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Michael McGirr

Michael McGirr

Michael McGirr is the Dean of Faith at St Kevin’s College in Melbourne, a school that was started by the Christian Brothers. His most recent book is Ideas to Save Your Life (Text Publishing, 2021).

Michael McGirr reviews 'A New History of the Irish in Australia' by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall

March 2019, no. 409 22 February 2019
There is much to admire about this detailed and painstaking book. The authors have entered a field that is replete with stereotypes and even gags. They will have none of it. The result is an account of the Irish in Australia subtly modulated and insistent on evidence. It is suspicious of the lore and yarns that have sometimes been made to take their place. Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall make c ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Tempest-Tossed Church: Being a Catholic today' by Gerard Windsor

April 2017, no. 390 28 March 2017
This book came my way at the right moment. I read it in the week that the Royal Commission enumerated the fact that, so far, 4,444 individuals have brought cases of sexual abuse against Catholic institutions in Australia – a staggering number. I know of others who are still struggling to come forward and tell their story. The archbishop of Sydney described the response of church officialdom as ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'Press Escape' by Shaun Carney

December 2016, no. 387 23 November 2016
You can judge this memoir by its poignant cover. It shows a picture of the author taken in 1966 when he was eight or nine years old. Behind him is one of the accessories of the baby boomer period, a Volkswagen. The Beetle is parked near long grass, redolent of Melbourne’s outer suburban fringe, an area that features prominently in Shaun Carney’s account of his origins. Frankston and Carrum Dow ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Fighter' by Arnold Zable

June–July 2016, no. 382 23 May 2016
Arnold Zable may be unafraid of pain, but he is no masochist. Masochism wants to control pain: Zable is much more of a liberator. Since the publication of his first book, Jewels and Ashes (1991), Zable has embraced profound stories of struggling people with honesty and wisdom. Zable has been a servant of those stories, never trying to smother them with his own voice or bury them under fancy theori ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'Waiting' by Philip Salom

April 2016, no. 380 24 March 2016
I first encountered the work of Philip Salom in the pages of The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991). Anthologies, of course, have their limitations, but they can be a great place to meet people. Salom's first poem in that book, 'Walking at Night', includes an image of the urban sky: 'Streetlights glow overhead / Like the teeth of a huge zipper; the universe / steals in when the zipper ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'Santamaria' by Gerard Henderson

January-February 2016, no. 378 18 December 2015
In 1980, when I first came to Melbourne from Sydney, I found myself working among homeless people in the inner city. I was guided by a fantastic nun, one of those forthright people with a fearless sense of justice. She stood up to police and clergy alike. One day we had a long wait in the casualty department of St Vincent's Hospital with a gentleman from the streets who had been in a brawl. I lear ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'Pope Francis: Untying the Knots' by Paul Vallely

April 2014, no. 360 27 March 2014
I have never met a pope, but I have sometimes felt their shadow. In 1981, at the tender age of nineteen, I was a novice in the Jesuit order. We lived in a vast establishment in Sydney: the community included naïve youngsters such as myself, wily old retired Jesuits, as well as representatives of every age group in between. It was quite a fun place to live. One day, we were all summoned to a commu ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Colonials' by Brian Fitzpatrick

February 2014, no. 358 19 January 2014
Brian Fitzpatrick – a notable historian, intellectual, and civil libertarian – was a prominent Melbourne figure in the middle of the twentieth century. He died in 1965 and survives partly as the central figure in Sheila Fitzpatrick’s poignant memoir My Father’s Daughter (2010), an affectionate and yet painfully honest book. It describes Fitzpatrick’s difficult marriage, his awkwardness i ... (read more)
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