Australian politics, society & culture


The writings of Alex Miller
By Drusilla Modjeska
In a recent interview, Alex Miller told a story about a friend called Max Blath coming to visit him. It was years ago, before he’d published, when he was living on a farm outside Canberra. Max, a “survivor from Europe”, would turn up in a taxi from Goulburn station wearing his homburg and carrying a little black case
Alan Woods and his amazing computer. A nags-to-riches-story
By Tony Wilson
I shook down a plastic pig – fat, pink, traditional – while Dad explained once again about Tommy and Phar Lap and how Phar Lap had died in Tommy’s arms and how some people thought it might have been the Americans. Forty-five years later Tommy Woodcock, strapper to a nation, was training one of the country’s top two-
Peter Jensen
By Andrew West
On the morning of June 29, two days before John Howard’s government sealed its control of the Australian parliament by assuming a majority in the Senate, Bill Shorten, federal secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, arrived at the concrete-box office block behind St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney. He took the lift
Hip politics at the Sydney Museum of Contempory Art
By Justin Clemens
Recent laboratory work on locusts has shown that they can be turned from their harmless “solidarious” phase to a predatory “gregarious” one simply by tickling their hind legs with a paintbrush. Something similar happens with invitations to big art shows. As soon as those little slips arrive in the mail, the art world
Freedom, order and The Golden Bead Material: a parent’s dilemma
By Amanda Lohrey
In the years since then, I’ve observed with enduring fascination the many parents I’ve known who have agonised over their children’s schooling. Is there any decision that causes more angst and sleepless nights? Will the child be happy and make friends? Will she learn and develop her skills? Is the school a healthy
By Clive James
The nickname ‘Diamond Jim’ fitted James McClelland the way ‘Big Julie from Chicago’ fitted the gangster in Guys and Dolls who rolled spotless dice, with the difference that Diamond Jim wasn’t acting. He was really like what his nickname said: spruce, sparkling, charming, the Australian politician with the touch of the
To understand the place you must first understand the Bundaberg Bear
By John Harms
Sarge is firing up. “Noosa is the re-invention capital of the universe. It’s all a facade. The houses are like a Western movie set. Big fronts and nothing behind them. And the pricks are furtively pulling cans of Home Brand baked beans off the shelves so they can pay their mortgages. It’s all so self-conscious. They
Christopher Hitchens and the road to curmudgeonhood
By Phillip Knightley
A couple of years ago at Britain’s premier literary festival, Hay-on-Wye, two star performers dominated the program: former US president Bill Clinton and journalist/author/commentator Christopher Hitchens. Clinton arrived in his Secret Service car, attended a few parties, hit a few golf balls, made a stirring
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.
By Celina Ribeiro
By Andrew Wilke
They have almost lost their war on terror. Whether Osama bin Laden is alive or dead is irrelevant, because his franchises pop up quicker than they can be killed off. Our soldiers are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sydney and elsewhere wait their turn to be bombed. People talk of dozens of terrorists in our midst
By Danielle Wood
“Kate,” says Faye, “is a mezzo soprano. For which I am grateful, actually.” There is opera playing and it seems, to Tamsin, to occupy Faye’s apartment as if it were part of the decor; the rich voice echoing off the timber of the furniture, rippling over near-white carpet as soft as the fleece of a newborn lamb.“I
By John Clarke
Ray Parkin told stories, real stories, non-fiction, and he didn’t tell them to amuse or to entertain. He told them to record. Ray wanted you to understand, to know how it was. This was interesting to me because I knew nothing about the Japanese war, or the navy. I was at his place with my daughter one day when a bird
Plaques and decay. Can Kings Cross survive a $30 million facelift?
By Linda Jaivin
There’s something inescapably romantic about the idea of the Cross, that dirty half mile of Darlinghurst Road plus the suburbs of Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay, Darlinghurst and Woolloomooloo which fall away from its ridge. The Cross is a dream of poets and drunks and trannies, of a long night that winds
Australia's national philosopher: John Anderson
By Clive James
There is a tone of voice you can hear in the way a sentence is balanced, even if you are not equipped to understand its content. “What the idealist has, in fact, to show is that there is no real distinction, and the answer is that in that case there can be no real relation.” Thus wrote John Anderson in Studies in
'The Grave at Thu Le' by Catherine Cole
By Drusilla Modjeska
Considering the significance of Vietnam in Australia’s post-colonial sense of itself, it is curious that it hasn’t made its way to prominence in our literary culture. There is writing by Vietnamese Australians, though it’s little known beyond their community, and Vietnam appears in the work of Australian poets who
Graham Kennedy was an eyes-popping perfectionist, a subversive pre-feminist, a rebel without any trousers on.
By Kerryn Goldsworthy
Among the many thousands of words written in the days after Graham Kennedy died, one memory recurred like a refrain: Kennedy’s uncanny gift for TV. “Because it was a new medium,” said Stuart Wagstaff, “very few people knew how to handle it; for some inexplicable reason, Graham did.” John Mangos, the last person to
The battle for the Timor Sea, home of oil, gas, hot air and hope
By Tony Clifton
There are plenty of reasons. One is that only six years ago Indonesian troops were looting, burning and murdering their former subjects because they had the temerity to vote for Timor to become an independent country. Another is that before Indonesia’s 24-year reign the Portuguese, as colonial masters, had neglected
By John Birmingham
Brendan Nelson, John Howard’s education minister, did a funny thing a while back. Funny strange, that is, not funny ha-ha. He apologised to an opponent. Even stranger was the choice of enemy upon whom he bestowed this rare benevolence: Tony Windsor, independent MP for New England and bête noire of Nationals leader