Humphrey McQueen

The way we organise our deaths offers insight into the meanings and significances we attribute to life. The sidelining of organised religion has allowed Australians to voice our own ideas about the muddles of existence through the choice of music for funerals. The regularity with which ‘I did it my way’ is heard at wakes is a reminder of how much more pertinent that song is for individuality than are newspaper columns by Bettina Arndt or Hugh Mackay, still less from Andrea Dworkin or the late Christopher Lasch.

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I met Patrick White first in 1965. Reduced to 1.9s.6d, he was lying, in an American edition of Riders in the Chariot, on a sale table at Finney Isles department store in Brisbane. So much has changed. Today, we would talk of remainders; the shop has been taken over by David Jones which has in turn been taken over by Adelaide Steamship which later bought up Grace Bros; prices are now given in dollar and cents.

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