Well, it seems our long correspondence is over. Actually it ended some years ago, didn’t it? Your last letter to me is dated Christmas Eve 2001. I continued writing to you into the following year, not immediately realising you were unable to reply, even though your later letters spoke of confusion and of unaccountably getting lost in familiar streets.... (read more)
In the clear light of a cloudy summer morning
The idiot boy, holding his father’s hand,
Comes by me on the Quay where I sit writing.
His father spots me looking up, and I don’t want
To look as if I wished I hadn’t, so
Instead of turning straight back to my books
I look around, thus making it a general thing
That I do every so often –
To watch the ferries, to check out the crowd.
Hugh White reviews 'After The Neocons: America at the crossroads' by Francis Fukuyama and 'Ethical Realism: A vision for America’s role in the world' by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman
Beyond American failure in Iraq lies a second, deeper failure. America’s Iraq project was always intended by its proponents not just to fix Iraq and transform the Middle East, but also to demonstrate a new grand policy concept for the twenty-first century. This was the Bush Doctrine, enshrining the now-familiar ideas of the neo-conservatives: America’s power, especially its military power, is omnipotent; its values and institutions are universally desired and universally applicable; hence America’s destiny – and after 9/11 even its very survival – requires it to use this immense power, pre-emptively and unilaterally if necessary, to reshape the world in America’s image. The neo-cons themselves called it a vision for a New American Century.... (read more)
That quintessential Australian–American, Rupert Murdoch, recently counselled Australians against ‘the facile, reflexive, unthinking anti-Americanism that has gripped much of Europe’. While I confess to a certain Schadenfreude when the chief propagandist for the second Iraqi war, which has contributed mightily to that European alienation, seeks to come to grips with the war’s consequences, I think it unlikely that Australia will go down the European path. For Australians, the American relationship looms much larger than it does for Europeans. As Dennis Altman shows in his elegant and argumentative essay 51st State?, the relationship is deep-rooted in our history, psyche, and culture. We were, after all, one by-product of the American War of Independence. For him, the danger is not so much anti-Americanism but that, in ‘a world dominated by the American imaginary’, we, like Rupert’s News Corporation, might lose our national identity.... (read more)
‘The nearest thing on earth to a Black Australian is a White Australian, and vice versa,’ observed novelist and poet Randolph Stow some years ago. Nicolas Rothwell might have pondered the idea on his more recent wanderings as northern correspondent for the Australian. His north is not simply geographical. It fans south and west from Darwin, and east as far as Arnhem Land. Its core is in the Centre, in the Aboriginal realms of the Western Deserts: not only another country, but also, in the book’s closing phrase, ‘another time’, another dimension to the Australia we think we know. In a tribute to Darwin’s fabled Foreign Correspondents’ Association (whose members are forbidden to file the crocodile stories that southern editors want), Rothwell quotes a Latin motto, ‘Austrem Servamus’ (‘We serve the South’). It’s a droll reminder of how far the correspondent’s words must travel, through a dirty and imperfect lens, to reach from one place to the other. The mediation of numinous, heavy-laden revelations from this remote other country for mainstream consumption elsewhere is the high-wire walk of this book.... (read more)
Brenda Niall reviews 'B.A. Santamaria: Your most obedient servant: Selected Letters 1938–1996' edited by Patrick Morgan
Among countless unused fragments of information from my convent schooldays, I remember the correct forms of address for churchmen of all ranks. For the pope, it was Your Holiness; for a cardinal, Your Eminence. Next came Your Grace and My Lord, for archbishops and bishops. Then the cumbersome Right Reverend and Dear Monsignor, followed by Dear Reverend Father, which sufficed for a priest.... (read more)
Memory is actually anxious to be heard.
What a year, and how lucky we are that our country can only play a timid, cringing, subservient role in Iraq – which is not at all to disparage the soldiers we send there. It must be a bastard of a job for those young men, at the accursed interface.
February 6: We fly to Hobart for our Coles Bay holiday, pick up a car and gradually find Sarah and Gordon’s evasive house on its steep hill. The following morning he starts me off with a long stiff walk over the mountain slopes: easier at his age. But I could eat a horse afterwards, were that required.... (read more)
During the last dozen years of his life, from the initial diagnosis of leukaemia in September 1991 until his death in September 2003, Edward Said continued to lead an astonishingly active life: travelling, lecturing, writing, conversing with seemingly undiminished energy, even as his physical powers sharply declined. When his New York physician gently suggested it might be wise to slow down, he replied that nothing would kill him more quickly than that; boredom seemed a more lethal adversary than the cells invading his body. What kept Said quite literally alive was an unflagging engagement with what he saw to be the most pressing cultural and political issues of his time. That engagement is fully evident in the works that have appeared since his death, such as Humanism and Democratic Criticism and From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map, both published in 2004. On Late Style, another posthumous collection, reflects a further and unsurprising preoccupation throughout these final years. The book explores the manner in which artists and writers often acquire a new idiom or mode of expression – what Said terms a ‘late style’ – during the last stages of their creative lives.... (read more)
Picnic is probably Fay Zwicky’s most confident collection. In it she renounces certain kinds of brilliance for a freer and more open style of poetry – what she calls in one poem ‘the grace of candour’. It is a style that approximates moral qualities: honesty, direct ness, kindness to strangers. And it is in fact such moral qualities that give force to this collection... (read more)
What is a ‘literary life’? The phrase is invitingly open. Some writers seem to live their lives with a studied circumspection, as if creating a work of art. Everything is crafted to present only what the writer wishes to reveal, exactly as in creating a literary work. Oscar Wilde and Jack Kerouac may seem odd bedfellows, except in this one regard. Oscar’s bon mots and flamboyantly witty social gestures mirror those of his written personae, to the extent that his life is his art and his art is his life, exactly as he almost said. Kerouac’s crucial discovery may have been that getting ‘on the road’ could lead not only to a bestseller that influenced a generation, but that it could also shape the perception of his life, where the public and private became synonymous. All the automatic writing of his letters, the photographs of his circle of friends who also people his books, the laconic interviews, even his brooding, photogenic likeness to James Dean, are an integral part of his literary self-creation, intrinsic with a philosophy of staying in a speeding car and observing life from the fast lane. For both Wilde and Kerouac, ‘style’ is the word that links the literary and the life. However different from each other, both are dramatically self-consistent in lifestyles and literary styles.... (read more)