Macmillan

Despite its faults, this book has the merit of being the first biography on the legendary Australian batsman, Victor Trumper (1877–1915). Young cricket lovers of today may well ask what feats of batsmanship Trumper performed to deserve this handsomely produced volume about him. After all, his test average was only 39.04, not to be spoken of in the same breath as Don Bradman’s 99.96.

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Tali Lavi reviews 'The Happiest Man on Earth' by Eddie Jaku

Tali Lavi
Thursday, 24 September 2020

Eddie Jaku looks out benevolently from his memoir’s cover, signs of living etched across his face. The dapper centenarian displays another mark, one distinctly at odds with his beatific expression and the title’s claim: the tattoo on his forearm from Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Less discernible is the badge affixed to his lapel bearing the Hebrew word zachor; ‘remember’. The Happiest Man on Earth blazes with the pursuit of memory, of bearing witness, but it is also determinedly oriented towards the future, its dedication inscribed to ‘future generations’.

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Eva Gandel and Marc Besen Married in Melbourne in 1950 and soon began collecting current art. After the closure of John Reed’s privately established but short-lived ‘Museum of Modern Art & Design of Australia’, they bought a few of its de-accessioned possessions, paintings by John Perceval and Sidney Nolan. In the 1970s they added works by recentlydeceased Sydney artists William Dobell, Ralph Balson, and Tony Tuckson. These were perceived ‘gaps’ in a collection of recent Australian art. Perhaps the systematic history of Australian art then profusely displayed in the private collection formed by their relative Joseph Brown, and first published in 1974 as Outlines of Australian Art, had inspired the Besens to be more systematic. Hitherto, they had mostly encountered local work by living artists.

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Some years ago a perky little tune used to introduce Jong Amis’s programme, Talking About Music. Stravinsky, I thought, listening to the cupped trumpets. But no, the BBC had chosen a piece, by our very own Percy Grainger. Surprise number two occurred when it was announced a few years later that Benjamin Britten himself was conducting an all-Grainger programme in London’s Festival Hall. Could this be the same Percy Grainger, he of the museum built like a public lavatory, said to contain photographs of all the great composers specially endowed with Nordic blue eyes? It was. Never was the point more forcefully made than when Philip Jones, performing with his Brass Ensemble in Melbourne in 1982, stepped forward on the platform of the Concert Hall to ask, with an English solicitude for the proprieties, for permission to play a piece by Grainger to honour the centenary day of the composer’s birth. The audience was a little puzzled.

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Warren Osmond reviews 'Trial Balance' by H.C. Coombs

Warren Osmond
Friday, 31 July 2020

In the Australian administrative tradition, Dr H.C. Coombs is a remarkable survivor, a maximalist and an innovator, not least in his· preparedness to write in public. The key figure in the Post-War Reconstruction brains trust which flourished under Curtin, Chifley and Dedman in the 1940s, he became Governor of the Commonwealth and then the Reserve Bank for twenty years and then entered a new creative phase in the post-Menzies and the Whitlam years.

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Kathleen Fitzpatrick wanted to be an actress. Instead, she became a famous lecturer and teacher in the History Department at the University of Melbourne, and in one of the frequent revealing asides in her memoir implies that perhaps this fact explained her ability as an inspiring lecturer.

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Robert Holden reviews 'The Grisly Wife' by Rodney Hall

Robert Holden
Friday, 15 May 2020

With the publication of Rodney Hall’s latest novel, The Grisly Wife, the author has brought to completion a trilogy that first began appearing in 1988. Since this last published novel is actually the middle work of the trilogy and what were formerly two separate novels are now bridged by this newcomer, we are finally given the opportunity to assess if and how the parts relate to the whole.

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John Birmingham’s After America is the second book in what is clearly intended to be a trilogy of page-turners – a follow-up to his Axis of Time trilogy, the swashbuckling alternative history which saw a US carrier battle group transported back in time to the middle of World War II. After America, the sequel to Without Warning (2009), is set in a decidedly dystopian alternative present, the result of a mysterious energy wave that wipes out most of the human and animal life forms in North America in 2003. As one might expect, chaos ensues. A global ecological catastrophe has accompanied the human disappearance, a civil engineer from Seattle (the only big US city to survive the wave) has been elected president, Israel has launched nuclear strikes on its Middle East neighbours, and groups of well-organised pirates from Lagos have taken over New York City.

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Geoffrey Dutton reviews 'Grand Days' by Frank Moorhouse

Geoffrey Dutton
Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The faded but still brave word ‘grand’ in the title of Frank Moorhouse’s new novel gives a signal from another age, the 1920s, when after the war-to-end-all-wars there were grand ideals and grand hotels. It is also fitting that the League of Nations, the setting for the book, should in the 1920s have had its headquarters in Geneva in a former luxury hotel, while its own rather unfortunately named Palais was being built.

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Carmel Bird reviews 'Grand Days' by Frank Moorhouse

Carmel Bird
Thursday, 05 March 2020

Grand Days is volume one of Frank Moorhouse’s Palais des Nations novels, and is connected to the author’s previous works Forty-Seventeen and The Electrical Experience by the characters of Edith Campbell Berry and George McDowell. The principal narrative of Grand Days goes on for 500 or so pages, and is followed by some thirty pages of notes and explanations which form another narrative. The most interesting narrative of all, to me, however, is the story of where this book fits into the life and work of Frank Moorhouse.

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