Archive

Few who saw them will forget the grainy newspaper images of Australian drug traffickers Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers. Despite high-level diplomatic pleas from the Australian government, they were hanged at Pudu jail in Kuala Lumpur in July 1986 for possessing 180 grams of heroin. In the post-execution mêlée, their bodies were concealed by blankets, but one foot was casually left uncovered. The poignancy of those toes was heart-rending, their vulnerability encapsulating the brutal and ruthless efficiency of law in that region of South-East Asia.

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Ernest Gowers is remembered, if at all, for the writings on the English language which he undertook towards the end of his life. In 1948, at the request of the British Treasury, he wrote a small book called Plain Words. It was intended for the use of civil servants, not all of whom appreciated it, but it attracted a far wider audience, sold in huge numbers, and has never been out of print. An expanded version, entitled The Complete Plain Words, appeared in 1954. Subsequently, the Clarendon Press asked Gowers to produce a revised edition of H.W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1926). He laboured on the task for nine years, completing it at the age of eighty-five.

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Grimsdon by Deborah Abela & Quillblade: Voyages of the Flying Dragon, Book One by Ben Chandler

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October 2010, no. 325

Twelve-year-old Isabella and her best friend, Griffin, have been keeping themselves and three younger children alive in Grimsdon since a massive wave flooded the city three years ago

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On Evil by Terry Eagleton

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October 2010, no. 325

One of the more robust responses to what has come to be called the New Atheism has been that of the influential literary critic Terry Eagleton. He weighed into the argument early with an aggressive and widely cited critique of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (2006) in the London Review of Books, in which he charged Dawkins with theological ignorance. He extended his argument in a series of lectures, published as Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God debate (2009), which condemned the atheist movement for its allegiance to an outdated form of nineteenth-century positivism and for its optimistic belief in the virtues of progressive liberal humanism. His latest book, On Evil, is a kind of supplement to the debate, in which he attempts to drive home what he considers the naïveté of such a view.

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Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh & Gaza edited by Raimond Gaita

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October 2010, no. 325

It is a great pity that Efraim Karsh could not have read Raimond Gaita’s new collection of essays before completing his own. The essays might have prompted him to reflect that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not nearly as straightforward as he would have us believe.

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In or about that annus mirabilis 1968, Philip Roberts – academic, musician, poet and founder in 1970 of the poetry imprint Island Press – delivered a conference paper entitled ‘Physician Heal Thyself’, which considered eminent poets who had also been medical practitioners. (Roberts had gone from Canada to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar to study medicine, but in a Pauline moment switched to Arts.) He spoke of William Carlos Williams, Miroslav Holub, and Boris Pasternak, among others. The climax of his paper was his consideration of Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago, which he claimed had as its raison d’être nothing more or less than to serve as a vehicle for Zhivago’s poetry, which appears, if memory serves correctly, as an appendix. The tail well and truly wagged the tale.

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Starlight: 150 Poems by John Tranter & The Salt Companion to John Tranter edited by edited by Rod Mengham

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October 2010, no. 325

John Tranter has published more than twenty books since 1970. They include long dramatic monologues, a type of verse novel (The Floor of Heaven, 1992), prose poems and traditional verse forms. Starlight, his new collection, continues his ‘evisceration’, as he calls it, of other poets.

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As when the governess
Clutched to her bosom the damp head of Miles,
Who squirmed, unseeing, frantic for a hint,
Not able yet to guess
What she appeared to see in the haunted pane
Besides the backlit sky: the shape of Quint
Trying to find his way past her denial’s
Hard stare, not quite in vain.

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Madam Lash is a biography of Australia’s most famous dominatrix. Author Sam Everingham provides an engaging insight into the life of the woman who helped bring sadomasochism to mainstream attention in this country.

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Lifeboat Cities by Brendan Gleeson & Transport for Suburbia: by Paul Mees

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September 2010, no. 324

These two books share common assumptions about the nature of our cities and our collective future as homo urbanis. If we are to survive the impending disaster of climate change and build an environmentally durable and socially just future, then we must do so within our existing, sprawling suburban landscapes. Gleeson and Mees know and respect one another’s work – each quotes the other approvingly – but the two authors diverge sharply in tone and intention.

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