No 242 - June / July 2002

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Kerryn Goldsworthy's Essay 'After the Academy'; Dorothy Porter's Diary; Dennis Altman's 'Letter from New York; Gideon Haigh reviews Paul Strangio's Keeper of the Faith


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Now showing 1 - 20 of 35
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    Twenty Years On, May Bestsellers, August Highlights.
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06)
    This item contains miscellaneous items from the June/July 2002 issue including May 2002 bestsellers.
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    Shrinking the Language. "Glory", by Sarah Brill and "Runestone", by Anna Cidor and "Swan Song", by Colin Thiele. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Newell, Patrice
    The books under review here cater for widely differing age groups. The difference is not dictated by language — the level of English in each could be handled by any competent nine-year-old — but by their subject matter. "Runestone", the first in a series by Anna Ciddor, is set in Scandinavia during Viking times. Colin Thiele’s "Swan Song" is a step back in time. In "Glory", Sarah Brill’s first novel, readers will have dined on anorexia and adoption worries, and been exposed to suicide by page seventeen. By the book’s end, Brill’s fifteen-year-old heroine has left home, got a job, lost the job, lost her virginity, experimented with a smorgasbord of drugs, shacked up with a loser, faced eviction and experienced homelessness.
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    Tales for a Dry Country. "The Very Super Adventures of Nic and Naomi", by Venero Armanno and Anna Pignataro and "Quetta", by Gary Crew and Bruce Whatley and "The Magic Hat", by Mem Fox and "Old Tom's Holiday", by Leigh Hobbs and "A Year on Our Farm", by Penny Matthews. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Lowe, Virginia
    Virginia Lowe reviews several children's books here: picture books that relate the dryness of Australia and the joy of the rainy season; stories of forging unusual friendships; the familiar tragedy of shipwrecks; and the delight of Mem Fox's wacky rhymes.
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    A Tense and Surging Affair. "Scraping through Stone", by Judith Fox. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Trigg, Stephanie
    Richard I’s crusade to the Holy Land provides a dramatic backdrop for Fox’s New Age ‘fable about the mysteries of passion and faith’, in which Sibylla and Dominic grow up separately in England and Scotland before their various adventures and desires lead them through Europe to Jerusalem. In "Scraping through Stone", Fox works through a full suite of scenes recognisable from other ‘medieval’ novels.
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    New Pearls in the Magic Garage. "Magic Garage", by John Donnelly. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Broinowski, Alison
    John Donnelly’s "Magic Garage", with a stunning cover by Amelia Mollett, comes as a welcome surprise. Donnelly the insider prefers to avoid the foreigners’ Jakarta. Knowing his way around, he takes you off the highways and into the alleys and canals of Setiabudi, a fringe settlement targeted by corrupt developers and the even more corrupt army. You meet the ‘little people’ of Setiabudi who get in their way; you taste their salads and satays, sample their herbal medicines, smell their drains, see them bleed. All Donnelly’s ordinary people are manipulated and deceived by the system, but they are no slouches at manipulating and deceiving each other, whether they deal in Amway, massage, holy water, secrets or sex.
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    Coetzee's Siberian Wastes. "Youth", by J.M. Coetzee. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Davidson, Jim
    In "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.
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    Hybrid 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, Kate
    From 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.
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    A 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, Lynette
    This 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.
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    Abiding Arabs in Australia. "Arab-Australians Today: Citizenship and Belonging", by Ghassan Hage (ed.). [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Yeatman, Anna
    This 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.
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    Scabs in the Cloth. "Ladies Who Lunge: Celebrating Difficult Women", by Tara Brabazon. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Lusty, Natalya
    Tara Brabazon’s "Ladies Who Lunge: Celebrating Difficult Women" is a collection of essays on feminism and popular culture. Addressing a range of subjects — including aerobics, wrestling, Miss Moneypenny, Anita Roddick and the pedagogy of Sylvia Ashton Warner — Brabazon’s material on the whole does justice to her general contention that feminist readings of popular culture need to be fearless and bold. Arguing that feminism requires a (metaphoric) equivalent of the movie "Fight Club", Brabazon suggests that feminist critique is at its sharpest when it reads against the grain of mainstream thinking. For the most part, these essays do just that.
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    Cinemadope. "Philosophy Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Philosophy", by Christopher Falzon. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Pataki, Tamas
    Christopher 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.
