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Category Archives: Reviews
Otto von Bismarck (in)famously said: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best”. It is a sentiment I abhor.
The latest round of The Australia Council funding, announced on 3 April, marks a new level of government interference in the arts. The council was never meant to police the arts on behalf of government, but under the Coalition that … Continue reading
A friend mailed me recently to ask if I was well and safely distanced socially. He also pasted the following letter and asked me if I’d seen it. I hadn’t.
I started to cull my books recently. As old age approaches I routinely decide that I need to gain more space, and to really get rid of what I will never get around to reading, sort of like “use it, … Continue reading
In 1972 Gough Whitlam’s election campaign promised “to promote a standard of excellence in the arts, to widen access to, and the understanding and application of, the arts in the community generally, to help establish and express an Australian identity … Continue reading
he climate and health emergency must remind doctors and the community that water is one of our life support systems and its scarcity in Australia will bring human misery, displacement of individuals and towns, and failures in food production.
Professor David Walker’s Stranded Nation: White Australia in an Asian Region is a work of great and very readable erudition, which does something new: places Australian cultural, political and diplomatic history in its regional context at the time of Asian … Continue reading
Occasionally friends suggest to me that I should write my autobiography. Ruefully I explain that I wrote ‘Things you learn along the way’ twenty years ago. The book sold about 8,000 copies but as far as I know is no longer … Continue reading
Arm’s length funding of the arts is the hallmark of a government attempting to work in the interests of the people. It prevents the arts being used as a political football, and together with peer assessment fosters the development of … Continue reading
No Australian adorned the professions of politics and journalism like Evan Williams. He was much more than a beautiful writer. He was a beautiful man, who brought a shining light and grace to thousands of lives. He died a few … Continue reading
The way the performing arts is funded in Australia hasn’t changed since the 1990s, but the Australian cultural landscape has changed dramatically.
I try to follow the advice of one of my old teachers that if you cannot write as well as Jane Austen or one of the greats you can at least aim to be intelligible. Avoiding clichés and popular catch … Continue reading
The assumption of ANZAC as the foundation of conservative Australia has been used to mobilise popular sentiment into dubious alliances in wars of questionable purpose. In this context, Rodney Pople’s latest exhibition, Shell Shocked, has urgency. His paintings are a vehicle … Continue reading
More than twenty years ago, writing about Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland, Colm Tóibín recalled what it was like to study history in Ireland in the 1970s—to be on the cusp of the revisionist wave, questioning all the old narratives. “Imagine … Continue reading
During the Christmas break I read Rick Morton’s One Hundred Years of Dirt, which is one of the more acclaimed Australian memoirs published during 2018. It details the wretched life he’s led and also challenges the culture warriors of the … Continue reading
Review of “Crashed: How a decade of financial crises changed the world” by Adam Tooze, Viking. The historian G.M. Trevelyan said that the democratic revolutions of 1848, all of which were quickly crushed, represented “a turning point at which modern … Continue reading
I’ve just caught up with Peter Stanley’s review of Peter Cochrane’s Best We Forget: The war for white Australia, 1914-18, which was posted on Pearls and Irritations on 15 November 2018. I mention this, because it provoked a response that … Continue reading
Lord Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is still valid today. Man is born innocent and in his acquisition of power, goes astray when unguided by morals and ethical principles. True wisdom is the ability to … Continue reading
LIONEL ORCHARD. Hugh Stretton in retrospect and prospect: reflections on Graeme Davison’s selected writings.
Graeme Davison has edited a new selection of Hugh Stretton’s writings. Stretton’s work is widely admired but how relevant is it now? Davison presents an assessment. A response follows.
SUSAN CHENERY. The Scribe: portrait of Freudenberg, author of the speech that changed Australia (The Guardian 9.10.2018)
Legendary Labor speechwriter Graham Freudenberg was at the centre of power for more than 40 years. A new film sheds light on the man who wrote the script.
TONY DOHERTY. Review of Hugh Mackay’s “Australia Reimagined – Towards a compassionate, less anxious society”.
Hugh Mackay has spent almost his entire working life asking Australians about what makes us tick, what are our basic concerns, what gives us hope and meaning, why do we do what we do? His acute observation, honed by the skills … Continue reading
The Catholic Church here and globally faces a crisis of loss of support arising especially from its deeds and omissions in relation to appalling sexual abuse of children. Our secular societies are experiencing a massive epidemic of allegations and charges … Continue reading
I have long been interested in why the officers of the catholic church have been so reluctant to consider involving women in the governance of their institution and in its sacramental ministry. So I decided to write a book about … Continue reading
A stage play that wouldn’t make it into an Australian theatre today caused a helluva stink back in 1962 and said some wise and courageous (aka shocking) things about the ‘most sacred day’ in our national calendar. The reasons it … Continue reading
KIM WINGEREI. Book review of “Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom” by Thomas E. Hicks, Pulitzer Prize winner.
At first glance they may seem like an odd couple, but their influence on the seminal events and the thinking of the 20th century is equally profound. Winston Churchill defined and led the resistance against the tyranny of Adolf Hitler; … Continue reading
Gareth Evans’ memoir makes clear his vision of good international citizenship would have foreign ministers pursuing national self-interest within the ennobling vision of global moral purposes.
Earlier this year, Pearls and Irritations ran an account of the 50th anniversary of my first major foreign news assignment, the Six-Day War. This is about another 50th anniversary assignment, the Russian Revolution. The centenary is next month.
We all know the story – or do we? It was one of Britain’s great wartime triumphs. With the British Expeditionary Force driven back to the French coast by advancing German armies, thousands of Allied troops were stranded on the … Continue reading
All of us who have a stake in understanding the Great War should be grateful to Joan Beaumont for her magisterial history of Australia’s involvement in that terrible conflict (Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War).
The NSW Coalition government has allocated $244m towards a major new building at the state Art Gallery. But questions are being raised about its ongoing funding and its mission as a public institution.