Suzie Gibson

With his maiden voyage into fiction, Anthony Uhlmann, a professor of English at Western Sydney University, has produced an ambitious novel that dramatises the intertwining of time and memory ...

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J.M. Coetzee’s novel Disgrace (1999) dramatises a cynical middle-aged professor of literature reduced to teaching communication skills at a university whose great rationalisation has turned scholars into mere clerks. Richard Hil, in his Whackademia: An Insider’s Account of the Troubled University, does what Coetzee’s jaded character could never do: write a socially responsible book about the robotic processes of over-administration that academics have come to endure. Hil describes a ‘turgid rationalist’ and ‘capitalist market’ system that has transformed universities from being centres of teaching and research into nightmare factories of marketing and bureaucracy.

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What might pique the interest of even the most casual observer, consumer or critic of country music, popular culture or celebrity, or all three, is the title of Jeff Apter’s ‘unauthorised’ biography, Fortunate Son: The Unlikely Rise of Keith Urban. The commercially catchy title parallels and mimics the musical style of its famous subject, while also striking an odd, even humorous note in its backhanded recognition of ‘our Keith’s’ American success. That Apter also markets his biography as ‘unauthorised’ provides another selling point. Knowing that the book is not commissioned by Urban suggests that it may deliver an edgy ‘tell all’ account of Nicole Kidman’s husband. One might be forgiven for thinking that such a work will take risks, since it is under no obligation to provide a flattering portrayal of its subject. It doesn’t. In fact, its very lack of risk is clear even without undertaking a close reading.

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