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    Facets of Love. "Conditions of Love: The Philosophy of Intimacy", by John Armstrong. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Levy, Neil
    Love 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.
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    National News.
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Powell, Graeme
    Graeme Powell recounts his meeting with Christina Stead in 1975; Stead subsequently decided to bequeath her manuscripts and papers to the National Library of Australia.
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    From Terra Australis to Australia. "Matthew Flinders: Personal Letters from an Extraordinary Life", by Paul Brunton (ed.). [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Thompson, John
    Superbly 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.
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    Two Stylists. "Homage to John Forbes", by Ken Bolton (ed.) and "David Malouf: A Celebration", by Ivor Indyk (ed.). [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) McCooey, David
    Literary reputation, especially the posthumous kind, is a deliquescent thing. If it’s not going to melt away, then work is needed from friends and publishers, even critics. Forbes, while not exactly ignored in his lifetime, didn’t get his due. "Homage to John Forbes", published as a companion volume to last year’s "Collected Poems" (reviewed in ABR, September 2001), shows friends, publishers and critics making up for this neglect. "David Malouf: A Celebration" is the latest in the ‘Celebrations’ produced by the Friends of the National Library of Australia. These are short and smartly produced. Not surprisingly, this example is less critical and more circumspect than "Homage to John Forbes", but the five contributors cover disparate aspects of Malouf’s varied, and immensely successful, career.
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    Silver Mysteries. "Patrick White and Alchemy", by James Bulman-May. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Bell, Richard
    Bulman-May’s goal is to show that the major novels are in fact comprehensively based on this particular branch of medieval enquiry. Now, given that none of the biographical material indicates that White had any particular interest in alchemy, the reader may be forgiven for approaching this book with a degree of scepticism. I suspect that White, if he was still alive (and cared enough), would probably dismiss it as so much academic pseudointellectualism, just as he objected to David Tacey’s Jungian approach in "Patrick White: Fiction and the Unconscious" (1988) on the grounds that it restricted his novels to a particular frame of reference, and that he (White) had not even read Jung until he came to write "The Solid Mandala". Like Tacey and Watson before him, Bulman-May could respond with the ‘universal impulse’ defence: alchemical principles are submerged in the universal unconscious, and emerge from time to time in the work of outstanding artists.
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    Patrick White, Sidney Nolan and Me.
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Rosenthal, Tom
    One evening in 1957 I tuned into the Third Programme and caught a dramatised excerpt from a book. It was a party scene in which the authorial tone was so sardonic, and the petty snobberies and pretensions of nineteenth-century Australian society so hilariously exposed, that I knew I wanted to read it. The book was "Voss", by Patrick White. Since I was a penniless undergraduate at the time, I borrowed it from the local public library and did not actually possess a copy until my mother gave me one for Christmas two years later. Thus I became a confirmed White addict. In 1960, while working at the art book publishers Thames & Hudson on the first ever book about him, written by Kenneth Clark, Colin MacInnes and Bryan Robertson, I met Sidney Nolan and a friendship soon grew, culminating some four decades later with my writing my own book about Nolan and seeing it published recently [see Jaynie Anderson’s review in ABR, April 2002]. In the early 1960s I also met the flamboyant Australian man of letters Max Harris. Man of letters is an old-fashioned description but the only one that will do for a man who was a poet, a critic, a bookseller and remainder dealer, and a founding editor and publisher of the leading Australian intellectual magazine of the 1940s and 1950s "Angry Penguins".
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    Unnatural Nature. "The New Nature", by Tim Low. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Menkhorst, Peter
    Are there any areas of wilderness remaining in Australia, indeed in the world? In his latest book, Tim Low, one of Australia’s most thought-provoking natural history writers, answers with an emphatic ‘no’. He also claims that the concept of wilderness is unhelpful and leads to widespread misconceptions about nature and naturalness. Instead of wilderness, argues Low, we need concepts that acknowledge the central role played by people in all our ecosystems.
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    The Cow-pat Agenda. "Fields of Discovery: Australia's CSIRO", by Brad Collis. [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Robin, Libby
    If 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.
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    Mighty Monash. "War Letters of General Monash", by Tony Macdougall (ed.). [review]
    (Australian Book Review, 2002-06) Ryan, Peter
    This 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.
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.