THE NATION REVIEWED
Gillard is a tough politician – flawed, yes, but undeniably tough. Most prime ministers have a hyena tearing at their belly as they dash across the political landscape. Gillard has not one, but many – a veritable pack of scavengers and would-be predators all.
In the Monthly Comment, Christine Wallace searches for the font of Julia Gillard’s resilience.
Plus, in ‘Gold is Good’, Waleed Aly writes in defence of sport, and damn the latte-sippers; in ‘Live from Mars’, Claire Corbett watches Curiosity take its first spin on the red planet; in ‘Green Card’, Kathy Marks appraises the controversial Bankstown income management trial; in ‘Not a Dog’, Christine Kenneally contemplates the hinged heads of our native canids; in ‘Riches to Rags’, Fiona Harari follows a down-and-out wanderer along Sydney’s most affluent streets; and in ‘The Naked Critic’, Tim Flannery raises his glass in memory of Robert Hughes.
THE MONTHLY ESSAYS
If the national defence response is fudged, we are likely to end up with the worst of both worlds. We will waste a lot of money on things we don’t need, while still not doing what is required to stop Australia from sliding swiftly into the ranks of the small powers. Which, in fact, is exactly what we are doing now.
In ‘A Middling Power’, Hugh White assesses the difficult defence choices that lie ahead of the government at a time when the regional balance of power is shifting dramatically. As the blunders pile up, White asks what it will take to defend our shores in years to come.
His mystery is self-engendered, like the mystique of any celebrity. He presents a collage of contradictory faces to the camera. Obama flips and flexes with slippery ease, and it may be pointless to speculate about who he is when he’s alone – except that he will probably be smoking.
In ‘Waiting for Barack’, Peter Conrad tries to pin down the “improbable president”: four years on, we’re still no closer to knowing him. On the cusp of the election, with the disappointment of millions clinging to him, the real Barack must show himself.
Complex sentencing procedures impede the very quality we most need in our courts: the capacity of judges to gently weigh the unquantifiable circumstances of wrongdoing, broken lives, and that most ungraspable of things – the human soul – so that they might reach just decisions.
In ‘The Work of Judges’, Kate Rossmanith delves into the NSW criminal justice system to shine a light on the Byzantine complexity of its sentencing processes. The legacy of a “law and order auction” between the two major parties, algorithmic sentencing guidelines are now hampering the exercise of wisdom.
After the others had said their goodbyes, I picked up Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen had been dragged into all kinds of strange embraces – zombies, vampires, werewolves – why not palliation?
Gail Bell wonders what she can do for a friend who is nearing the end of her life, and finds her answer in the pages of Austen and Hopkins.
ARTS & LETTERS
Benjamin Law comes across as not just fun to be with, but sensitive, quick to empathise, sharp-eyed and, well, extremely nice. Since he’s in the limelight on every page, this matters. All the same, it is a bit like watching a lesbian vampire movie starring Doris Day.
In ‘Queer and Loathing’, Robert Dessaix reviews Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East, Benjamin Law’s account of his departures from the straight and narrow across the Orient. Despite mixed feelings about Law’s “gonzo nice” approach, Dessaix can’t fault his compassion.
Girls is, at heart, anti-glamour. Hannah is not interested in finding a rich husband, nor in squealing at stilettos. She is interested in being the subject of her own life; in figuring out adulthood, womanhood, sex; in becoming a writer.
In ‘A Heavy F*cking Situation’, Anna Goldsworthy admires Girls, a new HBO comedy/drama about twenty-something women in New York from writer/director/actress Lena Dunham. The show catches youth’s awkwardness and charm with zeitgeisty flair, but also falls prey to its myopia and self-obsession.
Plus, in ‘At the Table by the Window’, Raimond Gaita remembers poet, priest and teacher Peter Steele; in ‘I Told You I Was Freaky’, Robert Forster enjoys the comedic folk/rock/soul/rap stylings of Flight of the Conchords; and in ‘After the Flood’, Luke Davies is swept away by Benh Zeitlin’s rapturous Beasts of the Southern Wild.