Essays and Commentary
In describing the enduring cultural impact of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – published fifty years ago and often nominated as the best spy novel ever written – a good place to start, strange though it may sound, is James Bond. John le Carré’s squalid yet subtle world of Cold War spies may appear antithetical to the glamorous fantasy of Bond. ... More
Wandering through the Mawson collection at the South Australian Museum one winter afternoon, I stare through the glass at the reconstruction of my great-grandfather, Douglas Mawson’s room in the hut, the sound of a moaning blizzard in my ears. The eerie sound of the wind coming through the installation, so familiar to Mawson and his men, is strangely allurin ... More
To estimate the amount of waffle in a cultural policy document, try this patented test: (i) identify a given sentence or section; (ii) highlight the key terms; (iii) swap the key terms around. If it still makes as much sense, it’s waffle. Another way of saying this is that there are always two people responsible for cultural policy. The first is reasonable, ... More
Find Me Before I Die a Lonely Death.com
– Title of an album by electronic band Minuit
A human body exposed to summer heat can be reduced to bones in nine days. First the flies and maggots feast on the body’s fluids. As the tissues decay, they feed on the whole body through orifices and wounds. N ... More
‘We place on paper without hesitation a tissue of flatteries, to which in society we could not give utterance, for our lives, without either blushing or laughing outright,’ wrote Edgar Allan Poe in 1846. His title was ‘The Literati of New York City’; his topic was the discrepancy, as he saw it, between the critics’ private opinions of books and the p ... More
The morgue in Gunbalanya holds no more than half a dozen corpses – and, as usual, it was full. When the Old Man died in the wet season of 2012, they had to fly him to Darwin, only to discover that the morgue there was already overcrowded. So they moved him again, this time to Katherine, where they put him on ice until the funeral. The hot climate notwithstan ... More
It is a hot gusty day in the summer of 1958, the sort of day that melts the tar on the road and brings the red dust down from the north. In the inner-city Adelaide suburb of Norwood, Mario Feleppa, twenty-eight and not long arrived in Australia, is fed up. Not with the heat – he is used to heat back in Italy – but with horses. Specifically, the horses that ... More
November in America signals a time to gather in, take stock and breathe a little. The elections are done by the end of the first week. Thanksgiving beckons, the high holidays begin, media fever subsides – a little – and morphs into retrospective political analysis and projected anxiety about the future, especially, since 2008, the economic future.
It is ... More
White Papers are falling on Australia like confetti. We had two on foreign affairs and one on terrorism in the seven years to 2004; the third one on defence in four years will appear this year, and in October 2012 Ken Henry delivered Australia in the Asian Century. Defence White Papers are perennially concerned with Australia’s need for the material and mon ... More
It is a brilliant summer day in July 1935. The scene is a house called Green Ridges, near Hastings, Sussex. Two women, seated but not relaxed, face each other across a formal drawing room. This is the first time they have met. Nettie Palmer, Australian writer and journalist, has come to stay overnight with the novelist Henry Handel Richardson.
As novelist an ... More