Meanjin, Vol. 69, No. 1
Melbourne University Publishing, $24.99 pb, 240 pp
There is something to offend everyone in the latest issue of Meanjin. Several contributors boldly tackle religious questions – always plenty of kindling for the fire there. Jeff Sparrow takes on the so-called ‘New Atheists’, in the process throwing a few Marxist haymakers at Bush, Rudd and ‘the Israeli apartheid state’. The ‘religious undergirding’ of secular thought is considered by the Sydney academic John Potts, who finds that greenies, old-style lefties and post-structuralists are much closer to Messianic Christianity than they might think (along the way, he is snide about vegetarians, too). Elsewhere, Paul Mitchell contrasts the spiritual impulses at work in contemporary Australian fiction, though some of his assumptions are bound to get nonbelievers offside.
This polemical edge is arguably one of Meanjin’s strengths. There is scarcely a dull moment in the stylish pages of the current issue, where the subjects range from adoption policy to being nursed by the Dalai Lama. Of particular delight is the ‘Newsreel’ section, a gallimaufry of cultural titbits cooked up by various hands; in the present number, this includes observations on the Helvetica typeface, the history of dust jackets and Sartre’s use of mescaline.
Meanjin turns seventy this year. The latest issue continues the journal’s long tradition of publishing our finest poets, with new work by Peter Boyle, Geoff Page and Anthony Lawrence. As usual, there is plenty of fiction, including a graphic story by Bruce Mutard – graphic as in illustrated, not as in sexually explicit (though at one point a few naked humanoids can be seen in a museum display). Especially memorable is Fiona McGregor’s dissection of an upper-class dinner party, where the talk is of Sydney property prices and boob jobs. With writing as vibrant as this, there seems little chance of Meanjin being pensioned off any time soon.