No 251 - May, 2003

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Raimond Gaita on War and Justice
Clive James reviews The Best Australian Essays 2002
Ros Pesman reviews The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing and Venus in Transit
Donna Merwick reviews Thomas Keneally's Lincoln
Don Anderson reviews John Scott's Warra Warra
John Murphy reviews Michael Pusey's The Experience of Middle Australia
Peter Mares reviews Chris Lydgate's Lee's Law and Ian Stewart's The Mahathir Legacy


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 6 of 39
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    Rampaging Rationalism. "Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason" by Val Plumwood. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-05) Thompson, Janna
    Val Plumwood, the author of a highly praised defence of eco-feminism, "Feminism and the Mastery of Nature", presents in this book a critique of 'rationalist culture' and explains why it harms nature as well as so many people. Plumwood’s criticism of rationalism centres on the thesis she advanced in her earlier book. From Plato onward, it has been regarded as rational to divide the world into polarised and homogeneous conceptual categories (reason/emotion, culture/nature, spirit/matter, masculine/feminine) and to regard things falling under the first term of these dichotomies as superior to those belonging to the second. This way of thinking, Plumwood argues, has given rationalists a licence to ignore the needs of beings deemed to be inferior - to dominate and exploit them for the sake of their 'superiors'. In particular, it has been used to justify the domination of nature and of women.
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    Phantom of the Prison. "Penal Populism and Public Opinion: Lessons From Five Countries" by Julian V. Roberts et al. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-05) Hogg, Russell
    This new book provides a valuable analysis of the recent trend toward punitive justice and the populist politics that has nurtured it in five English-speaking countries: the USA, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. It describes the growing resort to more deeply punitive sentencing measures (such as mandatory sentencing laws) and devotes separate chapters to each of three areas in which penal populist politics have been particularly evident: juveniles, drugs and sex offenders (especially paedophiles).
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    Doctorates in Mateyness. "HIH: This Inside Story of Australia's Biggest Corporate Collapse" by Mark Westfield. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-05) Haigh, Gideon
    If you like business bodice-rippers, these are blissful days. After the host of books that emerged from the dotcom Götterdämmerung, another wave of cautionary tales has hit the shelves. I reached for Mark Westfield’s "HIH" after reading my third book about Enron, Mimi Swartz’s "Power Failure", and was struck at once by a casual coincidence: that both Enron's Ken Lay and HIH’s Ray Williams insisted on being referred to as 'Doctor'. In Lay's case, this was on account of his PhD in economics. Williams laid rather flimsier claim to his honorific, after Monash University rewarded him for various endowments with an honorary doctorate in laws in 1999.
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    Degrees in Inequality. "Undemocratic Schooling: Equity and Quality in Mass Secondary Education in Australia" by Richard Teese and John Polesel. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-05) Snyder, Ilana
    This book has a number of admirable qualities. In times when open subscription to a social justice agenda runs the risk of ridicule, it is a brave book. It does not shy away from identifying the universities - specifically, the sandstones - as integral to any explanation of why Australian secondary education is inequitable. And both authors work in one: the University of Melbourne. The book also builds a compelling case for curriculum and structural reform. Through the careful analysis of issues such as retention and dropout rates, the relation between poverty and achievement, and between gender and achievement, it argues potently that our education system is disturbingly riven by persistent inequalities of opportunity.
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    Making It Happen. "Sand" by Connie Barber and "A Momentary Stay" by William C. Clarke. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-05) Arnott, Georgie
    William C. Clarke cuts an interesting figure. An anthropologist who has concentrated on Pacific populations, Clarke combined this discipline with an interest in poetry in his 2000 lecture 'Pacific Voices, Pacific Views: Poets as Commentators on the Contemporary Pacific'. Clarke used his poetry as a vehicle for considering issues such as land tenure, corruption and tourism. It is angry, astute poetry; this is not the tranquil Hawaii and Fiji of tourist literature. Such poetry is undoubtedly moving, despite Clarke's echo of W.H. Auden's assertion that 'poetry makes nothing happen'. "Sand" is Connie Barber’s third collection. Like Clarke, Barber uses the natural world as the subject of her poetry when considering weighty issues, such as ageing and death. The bulk of this volume, however, is taken up with suburban phenomena. Barber's poetry evokes a world where the domestic space is a serene refuge from the ugliness beyond one's door.
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    Not Helping the Cause. "The Snow Queen" by Mardi McConnochie. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2003-05) Armstrong, Judith
    When Armstrong was about ten, she used to devour the books of an English children's author named Noel Streatfield. The most famous was called "Ballet Shoes", which took young antipodeans onto the stage and into the wings of another world, the London theatre scene. Galina Koslova, a Russian-born émigrée to South Australia and the heroine of "The Snow Queen", gives "Ballet Shoes" to a step-granddaughter, correctly designating it a classic. Armstrong wonders whether Mardi McConnochie’s novel was designed to fill the gap left on adult bookshelves by long-abandoned copies of "Ballet Shoes", even if our reading requirements have matured.
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