Archive

‘Even when there’s simultaneity,’ as one of Michael Wilding’s characters says, there’s still linearity that needs to be found, and linearity is difficult to find in this group of books. So, it is better, as Wilding’s book also suggests, to let the books perform and then see the pattern they make. Pacific Highway, in fact, is a kind of haiku novel, which coheres into a single expressive emblem, the emblem of the dance its narrator offers us at the end.

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Gerard Henderson takes as the subject of this important book the relations between the bishops of the Catholic Church and its lay organisation, the Catholic Social Studies Movement during the period from 1940 to the 1960s. The study is particularly welcome as neither Church nor Movement were given to public self-exposure. Henderson, by using the files of the National Civic Council and the minutes of relevant episcopal committees, has given us an insight into the conflicts within the church over its role in political activity in this period

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The decisive influence on Australian politics and culture has been the fact that our society has always included a large minority who, even if they considered themselves British, were definitely Irish and not English. The fact that this minority has been Catholic and, as a result, has felt itself discriminated against, has shaped the church into an Irish rather than a European mode, so that, as Campion points out, not only was to be Irish to be Catholic, but to be Catholic was to be Irish.

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Primitive accumulation was a brutal process often performed by gentlemen. Not all pastoralists were brutes – unless they had to be. Not all Aboriginals were murdered – unless they had to be. Facades of normality were hurriedly erected to confound Karl Marx. For a moment the Australian pastoralists could build oases of sophistication on the Australian landscape. For a generation or so they managed to impose a uniquely Australian gentility around the waterholes and rivers. That the phenomenon was a passing one is symbolised by the life and death of James Bourke in the Riverina. A secondary pioneer, he died at the age of twenty-four. His brother Thomas, ‘a fine athletic man’ died of the booze aged twenty-six. The body of his step-uncle, James Peter, was found in the river a few days later: he had been in ‘a severe fit of the horrors’. All sorts of disasters of a man-made kind – from fatal flaws to death duties – combined with the elements to wash away the billabong dynasties.

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Test-Tube Babies edited by William Walters and Peter Singer

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September 1982, no. 44

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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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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A grizzled, greying migrant, who was holidaying in Sicily after twenty years in Australia, attended a civic reception for participants in a seminar on Australian literature held in Piazza Armerina last January. His wife and three children were in Moonee Ponds. He was obviously pleased to speak with the Australians present as if they somehow confirmed his experience in a far-off land.

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One heady day in the mid I920s, sculptor and Lindsayite recruit Guy Lynch (brother of the elegaic subject of Slessor’s ‘Five Bells’), held forth in a pub at Circular Quay on his plan for Sydney to become an Hellenic city. The Quay itself he saw as a magnificent ampitheatre for the incarnation of the Lindsay group’s Nietzschean dream of Dionysian joy, as revealed in the vital art affirmed as the salvation from the twin vices of bourgeois philistinism and modernistic decadence, the canon that ran from Shakespeare, Rubens and Beethoven, to Norman Lindsay and Hugh McCrae. He-men would lean against pillars, girls would stroll about, and grand opera would be played amongst forests of statues.

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Albert Tucker by James Mollison and Nicholas Bonham

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August 1982, no. 43

Macmillan’s Albert Tucker is a pioneering venture. It is not just another well-arranged, well-printed collection of paintings by a notable painter, it is an endeavour to present the whole conspectus of a painter’s work and mind.

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Room for Manoeuvre: Writings on history, politics, ideas and play edited by Leonie Sandercock and Stephen Murray-Smith

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August 1982, no. 43

A joke told annually and publicly for fourteen years closes this collection of Ian Turner’s work. From 1965 to 1978, Turner delivered the Ron Barassi Memorial Lecture and so created the site of an imagined overlap between the more formal rituals of the intellectual culture and the rowdy world of spectatordom, the VFL, the most visible and familiar self-presentation of the popular. He fabricated this site for speaking ‘our’ culture by romping around it in careful pastiche.

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