No 255 - October, 2003

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Tony Birch reviews Stuart Macintyre and Anne Clark's The History Wars
and Robert Manne's Whitewash
Peter Ryan reviews Chester Porter's autobiography Walking on Water
Spring Reading by Lolla Stewart


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Now showing 1 - 20 of 38
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    A Comet of Wonder Fallen to Earth: The Diaries of Miles Franklin.
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Brunton, Paul
    Franklin 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.
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    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10)
    This item is the September 2003 Bestsellers and Subscription Form page of this issue.
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    Among the Chinese. "From Rice to Riches: A Personal Journey Through A Changing China" by Jane Hutcheon. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Torney-Parlicki, Prue
    The 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.
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    Shoals of Fingerlings
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Dennis, Oliver
    This article is a review of Poetry, including: "Tightrope Horizon" by Ross Donlon, "Flight" by Jan Teagle Kapetas, "Venus Steps Out" by Helen Lambert, "Tender Hammers" by Tric O'Heare, "Compound Eye" by Louise Oxley and "Kissing the Curve" by Alicia Sometimes.
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    Striated Tears. "Blood and Old Belief" by Paul Hetherington. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Pierce, Peter
    The scene of Paul Hetherington's ‘verse novel’, "Blood and Old Belief", is established in the opening stanza. From the start, we are in the hands of a skilled verse practitioner for whom ‘conservative’ metrical forms are both the bedrock and the supple medium of the story that he tells.
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    Familial Thrills. "Lethal Factor" by Gabrielle Lord. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Caterson, Simon
    This 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.
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    The Brothers Who Ate the Wind. "Mao's Last Dancer" by Li Cunxin. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Grove, Robin
    Determination, 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.
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    Unlocking Dupain. "Dupain's Australians" by Jill White (text by Frank Moorhouse). [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Crombie, Isobel
    It is interesting to recall the number of times, in book titles alone, that Max Dupain’s name has been linked to ‘Australia’. Joining Dupain’s own "Max Dupain’s Australia" (1986) and "Max Dupain’s Australian Landscapes" (1988), this new book is the third in a series by his former printer and assistant Jill White. "Dupain’s Australians" joins the similarly all-inclusive titles of "Dupain’s Sydney" (1999) and "Dupain’s Beaches" (2000).
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    Guarding the Oeufs. "Allan Fels: A Portrait of Power" by Fred Brenchley. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Clark, Philip
    Assuming the chair of a business regulatory authority might not be thought of as an ideal path to media stardom, but Allan Fels showed otherwise. Fels is easily Australia’s best-known cartel buster and the scourge of price-fixing business and anti-competitive behaviour generally. Brenchley clearly admires Fels and what he has achieved. The book demonstrates that there is much to admire. It is an admirable chapter in the history of Australia’s economic life.
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    Asian 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, Allan
    The 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.
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    Fixing the Bounds. "The Trial of the Cannibal Dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas" by Anne Salmond. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Frost, Alan
    Anne 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.
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    The Last Respectable Prejudice?
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) O'Connor, Brendon
    A broad anti-Americanism seems on the rise among Australians, possibly due to the resentment many feel about US power and the policies of the Bush administration. Brendon O'Connor discusses anti-Americanism in Australia.
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    Advances, Contents, Letters, Imprints and Contributors.
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10)
    This item includes miscellaneous pieces from this issue.
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    Ethel's Storm in a Teacup. "The Ern Malley Affair" by Michael Heyward [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Kershaw, Alister
    Alister Kershaw’s review first appeared in the September 1993 issue of "ABR". UQP was the original publisher of "The Ern Malley Affair."
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    The 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, Donna
    Frost’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.
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    Get Porter. "Walking on Water: A Life in the Law" by Chester Porter. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Ryan, Peter
    All young persons contemplating ‘a life in the law’ as a career should read this book, ideally when they are about sixteen, to allow adequate time to switch to dentistry, say, or engineering. But whatever your age, Chester Porter’s huge experience, wisdom and humanity will enlighten you about the true inwardness of those sometimes compatible concepts, justice and law. We should all read "Walking on Water" and be better educated, and no one should embark on litigation before they have done so. By the time they lay the volume down, they will have cooled off, left their solicitor untelephoned, saved themselves a bucket of money and averted a heart attack.
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    No Free Ride. "The Bright Shapes and the True Names: A Memoir" by Patrick McCaughey. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Wallace-Crabbe, Chris
    "The Bright Shapes and the True Names" is an autobiography-to-date by a man of many parts, a natural extrovert who has directed three major art galleries, as well as having been a youthful Monash professor. As the title, drawn from his admired teacher Vincent Buckley, indicates, he has sustained much interest in poetry and drama as well. On both sides of the Pacific, his life so far has been a colourful one, his stutter imitated in a thousand conversations. But he has always had to be on his guard against becoming merely what Yeats called ‘a smiling public man’.
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    Suspension Bridges of Disbelief. "The Anatomy of Truth" by Kate Wild. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Tetaz, Carolyn
    As a whole, Wild struggles to establish a fictional world the reader can fully relax into. In this strange, dramatic story, Wild requires the reader to build suspension bridges of disbelief, at times without her assistance. But each section of this work is strong, with many vivid scenes and sharp observations, and Janey is an intriguing character, as much a victim of her own delusions as those around her. This ambitious and sinister exploration of women as wives, friends, mothers and sexual partners is worth reading.
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    Five-Finger Exercise with Doctors and Insects. "A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies" by John Murray. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Borghino, Jose
    Murray 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.
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    The Jaws of the Trap. "Elizabeth Costello: Eight Lessons" by J.M. Coetzee. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Goldsworthy, Kerryn
    Something like a double helix of dialectical thinking winds its graceful way through these ‘eight lessons’. Ideas and theories about the nature of human (and other) life and how to live it, about the workings and the relative merits of logic, reason, belief and faith, are sketched, rehearsed, debated and set in opposition to each other throughout these eight episodes in the life of J.M. Coetzee’s heroine. "Elizabeth Costello" is in no way the sort of novel it’s possible to read on the bus. And if you have no interest in animals, or no tolerance for the convolutions of philosophical discourse, or a preference for intricacies of plot and character as the cornerstones of fiction, then it will be a source of ongoing frustration. But otherwise, the scope and lure of its arguments and the elegance of their framing and expression are hypnotic and, in the end, irresistible.
Copyright to all textual material owned by Australian Book Review Inc. Flinders Dspace has made every effort to contact the copyright owners of other material, and will remove items upon request.