Michael McGirr

Michael McGirr

Michael McGirr is the Dean of Faith at St Kevin’s College in Melbourne, a school that was started by the Christian Brothers. His most recent book is Books That Saved My Life (Text, 2018).

Michael McGirr reviews 'Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne' by Robyn Annear

May 1995, no. 170 01 May 1995
Michael McGirr reviews 'Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne' by Robyn Annear
Some time ago, I was curious about steam cars and found an advertisement, dating from the 1920s, for the sole Victorian distributor of the Stanley Steamer. The address was Flinders Lane, the street in Melbourne which exudes more personality than most of the others combined. I discovered that the building in question had been turned into a printshop. But its origins as a motor garage were obvious. ... (read more)

'Letter from Gunning' by Michael McGirr

April 2001, no. 229 01 April 2001
Few people come to Gunning, NSW, population 530, for something to read. Before 1993, people came because they couldn’t avoid it. The Hume Highway used to bring 3000 semitrailers a day along the main street. ‘At least you got to read the bumper stickers,’ one resident said when I moved here’. Because it was sure as hell impossible to talk.’ The local real estate agent tells me that, when ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'This Is For You' by Michael Wilding

October 1994, no. 165 01 October 1994
Michael McGirr reviews 'This Is For You' by Michael Wilding
These twenty-one stories have a pedigree; according to the customary list of acknowledgments, they have had a previous life littered across no fewer than twenty-six books, magazines, and journals, some of whose names are unfamiliar even to my local newsagent. I’m not sure these days if places of publication should properly be called ‘sites’, ‘topoi’, or ‘venues’. Such is the prevalen ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Well at the World’s End' by A.J. Mackinnon

September 2010, no. 324 01 September 2010
Michael McGirr reviews 'The Well at the World’s End' by A.J. Mackinnon
The pretext of this book is as simple as it is delightful. In 1982, at the ripe old age of nineteen, Sandy Mackinnon found himself on the windswept island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. Iona is one of those places, familiar in the world of spiritual tourism, that is layered in irony. In ancient times it became home to a community of monks, most notably St Columba, for the simple reason t ... (read more)

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

June–July 2019, no. 412 23 May 2019
Michael McGirr reviews 'King of the Air: The turbulent life of Charles Kingsford Smith' by Ann Blainey
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 just thirty-eight but felt ancient. Hopeful rescuers came from far and wide, but their efforts were not rewarded. Ann Blainey remarks wryly that one day the Andaman Sea may ‘give up its secret’, but, until then, ... (read more)

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

March 2019, no. 409 22 February 2019
Michael McGirr reviews 'A New History of the Irish in Australia' by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall
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 an account of the Irish in Australia subtly modulated and insistent on evidence. It is suspicious of the lore and yarns that have sometimes been made to take their place. Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall make c ... (read more)

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

April 2017, no. 390 28 March 2017
Michael McGirr reviews 'The Tempest-Tossed Church: Being a Catholic today' by Gerard Windsor
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 response of church officialdom as ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'Press Escape' by Shaun Carney

December 2016, no. 387 23 November 2016
Michael McGirr reviews 'Press Escape' by Shaun Carney
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 origins. Frankston and Carrum Dow ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'The Fighter' by Arnold Zable

June–July 2016, no. 382 23 May 2016
Michael McGirr reviews 'The Fighter' by Arnold Zable
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, Jewels and Ashes (1991), Zable has embraced profound stories of struggling people with honesty and wisdom. Zable has been a servant of those stories, never trying to smother them with his own voice or bury them under fancy theori ... (read more)

Michael McGirr reviews 'Waiting' by Philip Salom

April 2016, no. 380 24 March 2016
Michael McGirr reviews 'Waiting' by Philip Salom
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; the universe / steals in when the zipper ... (read more)
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