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Thursday, 24th July 2014

Network Review of Books

  • Terror, Culture, Politics: Rethinking 9/11

    imageDaniel J Sherman and Terry Nardin, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006, 272 Pages, Paperback, US$24.95: Reviewed by Adam Atkinson in the July 2006 issue.

    As Sherman and Nardin note in their introduction to Terror, Culture, Politics, of all the rhetorical, jingoistic gestures and formulas to emerge from September 11, the notion most in need of critique is that '9/11 changed everything' (p 4). Implicit, of course, is the question for whom precisely 'everything' has been altered. The United States, certainly, has discovered its vulnerability, and its security fears have impacted on the international community in numerous ways. Further, many of America's allies, including the Howard government, seem determined to follow Bush's lead in justifying a raft of 'normative changes' (p 238) in the name of a vaguely defined war against terrorism. The ... read more.
  • Devotion

    imageFfion Murphy, Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2006, 268 Pages, Paperback, $27.95: Reviewed by Marion May Campbell in the July 2006 issue.

    For this elegantly constructed and potent first novel Ffion Murphy chooses cyberspace and the hospital corridor for the literally haunting narrative front, off-setting the potential claustrophobia of these spaces by broadly brushed estuary and beach vistas around Perth, Western Australia. The suburban gothic opens in elegiac mode with a backlit idyll underscored by dread -- the family picnic at Mt Eliza is disrupted by a visitation and a portent of loss. The pregnant body of the young mother, Veronica Peterson, is the site of contestation: the baby son will be reluctant to be born; the husband impatient to reclaim his own sexual intimacy, while the small daughter, Katie, is drawn to the ... read more.
  • Drawing the Crow

    imageAdrian Mitchell, Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2006, 180 Pages, Paperback, $22.95: Reviewed by Eva Chapman in the July 2006 issue.

    This collection of essays is told through a 'set of South Australian eyes', those of Adrian Mitchell who grew up in Adelaide in the 1950s and is now a Professor of English at the University of Sydney. At the outset of this memoir, the author explains that the phrase, 'drawing the crow' can mean 'coming off worst in any allocation'. Having drawn the crow myself when I landed in Adelaide in 1950 as a three-year-old refugee from Eastern Europe, I was curious to read about that era from the point of view of a person born and bred in Adelaide. I was not disappointed. This book is a real treat. I found Mitchell's descriptions of 'the hermetically sealed provincial' South Australia of the 1950s, ... read more.
  • The Sleepers Almanac 2006: The nervous system

    imageZoe Dattner and Louise Swinn eds, Collingwood: Sleepers Publishing, 2006, 276 Pages, Paperback, $29.95: Reviewed by Catie Gilchrist in the July 2006 issue.

    Anthologies of short stories are by their very nature fragmented and momentary. At times, this can make for a fractured reading experience, a literary equivalent of eating tapas when you crave something rather more solid and substantial. On the other hand, leaving the reader with a yearning desire for 'more' is perhaps the subtle art of crafting a good short story. The Nervous System succeeds remarkably well in this respect. It is an illustrated, irreverent anthology of short stories by established and unknown writers, offering an eclectic mix of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and recipes. Some are highly creative, futuristic, others explore contemporary concerns; a few are extremely funny, ... read more.
  • The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War

    imageRobert Bevan, London: Reaktion Books, 2006, 240 Pages, Paperback, 19.95: Reviewed by Rosemary Hollow in the May 2006 issue.

    The destruction of architecture has regrettably become a regular feature of our daily news, even on the front page at times. We have watched the bombing of the sacred Shiite shrine in Iraq, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes along the West Bank, the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas, and the repeated televised images of the collapse of the World Trade Centre towers. Death does not always accompany the destruction of architecture, but the effect can still be catastrophic and long term. The dismantling and displacement of a community, the removal of centuries-old places of worship, means the removal of the history, if not the memory, of the cultural icons of great significance not only of a ... read more.
  • Deconstructing Sport History: A Postmodern Analysis

    imageMurray G Phillips ed, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006, 266 Pages, Paperback, US$26.95: Reviewed by David Rowe in the May 2006 issue.

