of experience than many other writings of the self. The domestic plays a great part in it, and Hansen's immediate family are major players, sometimes in a most painful way. Indeed, even though the book's last words, like many before them, are sanguine, it is clearly written out of pain, a pain which cannot be willed away. ItemThe Hard Way. "From Eternity to Here: Memoirs of an Angry Priest" by John Hanrahan. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Bantick, ChristopherFor those who remember John Hanrahan as an incisive literary critic for "The Age", former editor of ABR, and literary commentator on the ABC, this biographical account, published posthumously, will have great poignancy. Hanrahan was a writer who did it the hard way, because of the struggle involved in being a Catholic priest. In kicking against the pricks, he found his voice. As much as this is a book about an individual attaining peace outside the Catholic Church, it is also a book about making the most of the changes and chances of this fleeting world. In that, Hanrahan touches us all. ItemIkea Towers. "Worlds in Collision: Terror and the Future of Global Order" by Ken Booth and Tim Dunne (eds) and "Terror: A Meditation on the Meaning of September 11" by John Carroll. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Coady, TonyThese two books represent strikingly different responses to the events of September 11; indeed, in some respects, they encompass radically divergent human reactions to tragedy of any sort. "The Worlds in Collision" collection is mostly cool, analytic and carefully reasoned; it contains a pooling of ideas from many different sources, an academic symposium in print. John Carroll's book is highly personal, rhetorical and passionately grim. He calls it 'a meditation', but the tone is not one of quiet reflection, but of prophetic jeremiad. Ken Booth and Tim Dunne want to help us cope with an urgent political problem; Carroll wants to indict a spiritual disease and issue a call for cultural reform. The stock-in-trade of most of the contributors to "Worlds in Collision" is argument; for Carroll it is primarily metaphor. ItemIllusory Stream. "Jazz Tango" by Tracy Ryan. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Dempsey, DianneThe setting is a dirty, Blakean London, in the new millennium, where bicycles that cannot be unchained are bent and broken instead. Our ingénue, Jas, an Australian expatriate, tries to make her way as a French translator in the world of publishing. It's a struggle. Jas's literary antecedents may be traced back to Miles Franklin's "My Brilliant Career". Throughout the twentieth century, the literary tradition of the female quest for happiness beyond the constraints of colonial boundaries persisted. Dancing or running, courageous young women must symbolically break their parochial chains in order to pursue the quest. If at the start of the twenty-first century our heroine is still stumbling along London's dirty streets looking for freedom of expression, then what on earth have the likes of Miles Franklin, Shirley Hazzard or Dorothy Richardson, for that matter, been doing all these years? Peeling potatoes? ItemImprints, Contents, Contributors, Advances, Letters and Subscription.(Australian Book Review, 2002-11)This item contains miscellaneous information from this issue. ItemIsles of Unknowing. "American Citizens, British Slaves: Yankee Political Prisoners in an Australian Penal Colony, 1839–1850" by Cassandra Pybus and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Merwick, DonnaOne of the pleasures of reading "American Citizens, British Slaves" is its invitation to think about writing. It asks us to consider the need of prisoners to maintain, and later restore, normal relations with one's self and the world by putting words on paper. It also asks us to consider the site of writing inhabited by authorities: the bureaucratic world that made men objects of paperwork: pages shuffled, copied and, sometimes wantonly, destroyed. In Van Diemen's Land in the 1840s, that site was as much one of corruption and personal humiliation as were the probation stations of the penal system. The reports and archives tell the tale. So does the superb writing of Pybus and Maxwell-Stewart. ItemLexical Memories. "Lexical Images: The Story of the Australian National Dictionary" by Bill Ramson. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Hudson, NickReviewers often like to start with a simple statement of what a book is all about. In the present case, this is difficult, because there are two books within these covers. The first three chapters fit its subtitle, 'The Story of the Australian National Dictionary', while the next seven fit the title "Lexical Images", being essays on aspects of Australian history and culture as reflected in the pages of the "Australian National Dictionary" (1988). If a single theme has to be extracted, it is that historical lexicography is a fascinating process, generating a valuable product. ItemMalodorous Melbourne. "The White Body of Evening" by A.L. McCann. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Preston, Edwina'Australia is all an illusion. A trick with smoke and mirrors, performed by demagogues and balladeers.' So says Paul Walters, one of A.L. McCann's main characters in this black, sometimes bleak, but very readable tale of Melbourne monstrosity and madness at the turn of the twentieth century. "The White Body of Evening" is sprinkled with such sentiments, uttered behind chilled hands into penurious South Melbourne, intoned at middle-class tables down the road in St Vincent Place, and wanly ruminated over in the superior cultural environs of Vienna. McCann revels in the detail, and his map of 'Marvellous Melbourne' is rich with it. ItemA Matter of Gravitas. "Don Bradman: Challenging the Myth" by Brett Hutchins and "Warne's World" by Louis Nowra. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Matthews, Brian Ernest"Don Bradman" and "Warne's World" are two very different books, and in many ways they sit uneasily together - for a reviewer at least. But they reveal among other things why Warne, with Bradman-like gifts, does not occupy a Bradman-like place in Australian culture: he is too unashamedly a child of his age, and that age, so the narrative goes, is crass and corrupt and commercial in contrast to the great days of the Don, the golden age of cricket integrity. ItemNew Perspectives on the Frontier Wars. "The Australian Frontier Wars 1788–1838" by John Connor. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Ryan, LyndallIn the aftermath of the ideological jousts between Henry Reynolds and Keith Windschuttle about the level of violence on the colonial frontier, a new book has appeared that tackles the issue from a fresh perspective. The author, John Connor, is a military historian. In this meticulously researched and highly readable book, he uses the methods of military history to examine the weapons, tactics and conduct of warfare on the Australian frontier during the first fifty years of British colonisation. Connor emerges from the fray with exciting new findings. ItemNew Standards in a Glorious Grammar. "The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" by Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum (eds). [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-11) Burridge, KateKate Burridge has read many excellent accounts of the English language over the years, but this recent publication by Cambridge University Press is by far the most impressive. In fact, "The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" is for her one of the most superb works of academic scholarship ever to appear on the English linguistics scene. The editors, Rodney Huddleston (Research Consultant, University of Queensland) and Geoffrey K. Pullum (Professor of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Cruz), are leading authorities in this field; so too are their thirteen co-authors. This was a magnificent team effort, spanning more than ten years. Together these linguists have produced a monumental work that offers easily the most comprehensive and thought-provoking treatment of English grammar to date. Nothing rivals this work, with respect to breadth, depth and consistency of coverage.