Weekend Round-Up 2007 #4

The Age

I'm glad that "The Age" asked Barry Jones to review B.A. Santamaria: Your Most Obedient Servant - Selected Letters 1938-1996 edited by Patrick Morgan. There are probably only two or three reviewers with the political history and knowledge, and the ability to write which could do this important work justice: Jones is one of them.

Take his introduction to the man himself: "A brilliant debater and Melbourne University graduate he worked for the venerable Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), was a founder of 'The Movement' (also known as 'The Show') in 1941 and The National Civic Council in 1957, campaigned passionately against communist influence in trade unions and the Australian Labor Party and was a major factor in a great split in the ALP (1954-55), which helped to keep the party out of power nationally for 23 years (until 1972) and in Victoria for 27 years (until 1984)." Short, sharp and to the point. You have all you need to know about the subject, other than the fact that Jones knew him quite well even though they were on opposite sides of the "Split".

You can tell that Jones believes the book under review is a worthy project ("Your Most Obedient Servant, which runs to 576 pages, includes a short biography, an extensive commentary, bibliography and a useful collection of photographs. It is a very handsome production.") so it's a pity that he finds fault in it: "Regrettably, many of the letters chosen do not show Santamaria at his fascinating best...I hoped for some insights into Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, but they are not to be found...Santamaria was always interesting, far more than this small selection of letters suggests."

I get a sense that Martin Flanagan was as disappointed with his book under review as Barry Jones was above. Flanagan looks at Another Country by Nicholas Rothwell, a commentary on Aboriginal culture and puts his interest right up front: "Historically, in this country, the ignorance, bias and self-deception have never been more pronounced than when whitefellas write about blackfellas. As a result, the first question I ask in reading a book such as this is whether I can see the whitefella doing the talking. Who are they? Where do they come from? What conditions them?" A set of questions he proceeds to answer. He explains that Rothwell is well-suited to write this book but has a major difficulty with the whole exercise. Namely, "This book represents a substantial journalistic inquiry. It deserves to be read because it goes so far beyond the average Australian's comprehension of their own country. But I do have a major reservation about Rothwell's work: put simply, how can someone who claims high affinity with Aboriginal culture be broadly accepting of a federal government whose policies are seen by Aboriginal leaders such as Patrick Dodson as assimilationist?" How indeed.

Jeff Glorfeld is disappointed with two new crime novels, And Hope to Die by J.M. Calder (a pseudonym for John Clanchy and Mark Henshaw), and The Undertow, the latest Cliff Hardy novel from Peter Corris. The first is a "page-turner that keeps you right on the edge of your seat right up to the disappointing ending," and the Corris "feels like Cliff Hardy by the numbers."

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 13, 2007 3:44 PM.

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