Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Michael Shmith

What this is not, as Kim Williams is quick to tell us (introduction, paragraph two), is a dog-bites-Murdoch account of that nasty business in August 2013 that saw Williams summarily ousted as chief executive of News Corp Australia. Other disgruntled former Ruprechtian courtiers such as former editor-in-chief of The Herald Sun Bruce Guthrie, who sought and won legal redress and indeed wrote an account of his experiences (actually called Man Bites Murdoch), have told their stories, and told them well. But this is not the path of the enigmatic and enlightened Kim. Instead, as he says, this is a book about ‘one of the most precious things in life that drives most of us … our passions’.

... (read more)

I was a part-time pilgrim on John Eliot Gardiner’s extraordinary year-long journey, from Christmas 1999 to New Year’s Eve 2000, when he took Johann Sebastian Bach on the road. Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, with his fifteen-member Monteverdi Choir and the twenty instrumentalists of the English Baroque Soloists, performed in Britain, Europe, and the United States all of JSB’s 198 surviving sacred cantatas on the liturgically appropriate days for which they were composed.

... (read more)

It is fitting to compare the longevity of the Queen Mother’s life with a magnificent hand-woven carpet running along a length of parquet down a torch-lit ancestral hallway: she was the embodiment of the twentieth century precisely because her life more or less spanned it. She was born on 4 August 1900 and (allowing for a bit of overhang into this century) died on Easter Saturday, 30 March 2002.

... (read more)

In May 1981, I joined The Age, where, more or less, I have stayed put. On my first night one of the news subeditors said, ‘Let’s have a drink’. Whereupon he led me away from the news desk, along the scrofulous green carpet, past the ramshackle assortment of desks and typewriters, and straight into the men’s room. Fleet Street used to have a bar, behind St Bride’s Church, called the City Golf Club, which was neither sporting nor exclusive in any way. But The Age went one better, with a late-night hostelry on the third floor of its ugly Spencer Street building that served as a drinking hole because the others were all closed by that hour.

... (read more)

In the mid twentieth century, American television was dominated by two talking horses called Mr Ed. The first, the equine hero of a sitcom also called Mr Ed (catchier than his real name, Bamboo Harvester), twisted his mouth more or less in sync with a dubbed basso profondo voice. He had lots to say, mostly preceded by an often disdainful reference to his hapless owner, Wilbur, the only person Mr Ed talked to, whose name came out as ‘Will-BURRRRRRR!’. This mildly popular series ran for six seasons.

... (read more)

My memory of John Hopkins – in fact, the memories of most of my generation of Australian music-lovers – goes back to the Proms he conducted in Sydney and then Melbourne from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. Hopkins was, to young audiences of the day, an anti-establishment musician who dared to strip the furniture from the stalls and, in the process, also strip away what he calls the ‘dynamic conservatism’ of the then Australian Broadcasting Commission. ‘Hoppy’, as he was known, was a hero – the Sir Henry Wood of the Great Southern Land. He was, after all, English, with a broad Yorkshire accent.

... (read more)

On page sixty-two of Ann Blainey’s thoroughly researched, excellently written and beguilingly human biography of Nellie Melba there occurs a transition that is simple but that defines, in an instant, the moment the singer went from learner to legend. It happens when the young singer, under the wing of Madame Marchesi (née Mathilda Graumann; nickname ‘the Prussian drill-master’), is ready to make her public European début and requires a new surname. ‘Armstrong’ had to go; in its place, there had to be something ‘distinctive and memorable’:

... (read more)

In the myths that inspired Wagner to write Der Ring des Nibelungen, the World Ash-Tree (Die WeltEsche) is the symbol of Wotan’s power and enlightenment and eventual downfall. As a young god, he cut a branch off the tree to fashion into his spear. In The Ring, it is not until the Prologue to Götterdämmerung, as the three Norns are weaving their rope of fate, that we are told the World Ash-Tree is withering and dying, as the gods themselves will do by the end of this long evening. As with most of the objects in The Ring, symbolism is never too far away. The tree: the spear: the twilight of the gods. On Wotan’s orders, the branches of the tree (as the Norns tell us, and as Waltraute is soon to tell her sister Brünnhilde) are split and piled around Valhalla, where the gods sit, waiting for their fiery end.

... (read more)

Dennis Altman

In any given year we will read but a tiny handful of potential ‘best books’, so this is no more than a personal selection. Here are two novels that stand out: Stephen Eldred-Grigg’s Shanghai Boy (Vintage) and Hari Kunzru’s Tranmission (Penguin). Both speak of the confusion of identity and emotions caused by rapid displacement across the world. The first is the account of a middle-aged New Zealand teacher who falls disastrously in love while teaching in Shanghai. Transmission takes a naïve young Indian computer programmer to the United States, with remarkable consequences. From a number of political books, let me select two, both from my own publisher, Scribe, which offers, I regret, no kickbacks. One is George Megalogenis’s The Longest Decade; the other, James Carroll’s House of War. Together they provide a depressing but challenging backdrop to understanding the current impasse of the Bush–Howard administrations in Iraq.

... (read more)

ABR readers may be more familiar with Louis Kahan’s illustrations for Clem Christesen’s Meanjin or with his portrait of Patrick White (which won the Archibald Prize in 1965) than with his sketches of musicians, but this stylish book from Macmillan Art Publishing reveals not just the fluidity of Kahan’s style but also his passion for music and music-makers. And what a range of artists he could draw on (mostly at rehearsals) during the second half of his life. Present-day concert-goers, inured to leaner rostrums resulting from high fees and a faded currency, will marvel at the list of luminaries who performed here during the three decades after the war. There is Claudio Arrau (1947), grave and poetic; Otto Klemperer (1950), Olympian, bespectacled; a young Lorin Maazel (1961), gaunt and driven like a Schiele self-portrait; Luciano Pavarotti (1965) before the years of glory and girth; and Marian Anderson (1971), mighty in her sensible hat.

... (read more)
Page 4 of 5