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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

October 2009, no. 315

Roger’s World: Toward a new understanding of animals by Charles Siebert

Ostensibly, Roger’s World is an account of Charles Siebert’s whistle-stop tour of primate retirement homes in America. By the author’s reckoning, there are approximately two to three thousand chimpanzees in America, as well as a substantial number of their primate cousins. He travels across the country, visiting captive chimpanzees on an ‘impromptu farewell tour of our own kidnapped and caged primal selves’, until he encounters Roger, with whom he feels a profound connection.

From the Archive

November 1997, no. 196

Twins by Chris Gregory

Incorporating photographs, diagrams, idiosyncratic typography, and even a list of references, Chris Gregory’s Twins is a media kit as much as a short story collection. It beings with a kind of parable about reading:

From the Archive

May 2014, no. 361

The Dream of the Great American Novel by Lawrence Buell

Well, it’s Moby-Dick, obviously. Except when it’s Huckleberry Finn or Absalom, Absalom! or Invisible Man or Gravity’s Rainbow. The Great Gatsby will often do, if one is pressed for time.

There is something a bit ridiculous about the idea that a single book could become the definitive expression of an entire nation. This is perhaps especially true in the case of the United States, a country so vast, diverse, and contradictory that any attempt at a grand summation would appear doomed to fail. Nevertheless, as Lawrence Buell argues in The Dream of the Great American Novel, the concept of the ‘GAN’ (the nickname bestowed by no less an eminence than Henry James) has proved remarkably resilient. As Buell notes in his introduction, the idea tends not to be taken all that seriously these days: no novelist would admit to trying to write such a thing, except perhaps in jest, and no serious critic would be reckless enough to bestow such a title. And yet, he observes, paraphrasing an unnamed ‘distinguished reviewer’, it is ‘hard to think of a major American novelist who hasn’t given it a shot’.