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ABR Arts

Book of the Week

Bad Cop: Peter Dutton’s strongman politics (Quarterly Essay 93)

Bad Cop: Peter Dutton’s strongman politics (Quarterly Essay 93) by Lech Blaine

Bill Hayden might today be recalled as the unluckiest man in politics: Bob Hawke replaced him as Labor leader on the same day that Malcolm Fraser called an election that Hayden, after years of rebuilding the Labor Party after the Whitlam years, was well positioned to win. But to dismiss him thus would be to overlook his very real and laudable efforts to make a difference in politics – as an early advocate for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, and as the social services minister who introduced pensions for single mothers and Australia’s first universal health insurance system, Medibank. Dismissing Hayden would also cause us to miss the counterpoint he provides to Peter Dutton, current leader of the Liberal Party.



From the Archive

August 2006, no. 283

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

Debra Dean’s novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad, is an exploration of memory and demonstrates how that most mysterious of faculties can both save and fail us. Utilising parallel narratives, Dean tells the story of Marina, a guide at Leningrad’s Hermitage Museum in 1941. As the German army advances, Marina and her colleagues labour to remove and conceal precious works of art. Later, the employees of the Hermitage and their families live in the museum basement, and try to survive the harsh winter with limited provisions.

From the Archive

October 1980, no. 25

A Dream of Islands: Voyages of self-discovery in the south seas: John Williams, Herman Melville, Walter Murray Gibson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Paul Gaugin by Gavan Daws

What effect did life, does life still, exert upon Europeans in the Pacific? Does it weaken cultural bonds with Europe or does it sustain them? Does it set up alternative cultural standards by means of which European culture may be more critically assessed’) And individuals may more critically assess their own motivations? Are their lives fulfilled in the Pacific or does it destroy them’? These are among the questions which Gavan Daws has set himself, in this highly readable and elegantly written series of linked biographies of five men, Williams, Melville, Gibson, Stevenson, and Gauguin, whose fame and destiny were determined in whole or in part by their lives in the Pacific. Each of them found in the islands ‘the other side of his own civilised humanity’. The book, therefore, though it contains a great deal of factual information about the movements and lives of these men in the Pacific, is really about the romantic voyage, the voyage ‘into the self’.

From the Archive

April 1990, no. 119

Florid States by Rod Usher

I must acknowledge that in his second novel Rod Usher, author of the widely praised Man of Marbles, tells a good story. And he tells it competently, with some verve. The high points are nicely judged and well-spaced. The characters are drawn with firm lines. The setting – the countryside around the Conda­mine – is well integrated into a narrative which moves to a striking climax. The novel should enjoy some success and may well become quite popular.