Michael McGirr

Michael McGirr reviews King of the Air: The turbulent life of Charles Kingsford Smith by Ann Blainey

Michael McGirr
23 May 2019

People spent a lot of time looking for the pioneering aviator Charles Kingsford Smith. When he disappeared for the final time in 1935 just south of Myanmar, then known as Burma, he was jus More

Michael McGirr reviews A New History of the Irish in Australia by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall

Michael McGirr
22 February 2019

There is much to admire about this detailed and painstaking book. The authors have entered a field that is replete with stereotypes and even gags. They will have none of it. The result is More

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Tempest-Tossed Church: Being a Catholic today' by Gerard Windsor

Michael McGirr
28 March 2017

This book came my way at the right moment. I read it in the week that the Royal Commission enumerated the fact that, so far, 4,444 individuals have brought cases of sexual abuse against Catholic institutions in Australia – a staggering number. I know of others who are still struggling to come forward and tell their story. The archbishop of Sydney described the res ... More

Michael McGirr reviews 'Press Escape' by Shaun Carney

Michael McGirr
23 November 2016

You can judge this memoir by its poignant cover. It shows a picture of the author taken in 1966 when he was eight or nine years old. Behind him is one of the accessories of the baby boomer period, a Volkswagen. The Beetle is parked near long grass, redolent of Melbourne’s outer suburban fringe, an area that features prominently in Shaun Carney’s account of his o ... More

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Fighter' by Arnold Zable

Michael McGirr
23 May 2016

Arnold Zable may be unafraid of pain, but he is no masochist. Masochism wants to control pain: Zable is much more of a liberator. Since the publication of his first book ...

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Michael McGirr reviews 'Waiting' by Philip Salom

Michael McGirr
24 March 2016

I first encountered the work of Philip Salom in the pages of The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991). Anthologies, of course, have their limitations, but they can be a great place to meet people. Salom's first poem in that book, 'Walking at Night', includes an image of the urban sky: 'Streetlights glow overhead / Like the teeth of a huge zipper; ... More

Michael McGirr reviews 'Santamaria' by Gerard Henderson

Michael McGirr
18 December 2015

In 1980, when I first came to Melbourne from Sydney, I found myself working among homeless people in the inner city. I was guided by a fantastic nun, one of those forthright people with a fearless sense of justice. She stood up to police and clergy alike. One day we had a long wait in the casualty department of St Vincent's Hospital with a gentleman from the streets ... More

Paul Vallely on Pope Francis

Michael McGirr
27 March 2014

I have never met a pope, but I have sometimes felt their shadow. In 1981, at the tender age of nineteen, I was a novice in the Jesuit order. We lived in a vast establishment in Sydney: the community included naïve youngsters such as myself, wily old retired Jesuits, as well as representatives of every age group in between. It was quite a fun place to live. One day, ... More

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Colonials'

Michael McGirr
19 January 2014

Brian Fitzpatrick – a notable historian, intellectual, and civil libertarian – was a prominent Melbourne figure in the middle of the twentieth century. He died in 1965 and survives partly as the central figure in Sheila Fitzpatrick’s poignant memoir My Father’s Daughter (2010), an affectionate and yet painfully honest book. It describes Fitzpatr ... More