Dennis Altman

Dennis Altman recently published a slice of autobiography, Unrequited Love: Diary of an accidental activist, addressing ‘his long obsession with the United States’. Now, as if to remind us that his training has been in political science, Altman presents us with this lively survey of monarchies old and new, constitutional and absolute, European and Asian. It has its origins in the Economist democracy index, according to which seven of the ten most democratic nations were constitutional monarchies. The list is dominated by the Scandinavian kingdoms, with Norway at the top, and former dominions of the British Empire, with Australia just scraping into the list at equal ninth with the Netherlands. As a committed republican, Altman was set thinking by this apparent alliance of monarchy and democracy.

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The Boys in the Band 

Netflix
by
12 October 2020

It is hard today to recall the full extent of the furore that surrounded the first productions of Mart Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band. First produced off Broadway in April 1968, a year before the riots at the Stonewall Inn that sparked a new militant gay politics, it quickly became a hit, and was staged in Sydney later that year, where it ran for seven months.

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In 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed that ‘gay rights are human rights’. This statement, which would seem uncontroversial to most readers of ABR, was widely attacked as a symbol of Western neo-colonialism. Combined with the 2015 US Supreme Court recognition of same-sex marriage, gay rights were seen by many religious and political leaders as a threat to tradition, culture, and religion, even when, as in many parts of Africa and the Pacific, laws proscribing homosexual behaviour are the legacy of nineteenth-century colonialism.

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ABR asked a few colleagues and contributors to nominate some books that have beguiled them – might even speak to others – at this unusual time.

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The fortieth anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras might have been an occasion for unbridled elation. Held in March of 2018, the celebration came soon after the bitterly fought battle to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia. Dennis Altman, a pre-eminent figure in Gay Liberation, paints a different picture of the Mardi Gras. His new book, Unrequited Love: Diary of an accidental activist, conveys a sense of unease despite the frolicsome charms of such festivities.

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If there was any doubt about the need for intelligent writing on sex, international relations, and that current political catch-phrase – globalisation – look no further than last month’s United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS. Convened by the Secretary-General, the session ground to a halt as Syria, Egypt, and Malaysia ...

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In retrospect, the Morrison government’s win in May 2019 is not surprising. After the shift to the right in a number of liberal democracies since the election of Donald Trump, why did we assume that Australia would be immune? The assumption that Labor was certain to win resembled the attitude of most commentators towards Hillary Clinton ...

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To celebrate the best books of 2018, Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser

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Boy Erased ★★★★

by
07 November 2018

We all love redemption movies. The twist in Boy Erased is that redemption comes by escaping religion rather than discovering it. Garrard Conley is a nineteen-year-old college student who grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist family in Arkansas. When his parents discover his homosexuality ...

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The basic thesis of this book is that the gay movement has settled for accommodation rather than radical change, ignoring the ways in which larger social and economic inequalities impact on large numbers of homosexual and transsexual people, especially those who are not ...

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