Weekend Round-Up #38

The Age

If you do nothing else have a look at John Spooner's portrait of Robert Hughes illustrating Peter Craven's review of his memoir Things I Didn't Know: it's a classic. Actually, so is the review: "Of the quartet of Australian expatriates who preoccupy the nation, Robert Hughes has come last to autobiography even though he is a starrier figure than Clive James or Barry Humphries and in terms of presence and panache can certainly give Germaine Greer a run for her money. But the paradox with Hughes is that he has never been much interested in celebrity. He is, of course, an art critic." Which puts Hughes in proper context at the start, and the book in context at the end: "In this first volume of his memoirs Hughes has written one of the most impassioned and vivid of all Australian self-portraits and if there is a fierceness and magnificence in the execution he also exhibits plenty of modesty and human grace."

Melina Marchetta is famous for her first novel, Looking for Alibrandi, which was filmed, and which was included in school reading lists for years. Frances Atkinson finds her third novel, On the Jellicoe Road, a step up. "The convoluted plot may not hold every reader's attention and some might be frustrated by the measured pace of the book, but it's deliberate and those who stick with it won't be disappointed. Marchetta wants us to take our time and enjoy the satisfaction as every penny drops."

Short notices are given to: A Conga Line of Suckholes: Mark Latham's Book of Quotations by Mark Latham: "If Latham's Lathamisms rarely measure up to the company they keep, at least one can admire his assiduousness and taste as a collector"; Rescuing Afghanistan by William Maley: "In this measured account of efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, Maley never loses sight of the role played by ordinary Afghans and warns that the international 'rescue mission' neglects local participants at their peril"; Soul by Tobsha Learner: "...if it's racy, low-impact trash with lashings of sex and death you're after, look no further"; The Cobbler's Apprentice by Sandy McCutcheon: "...it contains vivid evocations of place, and avoids American triumphalism"; and Weatherwitch by Cecilia Dart-Thornton (the third volume in her Crowthistle Chronicles series): she "writes lavishly descriptive fiction you can immerse yourself in".

The Australian

One of the major issues on the political agenda of late is the Australia-US alliance. So it is timely that Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of "The Australian", has released The Partnership: The Inside Story of the US-Australian Alliance under Bush and Howard, which is reviewed by Max Suich. "This is an important book because it outlines, with far greater detail and coherence than the Australian Government has publicly provided, the new nature of the US-Australia military alliance that has evolved under the impetus of the personal and political affinity between John Howard and George W. Bush and the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington." It's important but it isn't a rosy outlook, if, like me, you feel that military force is the last option, not the first. "Precisely because this book projects such an authentic sense of the Australian Government's self-deception about the peril the US and its friends face in the Middle East, and its wishful denial of White House incompetence, it suggests another uncomfortable conclusion: that we will probably be swept up again should there be momentum in Washington for another war, and accept further military commitments in the Middle East, if Iran is attacked by the US or Israel."

The Sydney Morning Herald

Peter Galvin tries to nail down David Thomson's book, Nicole Kidman, and does a pretty good job: "This is not a book about Nicole Kidman. It is a book about the idea of her. The distinction is crucial to understanding this odd, and oddly beguiling, piece of film criticism. David Thomson's take on the career and life of Nicole Kidman is in fact one long essay - part film history, part cultural commentary, part fiction. It reads as a compelling form of mutant 'biography' but hardly justifies that stern and earnest moniker." I've thought for a long time that "celebrities" are just an idea anyway, so maybe Thomson is onto something after all.

As you've probably noticed, Robert Hughes and his book are everywhere. So it is no surprise to come across Andrew Reimer's review of Things I Didn't Know. What is interesting is his statement: "On almost every page, Hughes reveals a cosmopolitan sophistication, the fruit of intimate familiarity with European and American art, he could not have achieved had he stayed in Australia. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in the guise of a somewhat haphazard account of the first 30-or-so years of his life, Things I Didn't Know is, at heart, an apologia for expatriation." And that's something I hadn't heard before.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 19, 2005 2:31 PM.

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