Archive

It is a common assumption that nothing much happens in small country towns; that they are insular places where people live their entire lives, unchallenged by the outside world. But I never found the towns I lived in to be stagnant: conservative and sometimes small-minded, yes, but never uniformly dull. Individuals and families come and go; people run away or arrive, seeking refuge; people return after years of absence to settle down again.

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The paths of James Macarthur and Philip Gidley King crossed in 1801 when Macarthur was a very small boy. King, then governor of New South Wales, sent Macarthur’s father, John, to England for trial for illicit duelling, fearing that Macarthur Senior had too many allies in the colony to secure a conviction there. Young James Macarthur was six by the time his father returned, far from the chastened man King had hoped. In fact, he brought with him instructions that he was to be granted additional land, making his holdings the most substantial in the colony. It was not exactly the victory that King had envisaged (or that his biographers seem to think he won.)

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Mary Lord reviews 'Across the Sea Wall' by C.J. Koch

Mary Lord
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

This is not a reissue of a novel almost twenty years old, nor is it quite a new novel: it is a heavily revised version of an early work by the author of the prize-winning novel Year of Living Dangerously. Across the Sea Wall was written before C.J. Koch was thirty. In a prefatory note to the new version he writes: ‘If such novels of youth are worth republishing, they are worth revising ... The cuts and alterations are not fundamental, but they are extensive.’ He concludes with the hope ‘that the earlier version of this work will be consigned to oblivion, and that anyone referring to the book, or quoting from it, will go to no other version but this one’.

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The Monash University team at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Melbourne has achieved great success in its endeavours to relieve infertility by the production of ‘test-tube babies’. This collection explains what goes on, discusses moral and legal problems relating to the programme, and gives a preview of what might lie ahead. The contributors include members of the medical team, their clients, and moral philosophers and theologians.

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Warren Osmond reviews 'John Monash' by Geoffrey Serle

Warren Osmond
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Poor John Monash has waited a long time. Before he died in 1931, he clearly hoped for a friendly posthumous biography. He destroyed his collection of erotica and some extramarital love letters. This was characteristically called ‘Emergency Action’. Less characteristically, he instructed his son-in-law and executor, Gershon Bennett, not to ‘preserve indefinitely’ the enormous collection of letters, diaries, cuttings, etc.

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According to the back cover: ‘This book explores the way common conversation matters … that during the last two hundred years we have been beguiled by reading and writing. Only during the last part of the twentieth century have we begun to remember the importance of speech as a source of truth in human affairs.’ It could also be noted that the seven essays collected here began as lectures, seminars or articles on such themes as the role of the monarchy in modern Australia (Prince Charles is judged a better speechmaker than his mum, therefore we have hope), the republican movement, the significance of Manning Clark and Henry Reynolds as influential Australian historians, the early nineteenth-century views of Edward Smith Hall and James Macarthur on the rights of Aboriginal people, and Raffaello Carboni’s account of the Eureka Stockade.

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Bill Gammage reviews 'Lords of Death' by Suzanne Welborn

Bill Gammage
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

This book is concerned essentially with the impact of the environment upon Europeans in Australia. It sets out to test C.E.W. Bean’s thesis that during the Great War the most effective Australian soldiers came from the bush. It does this in relation to men from Western Australia, arguing that the West was one of the most predominantly bush areas of Australia, and therefore that there, if anywhere, the influence of the bush should show up in the achievements of soldiers.

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Although the World Wide Web was begun in 1990, it didn’t really get going in a big way until 1994, with the First International World Wide Web conference held at CERN in Switzerland. That was less than a decade ago. And that should give us pause. Think how important the Web has become in those few years. Consider, too, what sort of computer you were using in 1994 and compare it to what you deploy now (assuming you’re not a holdout). No pause there. It’s been an ongoing vertical projection that is no doubt just the beginning of an enormous change that will affect almost every aspect of our lives. Of course, we’ve heard this technological refrain over and over (with various apocalyptic shadings), and we probably believe it to be true. Still, we’re not likely to get excited about it. We’ll deal with it when it comes. In many instances, it’s already here, but we haven’t fully noticed. In part we’ve simply accustomed ourselves to some of the demands of a ubiquitous silicon-based technology, and in part we’ve remained unaware of what’s headed our way in the form of a techno-savvy younger generation. We seldom see into the future because we usually look in the wrong direction: the future’s not ahead, it’s behind us, and it’s coming up fast.

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Unlike its parent, the Concise Macquarie has a regular commercial publisher, and we might suppose that it is a sensible commercial proposition. We might wonder if the reduction from the 77,000 headwords of the bigger dictionary to the over 41000 of this is worth saving the $12 difference in price: but nobody who read my review of the parent Macquarie is likely long to ponder this when he or she remembers that Collins cost’s $19.95.

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Anthony Lynch reviews 'To Sculpt the Moment'

Anthony Lynch
Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Despite the deadly title, this anthology of twenty-eight poems from the 2008 Newcastle Poetry Prize is replete with gems. Assembled from 423 entries by judges Jan Owen, Philip Salom, and Richard Tipping – effectively the anthology’s editors – it is a brilliant sampler that few anthologies can match for the legroom offered to the longer poem and poetry sequence.

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