NSW contributor

Brian Toohey reviews 'Permanent Record' by Edward Snowden

Brian Toohey
Friday, 15 November 2019

Edward Snowden was a model employee of the National Security Agency. After realising that the vast electronic surveillance organisation often failed to backup its advanced computerised systems properly, Snowden offered a solution. His bosses readily agreed to let him build and run a comprehensive backup system. He subsequently copied huge amounts of highly sensitive information, which he took with him when he left the NSA in 2013, aged twenty-nine, to become the most important whistleblower in intelligence agency history.

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Fred Watson’s inspiration as a lad was the legendary telly astronomer Patrick Moore, who presented the BBC’s show The Sky At Night for more than fifty years. At the end, when others such as Chris Lintott began taking over, Moore was simply wheeled in at the start of the show in his wheelchair, to mumble a couple of sentences, then wheeled off again, out of the way, looking on wistfully.

Watson and Moore have a lot in common: both British, both immensely informed, both musical performers. And they both showed not just deep knowledge of deep space but also the essential emotional commitment to the vast tapestry they were investigating. I well remember the night when the first pictures of the far side of the moon came to Moore, live on air. As he showed them to the television audience, he simply cried, talking in choked tones as tears streamed down his face.

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Debra Adelaide reviews 'A Constant Hum' by Alice Bishop

Debra Adelaide
Thursday, 24 October 2019

Thanks to the internet, the 24/7 news cycle, and social media, certain books are preceded by their reputations. They arrive freighted with so much publicity hype that reading them with fresh eyes is almost impossible. A Constant Hum is one such book, very much the product of a reputation established well before publication, due to the airing of individual stories in places like Seizure and Meanjin, along with several prizes and shortlistings.

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Felicity Plunkett reviews 'The Weekend' by Charlotte Wood

Felicity Plunkett
Wednesday, 23 October 2019

‘What kind of game is the sea?’ asks the speaker of Tracy K. Smith’s poem ‘Minister of Saudade’. ‘Lap and drag’, comes the response, ‘Crag and gleam / That continual work of wave / And tide’. It is not until the end of The Weekend that the sea’s majestic game is brought into focus, and then the natural world rises, a riposte, to eclipse human trivia ...

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The Money Power: Four books on the big banks

Benjamin Huf
Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Bank bashing is an old sport in Australia, older than Federation. In 1910, when Labor became the first party to form a majority government in the new Commonwealth Parliament, they took the Money Power – banks, insurers, financiers – as their arch nemesis. With memories of the 1890s crisis of banking collapses, great strikes, and class conflict still raw, the following year the Fisher government established the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ‘The People’s Bank’, as a state-owned trading bank offering cheap loans and government-guaranteed deposits to provide stiff competition to the greedy commercial banks gouging its customers.

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Don Dunstan tended to divide those around him, even his parents. His father, Viv, moved from Adelaide to become a company man in Fiji. Peter Kearsley, a contemporary of Don’s who later became chief justice of Fiji, said Viv was ‘a fair dinkum sort of chap’, ‘the sort who would have been an office bearer in a bowling club’. His mother, according to Kearsley ...

It’s a disconcerting image. Piercing blue eyes stare out at you from the cover of the book. It renders Adolf Hitler somehow human, which is the intent of the author, Peter Longerich, and which sets this biography apart from the many others that have preceded it. Two other notable biographers, Ian Kershaw and Joachim Fest, refused to engage with Hitler’s personal ...

Nicole Abadee reviews 'Bruny' by Heather Rose

Nicole Abadee
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Tasmanian writer Heather Rose’s fifth adult novel, Bruny, about a joint venture between the Chinese, Australian, and Tasmanian governments, is well timed, given current concerns about the covert infiltration of the Chinese Communist Party into Australia’s universities and given Federal MP Andrew Hastie’s recent warning that Australia should approach i ...

'Nature’s ancient history'

Julia Kindt
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

It is easy to overlook that nature itself has a history – or at least our thinking about it does. In the years since Henry Thoreau initiated the modern genre of return-to-nature literature in Walden (1854), his autobiographical account of a two-year stint in the woods, the view that the natural world is a sphere apart – a realm untouched by human interv ...

‘Climate change is coming,’ fourth-generation farmer Charlie Prell told an Independent Planning Commission hearing on a proposed expansion of the windfarm near his Crookwell property on 6 June 2019. He and his family constantly hear the noise of the turbines spinning five hundred metres away, generating electricity. They hear the sounds of traffic from the road, ...