Weekend Round-Up 2006 #34

The Age

I always liked John Button as a politician; he seemed capable of seeing the bigger picture, of cutting through the crap to get to the gold beneath the dross, and as someone who genuinely believed he could make a difference for others, rather than just himself, just by being there. So it's always a pleasure when he writes an opinion piece for "The Age" op-ed pages, or, as in this case, a review for the book pages. This weekend he looks at 51st State? by Dennis Altman which examines Australia's relationship with the US. "According to opinion polls, a clear majority of Australians now think Australia is too much influenced by the United States. No doubt there is a variety of reasons for this, with ill-conceived participation in military adventures probably the most compelling. Les Murray, poet and quintessential Australian, sums up the concerns about our current relationship succinctly: 'We kiss arse more than we need to.'...Most Australians have much that they like about Americans and would like to admire them. But there is something demeaning about the way the Australian Government has signed up to all the aspects of the Bush Administration's war on terror and almost alone in the world to the obscenity of Guantanamo Bay. Les Murray is right." Exactly.

Of rather more localised interest is Ian W. Shaw's The Bloodbath: The 1945 VFL Grand Final which is reviewed by Martin Flanagan. The Australian Rules football match between South Melbourne (now the Sydney Swans) and Carlton, was played only six weeks after VJ Day and is one of the most controversial played in the game's history. Flanagan has written about this match himself and has come to the conclusion that the events on the field were influenced as much by the times as by the state of the game.

On the fiction front we have Silent Parts by John Charalambous, reviewed by Peter Pierce, who finds "This book is one of the most poignant and unusual of reflections on war and remembrance. It bypasses so many well-trodden Australian fictional paths in making its own muted, moving way...Charalambous has triumphantly cleared the hurdle of the second novel in this, one of the books of the year."

Short notices are given to: Maroon & Blue: Recollections and Tales of the Fitzroy Football Club by Adam Muyt: "It's a sentimental scrapbook based mostly on interviews with players, officials and fans, which includes an eclectic collection of songs, ditties and peoms. Passion abounds. No room here for impartiality"; Darby. One Hundred Years of Life in a Changing Culture by Liam Campbell: "In this beautifully produced book, Campbell tells of his friendship with Darby, relates his stories and provides a historical context for Danby's life"; and Days Like These by Michael Gurr: "The key to the success of this account of two decades of play-writing and political involvement is its disjointed diary narrative that skips back and forth in time, making connections between salient, disparate moments".

The Australian

Three books on the Vietnam war are reviewed by Francesca Beddie: Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land edited by Andrew Wiest, Vietnam: Australia's Ten Year War 1962-1972 by Richard Pelvin, and Asian Alternatives by Garry Woodard. In the first of these, "..Jeffrey Grey, professor of history at the Australian Defence Force Academy...explains that Australia's decision to enter the war was an insurance payment for American protection in the event of an attack on Australia; the ANZUS treaty seemingly no guarantee of US assistance...Wiest's book is more successful in its use of pictures to reveal the complexity of the emotions that war provokes." And "Garry Woodard, a former career diplomat and Australian ambassador in Asia and now a senior fellow in political science at the University of Melbourne, is one who argues that the lessons of the Vietnam War have not been learned. Indeed, while undertaking a forensic analysis of Australian foreign policy-making between 1959 and '65, he was struck by the common features between Australia's flawed involvement in Vietnam and its entering the war in Iraq." Which helps put all these books into a modern context. The comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq seem too obvious to ignore.

The history of Jews in Australia is examined in New Under the Sun: Jewish Australians in Religion, Politics and Culture, edited by Michael Fagenblat, Melanie Landau and Nathan Wolski, and reviewed here by Sol Encel. "Most of the writers are concerned with internal Jewish matters. Particularly striking, however, is the attention given by several to the plight of other groups whose place under the sun is less than favourable: refugees, asylum-seekers and Aborigines."

Short notices are given to: Simple Gifts: A Life in the Theatre by George Ogilvie: "Engagingly direct".

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 18, 2006 3:14 PM.

Reviews of Australian Books #28 was the previous entry in this blog.

Australian Bookcovers #30 - Lucinda Brayford by Martin Boyd is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en