THE NATION REVIEWED
The genius of our political system is that it has evolved a civilised machinery for keeping blood off the streets. It’s called Parliament, and political leaders are warlords in harness. Conflict is not in itself bad; it is the motor of worthwhile change.
In the Monthly Comment, Amanda Lohrey explores how growing cynicism has corroded our respect for democracy.
Plus, in ‘Four Coroners’, John Bryson attends the final inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain; in ‘Angry Boys’, Mike Steketee inspects the loony end of opposition to climate science; in ‘Arse Gratia Artis’, Mark Whittaker enjoys a nude gallery tour; in ‘All at Sea’, Sian Powell bears witness to the hidden injustices of detaining people smugglers; in ‘Redemption Lane’, Benjamin Law goes poolside with Olympic hopeful Nick D’Arcy; and in ‘Man of Letters’, Ian Kenins talks to the perennially cranky letter-writer Danny Johnson.
THE MONTHLY ESSAYS
Shorten seems to treat interviews like he knows, but quietly resents, that he’s on a leash. When he bristles at a question, and cocks a here-we-go-again eyebrow at his ever-present media adviser, you sense his frustration is as much with the adviser’s tacit opinion of how he should answer it as it is with the question.
In ‘Watch This Face’, John van Tiggelen joins Labor MP Bill Shorten on his politician’s rounds. Notoriously instrumental in Kevin Rudd’s downfall, Shorten has also been an architect of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a stalwart defender of universal education and a champion of workers’ rights. He’s not a man to mince words, but still bites his tongue on the subject of his own ambitions.
God forbid we should even hint at woolly ideas like the sheer golorious excitement of learning, the delight of mastery, of bright curiosity satisfied and of play.
In ‘Mind the Gap’, Carmen Lawrence reflects on the growing disparity in educational experiences between socioeconomic groups in Australia. Looking at successful European schooling models, Lawrence asks how might we improve our systems nationwide.
If you are an older person who has fallen down and can’t walk, someone who’s had a faint, has a fever, is dizzy or delirious or looks starved to death, you are considered a Category 4 or 5 on the triage scale. This means that by dinner time you may still be lying on the trolley, perhaps in the corridor of the emergency department if things are really frantic, waiting to be seen by a doctor.
In ‘Last Resort’, Karen Hitchcock calls for a radical new way of running emergency departments across Australia. Increasing specialisation in the medical profession has sapped our hospitals’ capacity to take a holistic approach to patients’ needs, and people are falling though the cracks. The recent rebirth of the ‘specialty’ of general medicine, Hitchcock argues, could save lives.
A frightful pause. My cheeks were burning. I turned back to my quivering newspaper and pretended to go on reading. The men got their second wind. They began to mock and jeer. Who did I think I was?
In a new occasional column, Vox, Helen Garner ponders her resolution to be more assertive in the face of rudeness.
ARTS & LETTERS
“My father was not only a butcher but a hunter, and the animals he brought home from the country made the greatest impression. They would be lying dead on the floor of the basement – their beautiful eyes still open. I just remember sitting next to them crying and asking why.”
In ‘In the Flesh’, Alexandra Coghlan goes to Ghent to meet Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere. Inspired by the Flemish Old Masters, De Bruyckere’s human and animal figures explore flesh and the theatre of cruelty, finding transcendence and even beauty in their delicate forms.
Perkins has always written vivid, assured prose that is at once highly polished and disarmingly casual: supple, alive. Light “badoings” off a window pane, a child’s face “prunes” into discontent.
In ‘Out of Auckland’, Michelle de Kretser reviews New Zealand writer Emily Perkins’ new novel, The Forrests. Using sensory detail and minimal plot, Perkins’ unorthodox approach to realism results in a work of dazzling storytelling.
Plus, in ‘Superconductor’, we send Peter Conrad to Hamburg to talk to expat conductor Simone Young; in ‘The Vice of a Nation’, Robert Forster turns an avuncular eye on reality TV sensation The Voice; and in ‘Tales of Ordinary Madness’, Luke Davies reviews period films In Darkness and A Royal Affair.