Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson

Simon Caterson is a Melbourne-based writer whose first contribution to ABR appeared in 2001.

Simon Caterson reviews 'Trust: America’s best chance' by Pete Buttigieg

May 2021, no. 431 17 December 2020
Simon Caterson reviews 'Trust: America’s best chance' by Pete Buttigieg
Serious observers of American presidential politics will not have missed the rapid rise to national prominence of Pete Buttigieg, the thirty-eight-year-old former mayor of the small Midwestern city of South Bend, Indiana. Within a year of announcing his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Buttigieg had made history as, in his words, ‘the first openly gay candidate to win a stat ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Burning the Books: A history of knowledge under attack' by Richard Ovenden

October 2020, no. 425 24 September 2020
Simon Caterson reviews 'Burning the Books: A history of knowledge under attack' by Richard Ovenden
The store of knowledge available to humanity has never been so immense and accessible as it is today. Nor has it been so vulnerable to neglect or erasure. That, in essence, is the message of this book, written with urgency by the most senior executive at the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford, one of the largest and oldest library systems in the world. In Burning the Books: A history of knowledge under ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Bird Way: A new look at how birds talk, work, play, parent, and think' by Jennifer Ackerman

August 2020, no. 423 27 July 2020
Simon Caterson reviews 'The Bird Way: A new look at how birds talk, work, play, parent, and think' by Jennifer Ackerman
One of the most bizarre as well as unfortunate deaths in literary history occurred when the playwright Aeschylus was struck by a tortoise dropped on him by a bird. Bizarre, that is, if we don’t consider what the bird involved was doing, which was clever as well as practical. From the bird’s perspective, the tortoise was being dropped on a convenient stone rather than the bald head of a Greek t ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'The Child of an Ancient People' by Anouar Benmalek (translated by Andrew Riemer)

March 2004, no. 259 01 March 2004
Simon Caterson reviews 'The Child of an Ancient People' by Anouar Benmalek (translated by Andrew Riemer)
At once extravagant and tightly wrapped, this novel reinforces the view that historical fiction says as much about the present and the future as it does about the past. At the level of history proper, Anouar Benmalek’s vision unites three continents that, in the second half of the nineteenth century, are subject to the depredations of European colonialism and domestic tyranny. At the human level ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Chromatopia: An illustrated history of colour' by David Coles

January-February 2019, no. 408 26 December 2018
Simon Caterson reviews 'Chromatopia: An illustrated history of colour' by David Coles
The story of art could be framed as a narrative of tension between the boundless creative imagination of artists and the practical limitations – including instability, scarcity, even toxicity – of their materials. As master paint-maker David Coles explains in this wonderful book, the vividness and permanence of artists’ colours have never been assured. ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Missing in Action: Australia’s World War I grave services, an astonishing story of misconduct, fraud and hoaxing' by Marianne van Velzen

Online Exclusives 30 August 2018
Simon Caterson reviews 'Missing in Action: Australia’s World War I grave services, an astonishing story of misconduct, fraud and hoaxing' by Marianne van Velzen
Apart from its value as a case study in bureaucratic corruption and incompetence caused by lack of proper oversight, Missing in Action serves as an important reminder that the trauma of Australia’s involvement in World War I did not end with the Armistice. The appalling loss of life was compounded by the ineptitude and fraud associated with the initial official attempt after the fighting had end ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the war over cultural anthropology' by Peter Hempenstall

April 2018, no. 400 26 March 2018
Simon Caterson reviews 'Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the war over cultural anthropology' by Peter Hempenstall
‘It is hard to reach the truth of these islands,’ observed Robert Louis Stevenson of Samoa in a letter written to a close friend in 1892, two years after the author had moved to an estate on Upolu. Stevenson, who died in 1894, could never have anticipated the prophetic dimension added to those words. Less than a century later, in the 1980s, the Western understanding of Samoan society would bec ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'A Legacy of Spies' by John le Carré

October 2017, no. 395 28 September 2017
Simon Caterson reviews 'A Legacy of Spies' by John le Carré
Sherlock Holmes, fairly early on in his career, survived an attempt by Arthur Conan Doyle to kill off the character in ‘The Adventure of the Final Problem’. Although Conan Doyle had wanted to dispense with Holmes and write about something else, he bowed to the pressure to continue the great detective’s adventures that came from the many readers who refused to accept that Holmes had died in t ... (read more)

Simon Caterson reviews 'Code Breakers: Inside the shadow world of signals intelligence in Australia’s two Bletchley Parks' by Craig Collie

June-July 2017, no. 392 29 May 2017
Simon Caterson reviews 'Code Breakers: Inside the shadow world of signals intelligence in Australia’s two Bletchley Parks' by Craig Collie
In architectural terms, if no other, the Australian counterpart to the famous World War II code breaking centre at Bletchley Park initially could not have been more different. While Alan Turing and his celebrated colleagues cracked the German Enigma code at a secluded mansion in the English countryside, Australia’s code breakers began working out of a nondescript apartment block situated on a bu ... (read more)
Page 1 of 3