Archive

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff, Sandee Eisenberg, and Hathaway R.N. & Safe and Natural Remedies for the Discomforts of Pregnancy by The Coalition for the Medical Rights of Women

by
August 1987, no, 93

I thought of concealing myself behind the androgyny of my initials and writing a mean little piece about apple-pie and motherhood and pregnancy in particular. But honesty prevails and I confess to being a woman, and a pregnant one, too.

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I’m well overdue with this article, and I suspect John McLaren is never going to speak to me again. Trouble is, I’m on a frenetic reading jag and its mainly McLaren’s fault.

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In Future Active, Graham Meikle roams the electronic landscape picking out highlights and lowlights. Like all travellers, what he finds is influenced by his interests and perspectives. Sometimes this leads to illuminating insights; sometimes I marvelled at what he might have seen but didn’t.

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The Hanging of Jean Lee is the third verse novel I have reviewed recently, except that this one is closer to the verse documentary.

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Gerard Windsor had a rocky start to his writing life. Out of the Jesuits after seven years, he scored a contract with his old school, Riverview, in Sydney, to write its centennial history. I was one of the alumni he interviewed; I remember suggesting that he take steps to guarantee the publication of his text. After all, I argued, a school run by a religious order was like a family commissioning its history: it would have tender feelings towards its dead and be wary of any diminution of their legends.

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Laurie Duggan’s study of ‘imagined space’ in Australian visual culture arrived on my desk, with a certain synchronicity, the day after I saw the film Memento. In their distinctive ways, both these works seem indicative of our age, offering unstable and fractured accounts of space and time at a moment when virtual reality seems to be untying our formerly fixed Western notions of these concepts.

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‘People are not entitled in a civil society to pursue a malicious campaign of character assassination based on a big lie.’ This was Andrew Clark, son of the historian Manning Clark, expressing understandable outrage on behalf of his family. The issue was the infamous allegation, based on nebulous evidence, that Manning was ‘an agent of Soviet influence’ and had been awarded the Order of Lenin. Unfortunately, as the Clarks will know, the big lie, even when refuted, spreads across generations. Although the onus is supposed to be on the accusers to prove their allegations, in reality it is easily, plausibly reversed.

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Editorial boards of magazines are seldom noticed, except when a magazine is in trouble. For the past three years ABR’s board chairman was Brian Johns. Last May Brian resigned. It was a resignation he had been signalling for some time; he believed that it was time for him to go.

As a member of the board, I was saddened to see Brian go. ABR had been very important to him, and its success and survival, in both cultural and economic terms, had been an overriding concern. Brian was a demanding, at times overbearing, at times charming, but always inspiring and exciting chairman.

Brian is always interested in what people think, and in them. One of his great talents is that he inspires people to articulate and implement their ideas. With ABR his overriding ambition has been to establish it as a journal of influence in promoting Australian writing, that was successful on all fronts; and with the help of some wonderful editors – John McLaren, John Hanrahan and, most recently, Kerryn Goldsworthy – that has been achieved.

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These writer’s scribblings, handsomely reproduced, cover two distinct periods in Murray Bail’s life: London from 1970 to 1974; and Sydney from 1988 to 2003. The notebooks from the London period, which represent roughly two-thirds of this book, were previously published as Longhand: A Writer’s Notebook (1989). While readers may find some interest in comparing the formative and the mature writer, the older Bail’s reflections on ageing and death represent the most consistently penetrating writing in Notebooks.

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This year I have read too many American political quickies, and large numbers of somewhat more satisfying detective stories. Amid the revelations about Hillary Clinton’s childhood, and the equally fictitious accounts of intrigue in Istanbul and Venice, a couple of books stand out. Andrew Wilson’s The Lying Tongue (Text) and Stephen Eldred-Grigg’s Shanghai Boy (Vintage) are ‘gay books’ that speak to themes other than sexuality, and deserve to be better known. Although ultimately too improbable, Andrew McGahan’s Underground (Allen & Unwin) evokes rather well a left-wing dystopia, centred on a Howard-like government. As for nonfiction, Tony Judt’s Postwar: Europe since 1945 (Heinemann), while telling us more about Poland and less about Spain than we need know, is a fascinating reminder of the Cold War era, evoked for the other side of the Atlantic in Thomas Mallon’s novel Fellow Travellers (Pantheon).

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