Archive

Keith Windschuttle seeks to undermine a ‘mindset’ among historians of Tasmania that started in Henry Melville’s History of Van Diemen’s Land (1835) and continues in Henry Reynolds’s An Indelible Stain (2001). Mindsets, or ‘interpretive frameworks’, sensitise historians to ‘evidence’ that fits their ‘assumptions’ ...

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Although you might not guess it from media comment, The Latham Diaries (MUP, $39.95 hb, 429 pp, 0522852157) is the most important book yet published on Labor’s wilderness years. It provides a pungent characterisation of Labor’s post-1996 history; conveys a profound understanding of the challenges facing a social democratic party in contemporary Australia ... 

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It seems to be only a couple of years ago that my students declared gender and race to be the ‘hot’ topics in culture. Now, I confidently predict, they will relegate gender (still acknowledging its importance) and reformulate the second term by adding a third: race and its intersection with religion, in its broadest definition.

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On the face of it, this book represents a strange project: to elaborate for the reader’s consideration the moral beliefs of a man whom the author judges (and judged in advance, one suspects) to be shallow, inconsistent, lacking moral and intellectual sobriety, and to have failed so often to act on the moral principles he repeatedly professes that he can fairly be accused of hypocrisy ... 

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David McCooey reviews 'Hoi Polloi' by Craig Sherborne

David McCooey
Friday, 07 June 2019

A laughing man, according to Flaubert, is stronger than a suffering one. But as Craig Sherborne’s extraordinary new memoir of childhood and youth shows, the distinction isn’t that simple. There is much to laugh at in Hoi Polloi, but this is also a book suffused with pain and suffering ... 

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Stephanie Trigg reviews 'Gilgamesh' by Joan London

Stephanie Trigg
Friday, 07 June 2019

Joan London’s new novel, Gilgamesh, is the story of several generations of travellers, moving between Australia, London, and Europe, as far east as Armenia. As such, it is part of a long and venerable tradition in Australian fiction: a tradition of quest narratives organised around topographical and cultural difference ... 

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'History always emphasises terminal events,’ Albert Speer observed bitterly to his American interrogators just after the end of the war, according to Antony Beevor in Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (2002). Few events in recent history were more terminal than the Holocaust, it might be urged. Yet the singularity of that ‘terminus’ has been questioned in recent years ... 

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To an outside observer of the Australian literary and cultural scene, the Ern Malley hoax is one of those spin-offs in the Australian experience that keep on conjuring up Mark Twain’s famous dictum of the nature of the country’s history: ‘It does not read like history, but like the most beautiful lies ... 

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‘The fucken oozing nakedness, the despair of being such a vulnerable egg-sac of a critter, like, a so-called human being, just sickens me sometimes, especially right now. The Human Condition Mom calls it. Watch out for that fucker.’

The speaker of these lines, fifteen-year-old Vernon Little, is a literary descendant of Huckleberry Finn.

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Biography can be difficult to achieve. There is the balance between too much detail, where one can’t see the wood for the family trees, or not enough, which can be disappointing all round. One also bears in mind possible antipathy: Sigmund Freud, who famously began burning his personal papers at twenty-nine, was dismissive of future chroniclers: ‘As for biographers, I am already looking forward to seeing them go astray.’

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