Michael McGirr

We academic philosophers get annoyed when people suppose that the purpose of philosophy is therapeutic. But we need not deny that philosophical enquiries into the nature of mind, knowledge, and the good can be sources of personal inspiration or solace. In his earlier work, Books That Saved My Life (2018), Michael McGirr, teacher, aid worker, and former priest, explained how literature and poetry can enrich our lives. Now it’s the turn of philosophy.

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People spent a lot of time looking for the pioneering aviator Charles Kingsford Smith. When he disappeared for the final time in 1935 just south of Myanmar, then known as Burma, he was just thirty-eight but felt ancient. Hopeful rescuers came from far and wide, but their efforts were not rewarded ...

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A New History of the Irish in Australia by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall

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March 2019, no. 409

There is much to admire about this detailed and painstaking book. The authors have entered a field that is replete with stereotypes and even gags. They will have none of it. The result is an account of the Irish in Australia subtly modulated and insistent on evidence. It is suspicious of the lore and yarns that have sometimes been made to take their place ...

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This book came my way at the right moment. I read it in the week that the Royal Commission enumerated the fact that, so far, 4,444 individuals have brought cases of sexual abuse against Catholic institutions in Australia – a staggering number. I know of others who are still struggling to come forward and tell their story. The archbishop of Sydney described the res ...

You can judge this memoir by its poignant cover. It shows a picture of the author taken in 1966 when he was eight or nine years old. Behind him is one of the accessories of the baby boomer period, a Volkswagen. The Beetle is parked near long grass, redolent of Melbourne’s outer suburban fringe, an area that features prominently in Shaun Carney’s account of his o ...

Arnold Zable may be unafraid of pain, but he is no masochist. Masochism wants to control pain: Zable is much more of a liberator. Since the publication of his first book ...

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Waiting by Philip Salom

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April 2016, no. 380

I first encountered the work of Philip Salom in the pages of The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991). Anthologies, of course, have their limitations, but they can be a great place to meet people. Salom's first poem in that book, 'Walking at Night', includes an image of the urban sky: 'Streetlights glow overhead / Like the teeth of a huge zipper; ...

In 1980, when I first came to Melbourne from Sydney, I found myself working among homeless people in the inner city. I was guided by a fantastic nun, one of those forthright people with a fearless sense of justice. She stood up to police and clergy alike. One day we had a long wait in the casualty department of St Vincent's Hospital with a gentleman from the streets ...

I have never met a pope, but I have sometimes felt their shadow. In 1981, at the tender age of nineteen, I was a novice in the Jesuit order. We lived in a vast establishment in Sydney: the community included naïve youngsters such as myself, wily old retired Jesuits, as well as representatives of every age group in between. It was quite a fun place to live. One day, ...

Brian Fitzpatrick – a notable historian, intellectual, and civil libertarian – was a prominent Melbourne figure in the middle of the twentieth century. He died in 1965 and survives partly as the central figure in Sheila Fitzpatrick’s poignant memoir My Father’s Daughter (2010), an affectionate and yet painfully honest book. It describes Fitzpatr ...

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