The English critic Terry Eagleton is nothing if not a dasher. Once suspected by many as the kind of postmodern theorist who undermined the category of ‘literature’, he has increasingly hiked into its territory. In The Illusions of Postmodernism (1996), he turned against the kinds of scepticism and virtuality which he saw as demeaning all literary or cultural study. The book certainly made some of his former allies quite cross, not least because it was penned with such rhetorical high spirits. His Marxist foundations, sturdily nourished in a Salford boyhood, remained, however, and were built upon. Yet they are sometimes twinned with residues of Catholic belief, as his recent attack on the atheism of Richard Dawkins has shown, full as it is of residual theology. He can certainly be an odd kettle of fish. In How to Read a Poem, Eagleton takes a broad brush. He remains at home with the traditional texts, the kinds of poems we have long deemed important.
The United Nations’ eighth secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, has just taken over what has been called the world’s worst job. But it is one that attracts fierce, devious and polite competition. Why would anyone seek, for less than $400,000 a year, to be the chief administrative officer of a non-government that cannot govern, a non-corporation that cannot borrow or invest? The UN’s total budget is about the same as the New York City school system, and the secretary-general has to beg 192 national stakeholders for funds even to carry out what they instruct him to do. Who would want to be answerable, as well, to a fifteen-member board, five of whose members use their permanency to frustrate others and advance their own interests, rather than those of the organisation?
Switched On showcases the careers of twenty-nine ‘influential’ women who work in the media. Catherine Hanger, interviewer and former editor of Vogue Australia, believes that Switched On ‘connects two major spheres of influence in our society – the media and the women who work in it’ – and argues that the influence of these women is ‘very powerful indeed’. While the title promises ‘conversations’, Hanger, strangely, omits her questions. Perhaps she asked just one: ‘How did you become editor of Australian Women’s Weekly/an SBS news presenter/a film reviewer/a PR adviser to PBL/host of Media Watch?’
Australians have a reputation as avid travellers. Prompted by our isolation, our international ancestry or basic curiosity, we roam far and wide, often for years. One million Australians currently reside overseas. Away Game examines an expanding niche within this group; those antipodeans living Stateside at the respective helms of such corporate giants as Ford Motors, IBM, Dow Chemicals and, until recently, even the all-American bad boys of the food industry, Coca-Cola and McDonalds.