Miegunyah Press

Valentine Alexa Leeper: it’s a name to conjure with. The daughter of the first warden of the University of Melbourne’s Trinity College, Alexander Leeper, she was christened ‘Valentine’ because she was born on 14 February. No name could have been less appropriate: she was to prove a committed spinster. She was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of which was that her life spanned an entire century. Born in 1900, she survived into the twenty-first century. Although her life experience might have appeared narrow and confined (she never travelled abroad, for example) Valentine had the advantage of growing up in a university environment and was possessed of a formidable intellect; her interests were wide and she was active in many organisations, ranging from the League of Nations Union to the Victorian Aboriginal Group.

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Melburnians above a certain age will remember Coles in Bourke Street. Unknown to most of them, it stood on the site of another Coles, Cole’s Book Arcade, for half a century probably the most famous shop in Australia. Its founder, Edward William Cole, is now the subject of an engaging biography by Richard Broinowski.

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Tucked inside a plastic sleeve affixed to the inside front cover of this handsome, large-format book is a video disc promising ‘The Best of Graham Kennedy’. Introduced by Stuart Wagstaff, the one hour of footage offers a compilation of Kennedy’s work for Channel Nine drawn from the early days of In Melbourne Tonight (1957–69) and The Graham Kennedy Show (1972–75). Most of the sketches, dance routines, advertising segments and encounters with the audience I had seen before. Rover the Wonder Dog peeing on a camera while refusing to spruik Pal dog food has become part of the collective memory of Kennedy’s contrived mayhem, revisited whenever television (especially Channel Nine) embarks on one of those moments of self-memorialisation with which it marks each milestone.

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Edward Gough Whitlam bestrode the Australian political stage like a colossus for over a generation: first as federal Opposition leader, then as prime minister, and finally as martyr. A legend in his own lifetime, this last role threatens to turn him into myth. More books have been written on aspects of his short and turbulent government than on any other in Australian history. There are already three biographies: a competent quickie by journalist Laurie Oakes in 1976; an eloquent political biography by his speechwriter Graham Freudenberg in 1977; and a psychobiography by the political scientist James Walter in 1980, which depicts Whitlam in terms of a particular personality type – the grandiose narcissist.

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Anna Goldsworthy reviews 'The Student Chronicles' by Alice Garner

Anna Goldsworthy
Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Despite its rather grandiose title, Alice Garner’s The Student Chronicles is a friendly, unpretentious book. It is a coming-of-age story, set mostly in libraries – an anti-Monkey Grip, or a love letter to geekdom. The only sex happens behind closed doors; the real romance is with the library. ‘I loved the Baillieu Library so much I wrote a really bad poem about it,’ Garner confesses, with characteristic self-deprecation. Occasionally, she takes her reader by the hand – like a less precious Alain de Botton – and guides them towards the classics. Thus she introduces Montaigne, a partial model for this book, as a writer of ‘disarming modesty and honesty’, two qualities that the author herself possesses.

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As generations of Australian tourists have found, the kangaroo is a far more recognisable symbol of nationality than our generic colonial flag. Both emblematic and problematic, this group of animals has long occupied a significant and ambiguous space in the Australian psyche. Small wonder, then, that Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver have found such rich material through which to explore our colonial history in The Colonial Kangaroo Hunt.

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Donald Thomson’s stature as a great Australian and a champion of Aboriginal rights is confirmed by this engaging compilation. Thomson was also a world leader in ethnographic field photography. Published first in 1983, this revised edition contains a gallery of eighty additional evocative, annotated images of vibrant people and their ways of living. Today’s evaluation contrasts with that around the time of Thomson’s death in 1970, when his reputation reached its nadir. Most anthropologists then disparaged his work, few appreciated the richness and complexity of his collections, while only one academic book testified to his credentials.

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Amid all the hoopla surrounding the centenary in 2019 of the Bauhaus – naturally more pronounced in Germany – it is gratifying to see such a fine Australian publication dealing with the international influence of this short-lived, revolutionary art and design teaching institute. Bauhaus Diaspora and Beyond – written by Philip Goad, Ann Stephen, Andrew McNamara, Harriet Edquist, and Isabel Wünsche – explores the Bauhaus and its influence in Australia.

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Early on in Kindred: A Cradle Mountain love story, the journalist and walker Kate Legge dwells on an ‘extraordinary coincidence’ that took place over Christmas in 1903. While the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria were on excursion to Mount Buffalo, the itinerant prophet of the National Park movement ... 

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This is the first of a five-volume series, apparently all by David Kemp, with the general title Australian Liberalism. The second volume, A Free Country: Australians’ search for utopia 1861–1901, is planned by Melbourne University Publishing next year. Kemp was senior lecturer and then Professor of Politics at ...

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