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Dennis Altman

Dennis Altman

Dennis Altman is a Vice Chancellor's Fellow at La Trobe University. His most recent books are God Save the Queen (Scribe, 2021) and  Death in the Sauna (Clouds of Magellan, 2023).

Dennis Altman reviews 'Logical Family: A memoir' by Armistead Maupin

March 2018, no. 399 22 February 2018
When the first volume in the Tales of the City series was published in 1978, Armistead Maupin tells us disarmingly in his new memoir, it flopped. Yet the series, which had begun as a newspaper serial in 1974, continued for a decade, with three more recent books bringing us up to date on the fate of the major characters. Meanwhile, Tales of the City led to several television miniseries starring Lau ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'And Then I Found Me' by Noel Tovey

May 2017, no. 391 30 April 2017
Looking back on his career, Noel Tovey writes: ‘I could work in three languages. I had dined in the finest restaurants in Europe and America with pop stars and royalty and I had a career in the theatre that most Australians would envy.’ The man who wrote these words grew up an abused and neglected child. When he was seventeen, he served time in Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison for ‘the abomina ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'Disposable Leaders: Media and leadership coups from Menzies to Abbott' by Rodney Tiffen

April 2017, no. 390 24 March 2017
When Australia’s living prime ministers attended the funeral of Gough Whitlam in 2014, there were considerable difficulties in taking the official photograph. Rather than grouping them in order of seniority, the photographer carefully separated Malcolm Fraser from John Howard; Bob Hawke from Paul Keating; Kevin Rudd from Julia Gillard. Animosities within ruling parties proved more long-lasting t ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'The House that Jack Built: Jack Mundey, Green Bans hero' by James Colman

October 2016, no. 385 23 September 2016
The term 'green ban', first used in 1973, is so much part of our political vocabulary that we forget it has a specific and Australian genesis, which had considerable influence on the Greens movement internationally. In 1970 the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF), under Jack Mundey's leadership, refused to take part in a proposed redevelopment of an area of bushland, known as Kelly's Bush on the f ... (read more)


ABR Arts 19 February 2016
In 1950 a number of Hollywood screenwriters, including Dalton Trumbo, were sentenced to almost a year's imprisonment for contempt of Congress. Their 'crime' was a failure to answer questions from the House Un-American Activities Committee about their involvement with the Communist Party, which in the paranoid atmosphere of the early Cold War was seen as threatening to undermine the United States t ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'Big Blue Sky' by Peter Garrett

January-February 2016, no. 378 18 December 2015
Dressed in a suit, standing beside a prime minister, Peter Garrett never looked totally convincing as a cabinet minister. We recalled his onstage persona in Midnight Oil, stooped and balding, a towering figure struggling to contain his energy and passion. Garrett was minister for the environment, heritage, and the arts in the first Rudd ministry; after the 2010 election, he became minister for sc ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'The End of Representative Politics' by Simon Tormey

September 2015, no. 374 26 August 2015
The questions Simon Tormey poses in The End of Representative Politics are crucial, and we need more political scientists willing to grapple with them. His is a well-informed, well written discussion of the apparent crisis of ‘traditional’ politics, and it deserves readers beyond the academy. Tormey’s basic argument is that the forms of representative electoral politics which were dominant ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'Northern Lights: The positive policy example of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway' by Andrew Scott

March 2015, no. 369 02 March 2015
As Andrew Scott points out, Australians have a limited and very clichéd knowledge of the Nordic countries. Recently, we have come to appreciate Scandinavia for its bleak police dramas, of which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is probably the best known. For the right, Scandinavia has long represented socialist excess, which merges with vague notions of unlimited sexuality. The reality is that Swe ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'Optimism: Reflections on a life of action' by Bob Brown

November 2014, no. 366 01 November 2014
There is a built-in paradox for the Greens: they need to both persuade people that we face major ecological disasters and at the same time hold out hope that we can respond meaningfully to them. To do this requires the sort of corny and touching optimism that gives Bob Brown’s book its title. Optimism is neither a conventional memoir nor a political autobiography; it is rather a collection of s ... (read more)

Dennis Altman reviews 'Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris' by Edmund White

April 2014, no. 360 26 March 2014
All writers mine their lives, some most clearly through combining the autobiographical and the fictional, so that, as with Christopher Isherwood, their works become a mixture of the self-revelatory and observations of the worlds in which they have lived. In more recent times, no one has more closely followed Isherwood than Edmund White, now the author of more than twenty books, professor of writin ... (read more)
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