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MUP

Publishers rarely become big news in Australia, university presses even less often. It was notable therefore that the departure in early 2019 of Melbourne University Publishing’s CEO, Louise Adler, and some members of the MUP board, became a matter on which so many of the nation’s political and cultural élite felt they needed to have an opinion. A strong coterie came out in her defence. This had much to do with Adler herself, who had courted their attention, published their books, and made MUP a story in its own right.

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In A Good Death, Rodney Syme outlines his case for the legalisation of euthanasia. Drawing on his experience working with seriously ill patients over several decades, Syme (a medical practitioner) advances the controversial argument that ‘physician-assisted death’ is a humane response to ‘intolerable and otherwise unrelievable suffering’.

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Howard’s Fourth Government by Chris Aulich and Roger Wettenhall (eds) & Inside Kevin 07 by Christine Jackman

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September 2008, no. 304

The Australian ritual of a federal election campaign every two or three years is one in which voters are invited to participate in hyperbole. Reality is magnified a thousand times as the actors perform a finely choreographed political quadrille while their every word and gesture are scrutinised for meaning and analysed for nuance. Yet for all the expensive and lavish hoopla that now constitutes an election campaign, Australians are a reluctant people when it comes to getting rid of governments, however short they fall in expectations. On only eleven occasions in the 107 years of federation have they opted for change.

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What can explain the growing assertiveness of Islamist groups? Why are key aspects of the Islamic faith and civilisation that helped Islam flourish in its Golden Age – respect for life and property, philanthropy, tolerance and a thirst for science – being sidelined in the Muslim world? How can we explain the seemingly unstoppable slide from rational thinking in the Muslim world?

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Jana Wendt has conducted her share of difficult and confronting interviews with public figures during her television career, but rather than rehashing old encounters for this book, she spoke afresh to thirteen people, naming each interview after a principle the subject nominated, or one that ‘seemed to me to most obviously propel the thinking and attitudes of the person in question’.

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In the years between the two world wars, the young Soviet Union was, for socialist intellectuals and many liberals in the West, a social laboratory, one that held the promise of a new world order. Inspired by the transforming power and promise of the October Revolution of 1917, some were drawn to admiration of the great Socialist Experiment ‘in a land where revolutionaries were trying to create a socialist society based on the principles of central economic planning’.

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The Porn Report by Alan McKee, Katherine Albury and Catharine Lumby & Princesses and Pornstars by Emily Maguire

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June 2008, no. 302

Pornification, The Porn Report and Princesses and Pornstars are three recent entries into the burgeoning academic field known as ‘porn studies’. All three books aim to move beyond the simplistic ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments that have traditionally surrounded pornography. Instead, each text explores the challenges and complexities of living in a world where sexually explicit material is more prevalent than ever before.

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Britishness Abroad: Transnational Movements and Imperial Cultures edited by Kate Darian-Smith, Patricia Grimshaw and Stuart Macintyre

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June 2008, no. 302

In her contribution to Britishness Abroad, ‘Colonial Enclaves and Domestic Spaces in British New Guinea’, Anne Dickson-Waiko writes that ‘the experiences of the colonised Other in relation to empire and colonisation needs [sic] urgent investigation, so that the colonised other can … move on to the post-colonial’. She shows a touching belief in the usefulness of research in the humanities: I envy her confidence that her efforts will have such a beneficial effect on the world beyond the academy.

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On the front of the only postcard my grandfather kept is a picture of the United States Navy’s ‘great white fleet’ off Australian shores. A Pennsylvanian uncle sent it to the nine-year-old boy in 1908, ‘from one white man to another’. After reading Marilyn Lake’s and Henry Reynolds’s important new book on the transnational assertion of white racial identity in the early twentieth century, I now know that our American relative was merely echoing Rear-Admiral Sperry, who, at a luncheon in Sydney the same year, greeted his Australian hosts as a ‘white man to white men, and I may add, very white men’.

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In The Best Australian Political Writing 2008, the ABC’s Tony Jones, a latish replacement as editor for the Canberra-bound Maxine McKew, has assembled forty-two pieces of non-fiction first published in 2007. The result is a mixed bag of genres, including columns, investigative journalism, polemic, book extracts and essays (but, alas, no fiction). The subject matter includes the November federal election, indigenous affairs, the environment, the ‘war on terror’, Australian values, and the artlessly named ‘culture wars’. The package sounds enticing, but while there’s plenty of insightful and relevant commentary – and some sublime prose – there’s also sometimes an ephemeral limpness, and an earnestness, to the anthology.

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