No 247 - December 2002 / January 2003
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'Our First Book': Clive James, Peter Rose reviews Barry Humphries's My Life As Me , Robert Manne reviews Malcolm Fraser's Common Ground , Delia Falconer reviews Emily Ballou's Father Lands
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ItemSummer Cash. "Life on the Ice" by Roff Smith. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-12)The collapse of the Soviet Union had one quite unexpected effect on world tourism - it opened up Antarctica. Cash-strapped, post-Communist Russia could no longer afford its large collection of Antarctic bases, or the fleet of polar-equipped vessels that supplied them. Many of these ships are now chartered out to adventure travel companies. As a result, the opportunities to visit Antarctica have increased dramatically, while the cost of getting down to the ice has dropped steeply. The Antarctic visitor total is now around 15,000 tourists a year, quite apart from the personnel travelling south to the forty-odd scientific bases.
ItemCook's Crumpet. "Into the Blue: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before" by Tony Horwitz. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-12)"Into the Blue" is a rich mix of history and travelogue, sometimes too rich for easy digestion. It is long, for one thing, and the twists in mood and tone can be a little wearying. Although Horwitz could not track every part of Cook's voyages, he visits many key sites, including Tahiti, eastern Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. The book opens with verve and humour as Horwitz spends a week on the replica "Endeavour". With a journalist's ear for a telling phrase, and a vivid historical imagination, Horwitz goes on to match accounts of Cook's travels with his own.
ItemTertiary Foes. "Radical Students: The Old Left at Sydney University" by Alan Barcan and "The Diary of a Vice-Chancellor: University of Melbourne 1935–1938" by Raymond Priestley (ed. Ronald Ridley). [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-12)Many thousands of undergraduates have walked under the stilts of the Raymond Priestley Building, which forms part of Melbourne University's great wind tunnel, with no thought of the person commemorated by its name. He was, in fact, a remarkable man. His four years as Vice-Chancellor (1935–38) emerge in extraordinary detail and intimacy, thanks to this edition of his journals. If the Priestley diaries give the view of a university from the top, Alan Barcan's study of the old left at Sydney University gives it from the bottom, or at least the middle. His study spans more than four decades, commencing in the 1920s and moving on to the new left period. His work is amiable, ironic and inclusive.
ItemThe Irish in Australia. "First Fleet to Federation: Irish Supremacy in Colonial Australia" by Jarlath Ronayne. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-12)It was inevitable that, sooner or later, someone would write a book celebrating the achievements of the Protestant Irish in Australia. Books commemorating the part played by the Catholic Irish culminated in Patrick O'Farrell's ambit claim that they were responsible for just about everything we like to think of (or used to think of) as being distinctively Australian. Now Professor Jarlath Ronayne has given us his own hyperbolic response in the subtitle of this sumptuous publication. The best way to see the book is as a useful reminder that 'Irish' and 'Catholic' were not synonyms in colonial Australia.
ItemOrality Is All. "The Commonwealth of Speech: An Argument about Australia's Past, Present and Future" by Alan Atkinson. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-12)According to the back cover: 'This book explores the way common conversation matters … that during the last two hundred years we have been beguiled by reading and writing. Only during the last part of the twentieth century have we begun to remember the importance of speech as a source of truth in human affairs.' It could also be noted that the seven essays collected here began as lectures, seminars or articles on such themes as the role of the monarchy in modern Australia (Prince Charles is judged a better speech-maker than his mum, therefore we have hope), the republican movement, the significance of Manning Clark and Henry Reynolds as influential Australian historians, the early nineteenth-century views of Edward Smith Hall and James Macarthur on the rights of Aborigines, and Raffaello Carboni's account of the Eureka Stockade.
ItemSafety in Seminaries. "An Angel in Australia" by Tom Keneally. [review](Australian Book Review, 2002-12)Writing novels, he's Tom Keneally. Works of history - such as "The Great Shame" (1998) about the Irish diaspora to the USA and Australia in the nineteenth century, and this year's "American Scoundrel", concerned with the adventures of politician, general and amorist Dan Sickles - are by Thomas Keneally. There is more doubling in Keneally's most recent novel, for he uses two titles. In this country, we have "An Angel in Australia"; in Britain, "The Office of Innocence". Each suggests a different line of approach to a novel that seems in some ways old-fashioned, so instinct is it with his earlier work.