David Marr

Panic, David Marr has stated since the publication of this book, is what he writes about: why people panic, what they panic about, and how they express it. Clearly, with his investigative skills and his access to different worlds, Marr was the idea ...

There was excitement. David Marr, newly appointed editor of the National Times at just thirty-three, had agreed to speak with politics students on campus. Volunteers were dispatched to buy the obligatory felafel and cheese, plastic cups, and cask wine, and at 3 pm the famous journalist arrived to address ...

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David Marr’s interlocking identities as consummate essayist, journalist of forty-five years, ferocious biographer, and staunch cosmopolitan increasingly eclipse his subject. He wears the condition honestly and inelegantly. ‘I’m a grumpy old guy who hasn’t found in twenty years another big life worth writing’, he remarked in his ...

By the time I found him twenty-five years ago in the Adelaide Hills, Glen McBride was old, tiny, spry, and ready to boast about his career. I doubt many readers have heard of this little man or know of his pivotal role in the literature of this country. That’s what had me knocking at his door. And though he disowned none of it in the hours we spent ranging over hi ...

Panic: David Marr by Black Inc., $29.95 pb, 262 pp, 9781863955515

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February 2012, no. 338

David Marr is not on the list of Australian living treasures, but perhaps he should be. Among our best journalists, he stands out as someone who has consistently challenged the powerful, at his best with forensic skill and deep research. Like other journalist–authors such as Anne Summers and George Megalogenis ...

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The political assassination of Kevin Rudd will fascinate for a long time to come. As with Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s play it was done, as Lady Macbeth cautioned, under ‘the blanket of the dark’, literally the night of 23–24 June 2010. The assassins heeded Macbeth’s advice: ‘if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.’ And as in Macbeth, the assassins were in the shadow of the throne. Even the old king approved: Bob Hawke, himself deposed in 1991, recognised at last that the removal of a Labor prime minister is sometimes necessary.

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The Best American Essays 2008 edited by Adam Gopnik & The Best Australian Essays 2008 edited by David Marr

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February 2009, no. 308

In 1977, in three consecutive issues, the New Yorker published Hannah Arendt’s ‘Thinking’. Each part was called an ‘article’, a strangely modest, journalistic word in the face of the length of each part of the essay and the profound subject. Thirty-two years ago, the magazine showed curmudgeonly modesty: writers were named in small print at the foot of each ‘piece’, there was never, god forbid, a sub-editor’s catch-all under the title, no short biographies of the writers were printed, and there were never, ever, visual illustrations or photographs to accompany the text. The issue in which the first of Arendt’s ‘articles’ appeared included poetry by Mark Strand; the long book review was by George Steiner; Pauline Kael was the film reviewer; there were four Saul Steinberg drawings; and Andrew Porter reported on classical music. The list of names we revere could go on.

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The continued success and quality of the Quarterly Essay series has done much to promote the long essay as a legitimate forum for detailed, informed and accessible political discussion. That this has occurred during the Howard era suggests that all is not lost in the quest for genuine public debate. In the latest Quarterly Essay, David Marr acknowledges that, ‘[s]uppression is not systematic. There are no gulags for dissidents under Howard.’ Nevertheless, His Master’s Voice is born of, and fuelled by, exasperation. Marr makes little effort to mask his personal enmity towards John Howard. And his disgust at the manner in which the federal Coalition has governed for more than a decade is palpable: ‘Since 1996, Howard has cowed his critics, muffled the press, intimidated the ABC, gagged scientists, silenced non-government organisations, neutered Canberra’s mandarins, curtailed parliamentary scrutiny, censored the arts, banned books, criminalised protest and prosecuted whistleblowers.’

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I can’t let you have my ‘papers’ because I don’t keep any. My mss are destroyed as soon as the books are printed. I put very little into notebooks, don’t keep my friends’ letters … and anything unfinished when I die is to be burnt. The final versions of my books are what I want people to see …

       (Patrick White, reply to Dr George Chandler, Director General, 9 April 1977, National Library of Australia, MS 8469)

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The Justice Game by Geoffrey Roberston

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June 1998, no. 201

The memoirs of any barrister still in harness are, by definition, advertising. The mystery of The Justice Game is what on earth Geoffrey Robertson needs to sell. He is much too busy already. A queue of life’s victims wanting his help in court would stretch twice round the Temple. But drumming up business is not what the book is about. Its real purpose, I suspect, is to show that, despite a certain radical reputation, Robertson is a sound man.

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