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Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson is a Melbourne-based writer whose first contribution to ABR appeared in 2001.

Simon Caterson reviews 'Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the war over cultural anthropology' by Peter Hempenstall

April 2018, no. 400 26 March 2018
‘It is hard to reach the truth of these islands,’ observed Robert Louis Stevenson of Samoa in a letter written to a close friend in 1892, two years after the author had moved to an estate on Upolu. Stevenson, who died in 1894, could never have anticipated the prophetic dimension added to those words. Less than a century later, in the 1980s, the Western understanding of Samoan society would bec ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'A Legacy of Spies' by John le Carré

October 2017, no. 395 28 September 2017
Sherlock Holmes, fairly early on in his career, survived an attempt by Arthur Conan Doyle to kill off the character in ‘The Adventure of the Final Problem’. Although Conan Doyle had wanted to dispense with Holmes and write about something else, he bowed to the pressure to continue the great detective’s adventures that came from the many readers who refused to accept that Holmes had died in t ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Code Breakers: Inside the shadow world of signals intelligence in Australia’s two Bletchley Parks' by Craig Collie

June-July 2017, no. 392 29 May 2017
In architectural terms, if no other, the Australian counterpart to the famous World War II code breaking centre at Bletchley Park initially could not have been more different. While Alan Turing and his celebrated colleagues cracked the German Enigma code at a secluded mansion in the English countryside, Australia’s code breakers began working out of a nondescript apartment block situated on a bu ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder' by Carol Baxter

May 2017, no. 391 30 April 2017
Among the glittering generation of pioneering aviators and aviatrixes of the 1920s and 1930s, Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller stands out as remarkably adventurous. Carol Baxter’s highly readable biography provides an engaging portrait of a young suburban housewife who decided, quite literally, to make her own way in the world. As Baxter acknowledges, for a biographer it is a tremendous story that ju ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing' by Ashleigh Wilson

September 2016, no. 384 22 August 2016
Notwithstanding the fact that he died alone in a hotel room following a heroin overdose at the age of fifty-three, Brett Whiteley led what for an Australian artist in particular may be characterised as a fortunate life. As Ashleigh Wilson relates in this excellent biography, Whiteley retained the capacity to astonish, despite his misadventures. A middle-class upbringing and education in Sydney an ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Book of the People: How to read the Bible' by A.N. Wilson

August 2016, no. 383 26 July 2016
According to A.N. Wilson, the Bible is badly misread by those fundamentalists, whether believers or atheists, who choose to read it in a literal-minded way rather than as the supreme work of the imagination. For Wilson, the Bible is an inexhaustible source of poetic and moral stimulus, not an instruction manual containing strictures of uncertain historical provenance that make no sense to modern m ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Waterfront: Graft, Corruption and Violence: Australia's crime frontier from 1788 to now' by Duncan McNab

May 2016, no. 381 27 April 2016
The Australian way of life has been much influenced by the proximity of most of the population to the coast. While we often think of the sunny side of that existence in terms of the beach, certain shadier aspects of the Australian experience have been shaped at the docks. 'Australia's major ports have been the birthplace of the nation, home to the tight-knit communities that were pivotal in the b ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Journey to Horseshoe Bend' by T.G.H. Strehlow

January-February 2016, no. 378 22 December 2015
First published in 1969 and out of print for nearly forty years, Journey to Horsehoe Bend is a literary classic that envisions an Australian epic on a grand scale. That epical potential was recognised by composer Andrew Schultz and librettist Gordon Kalton Williams, whose cantata adapted from the book had its world première in 2004. Journey recounts the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful atte ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Australian Catholic Lives' by Edmund Campion

June-July 2015, no. 372 29 May 2015
‘Most history is simply lost.’ By means of a regular biographical column in the Jesuit magazine Madonna published over the past twenty-five years, Father Edmund Campion has preserved pieces of Australian personal history that might otherwise have been neglected, if not forgotten altogether. In this, the author’s second collection of biographical sketches (following Great Australian Catholics ... (read more)
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