    The discipline of history and postmodern thought have rarely been happy travelling companions, not least in the subdiscipline of sport history. Without wishing to caricature the latter, or discount its honourable exceptions, much of it has displayed the 'reconstructionist nave empiricism' (p viii) bemoaned by Alun Munslow in the Foreword to this book. In sport history, furthermore, the easily obtained 'facts' of who played, lost and won have tended to be accompanied by nostalgic, romantic celebrations of its object. This is, then, not an intellectual space generally much given to sceptical, critical, theoretically informed inquiry. Murray G Phillips's collection, as a consequence, sets ... read more.
  • Beyond Good and Evil? Essays on the Literature and Culture of the Asia-Pacific Region

    imageDennis Haskell Megan McKinlay and Pamina Rich, Nedlands: UWA Press, 2006, 232 Pages, Paperbac, $29.95: Reviewed by Mads Clausen in the May 2006 issue.

    Haskell, McKinlay and Rich's Beyond Good and Evil: Essays on the Literature and Culture of the Asia-Pacific Region is borne out of what the authors see as the re-emergence of perilously rigid notions of evil in post-September 11 discourse. The editors see this monolithic conception of evil as 'a theological term of frightening certitude and simplification' particularly evident in the Bush administration's rhetoric, but that it also spills over into other debates about culture and identity, sustaining existing chasms in political and cultural discourse. The collection seeks to query this certitude, and to reintroduce a measure of 'intercultural curiosity and understanding' against which such ... read more.
  • Changing Ways of Death in Twentieth Century Australia: War, Medicine and the Funeral Business

    imagePat Jalland, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2006, 410 Pages, Paperback, $39.95: Reviewed by Stephanie Bishop in the July 2006 issue.

    Amongst my most enduring childhood memories is one in which I have my small seven year old hand pushed deep into the blue china urn that housed my great grandmother's ashes. I was curious as to how her body came to resemble grey dust, leading my father to explain to me the process of cremation whilst I, excitedly, came upon small bits of bone that I pulled out of the urn as though they were minor trophies in a gothic lucky dip. I seem to remember my father and I marvelling at these tiny fragments together, wondering as to what part of the body they once belonged. By the time she died my great grandmother had lived through two world wars and witnessed the magnitude of this public loss. But ... read more.
  • The Ethics of Waste: How we relate to rubbish

    imageGay Hawkins, Sydney: UNSW Press, 2006, 152 Pages, Paperback, $34.95: Reviewed by Lisa McDonald in the May 2006 issue.

    I am standing in the local supermarket while renovations are made around me. I scan my list. Things have been moved: shelves, boxes, all kinds of items. Entire walls have disappeared. I stare at grime newly exposed which has set into some type of resin. Its crusty heritage contrasts in silent relief the otherwise polished architecture of supermarket things. A woman walks past and traces the direction of my eye. She winks this at me as I catch hers: 'Tsk'. And all this right here in the aisle of bleach, inside the colony of clean. Waste is nothing if not perverse, I think. I've been reading chapter two of six chapters in Gay Hawkins' latest book. It's called 'Plastic Bags' and suggests the ... read more.
  • Will Dyson: Australia's Radical Genius

    imageRoss McMullin, Carlton North: Scribe Publications, 2006, 464 Pages, Paperback, $59.95: Reviewed by Bernard Whimpress in the July 2006 issue.

    Following Sir Donald Bradman's death in 2001 Prime Minister John Howard has been slow in pronouncing a new 'greatest living Australian'. Perhaps he might have had Shane Warne in mind but if so he has kept such an idea to himself. Poet Les Murray has been mentioned in the press but the idea seems to have died a natural death. Poets don't score as well as cricketers and in any case it's not something average Australians generally feel the need to talk about. Around ninety years ago cartoonist Will Dyson might have been a candidate for the title, and he was certainly described in London as 'the biggest thing Australia has produced'. That was when he was a mordant observer of the battle between ... read more.
  • Sharing Spaces: Indigenous and non-Indigenous Responses to Story, Country and Rights

    imageGus Worby and Lester-Irabinna Rigney, Bentley: API Network, 2006, 488 Pages, Paperback, $50.00: Reviewed by Linn Miller in the July 2006 issue.

    In regard to sharing stories, spaces and belongings, accounts we are accustomed to hearing in Australia--or want to hear--are often misleadingly simple and one-sided. Sharing Spaces not only succeeds in disclosing and exploring the ground--conceptual, geographical, socio-cultural and political--that connects people to place, past to present and indigenous to settler-Australians, it also acknowledges the complexity of the issues it tackles and respects the multiplicity of their phenomenal expression. Most refreshingly, where and when differing perspectives and understandings exist, and are recognized, they are integrated into the whole, with boundaries between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ... read more.