Australian Book Review

Eighty-one per cent of American evangelicals are said to have voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and, with little variation, plan to do so again in November 2020. That number sparked four years of intense debate and a slew of books, signalling the latest chapter in a fascination with evangelicals and politics dating back to at least 1976 when Newsweek proclaimed the ‘Year of the Evangelical’ upon Jimmy Carter’s election. Whatever one wonders about just who counts as an ‘evangelical’ and what might be said about the broader movement in the age of hyper-partisanship, it has certainly been a boom time for histories of evangelicalism in the United States.

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In his long poem The Bridge (1930), Hart Crane balances the breadth of his epic vision against a compressive energy, a ballistic sort of expression: ‘So the 20th Century – so / whizzed the Limited – roared by and left.’ Since Crane worked in an American tradition of poet–prophets that includes Walt Whitman and the undersung H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), it is tempting to grant him that. The twentieth century did roar by and go. And the 20th Century Limited, the luxurious passenger train connecting New York to Chicago, furnished it (and him) with an expression of the century’s quarrelsome momentum, its loud, emblematic modernity.

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Susan Lever reviews 'In Whom We Trust' by John Clanchy

Susan Lever
Monday, 16 December 2019

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has revealed systemic mistreatment of vulnerable children over decades. Though these crimes have not been the exclusive province of the Catholic Church, its education system has brought more children into intimate care by religious orders, and even those never abused have observed the tics of brutality in some of their teachers and mentors. In a note at the end of his new novel, In Whom We Trust, John Clanchy mentions James Joyce’s hell-fire sermon in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and the recurrence of these ‘tropes of terror’ in the rhetoric he heard as a Catholic schoolboy in 1960s Melbourne. The system has long-standing practices of psychological control.

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On the evening of 6 August 1926, Alice Anderson donned her driving goggles and gloves, waved to the cheering crowds outside Melbourne’s Lyceum Club, and got into her tiny two-seater Austin 7. With her former teacher Jessie Webb beside her, the boot packed with two guns, sleeping bags, a compass, four gallons of water, a supply of biscuits, and, strangely, two potatoes with red curly wigs, she tooted the horn and set off. Her mission? A three-week pioneering trip to the never-never. ‘There is only one main route from Adelaide to Darwin, and that is only a camel track,’ the tiny young woman behind the wheel said breezily of the 2,607-kilometre journey ahead of her. ‘We are not going to stick to the beaten track.’

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Tom Carment the artist, writer, and man makes a perfectly integrated whole. Carment is a compact, casually neat figure who looks through round-lensed glasses and has a calm stillness even when he’s on the move, as he often is. His art and writing are also on a small scale, intimately observant, informal, and warmly appealing. He has exhibited his paintings and drawings for more than four decades and has written for almost as long, occasionally for publication and often in private. As he said at his book launch, he used to pour most of his thoughts into letters, including one he found recently that ran to thirty-eight pages.

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Since 9/11 and all its attendant horrors, the story of the bomb that exploded outside Sydney’s Hilton Hotel early on the morning of 13 February 1978, killing three people and injuring nine others, has largely been cast aside. However, it is considered the worst terrorist act perpetrated on Australian soil. It had wide ramifications at the time, and murky issues still surround it.

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When it comes to serial muses, Alma Maria Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel was in a class of her own. Lou Andreas-Salomé may have included Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud among her conquests, and Caroline Blackwood scored Lucian Freud, Robert Silvers, and Robert Lowell, but Alma’s conquests were more and varied. Antonia Fraser is supposed to have claimed that she ‘only slept with the first eleven’; although Alma would not have understood the reference, she would have agreed wholeheartedly with the concept. Gustav Klimt, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka, and Walter Gropius were major notches on her belt, and if the reputations of the author Franz Werfel and the political theologian Johannes Hollnsteiner have faded, they were big in their time.

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The worldwide women’s marches of January 2017 were sparked by the election of Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed ‘pussy-grabber’, to the US presidency in November 2016. Among the millions who marched was movie producer Harvey Weinstein. As with Trump, rumours of inappropriate behaviour with women had long plagued Weinstein, but he also had a history of aligning himself with feminist causes. He had supported Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid and, as co-founder of Miramax, had helped launch the successful careers of many women, including Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow.

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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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