Category: Literature

Mood Swings: Robert Lowell at 100 (and a bit)

I happened to be emerging from a bout of depression when I first realised we were approaching the centenary of Robert Lowell’s birth in 1917. Now that date – 1st March – has passed, but I’ve been rereading the poetry anyway, in the spirit of the young student in Richard Attenborough’s 1993 film Shadowlands: ‘We read to know we’re not […]

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Three Books on Democracy

Three Books on Democracy

A review of: A. C. Grayling, Democracy and Its Crisis (Oneworld Books) Richard Walsh, Reboot: A Democracy Makeover to Empower Australia’s Voters (MUP) Steve Richards, The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost Its Way (Atlantic Books)   In his 1984 book The Fall of Rome German historian Alexander Demandt lists all the reasons ever proffered for the decline […]

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Losing the Plot: On the Liberal Reaction to Hulu’s Handmaid

Losing the Plot: On the Liberal Reaction to Hulu’s Handmaid

I’ll say one thing for the Cheeto Jesus: he’s done wonders for the journalistic trade in specious literary comparisons. In the year or so since Donald Trump became the GOP’s presidential nominee, I must have read hundreds of articles comparing his rise and behaviour in office to dystopias and alternative histories such as Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, Philip […]

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On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?

On Terry Eagleton and Roger Scruton: What Kind of Thing Is Humankind?

Roger Scruton and Terry Eagleton aren’t natural bedfellows. As a conservative philosopher in the Burkean mould, Scruton tends to regard the past as a country from which we have strayed too far, while the Marxist Eagleton looks forward to a world that has broken free from oppression and exploitation. But while certain fundamental differences emerge from a reading of these […]

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Byte Back: On Two New Books About the Internet

Byte Back: On Two New Books About the Internet

At what point, I sometimes wonder, did Google’s motto ‘Don’t Be Evil’ become a standing joke? Was it when the multinational started monetising the information collected on its users? Or was it when it decided to avoid paying taxes? Surely it can’t have been as late as 2009, when it gave the US National Security Agency direct access to its […]

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Tweaking Capitalism: On Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists

Tweaking Capitalism: On Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists

Most writers on utopia tend to take a ‘two cheers’ approach to the subject. Utopias are all well in theory, it is said, but attempts to put them into practice are bound to end in disaster. The political experiments of the twentieth century tell us all we need to know: utopias should be regarded, not as serious political interventions, but […]

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Generation Snowflake: On Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive

Generation Snowflake: On Claire Fox’s I Find That Offensive

A question for ideology wonks: what do the following books have in common, apart from the fact that they’re all related to the issue of freedom of speech and expression? On Tolerance: A Defence of Moral Independence, by Frank Furedi; Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?, by Mick Hume; A Duty to Offend: Selected Essays, […]

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Crying Freedom: On Chris Berg, Andrew Bolt and Paul Ritchie

Crying Freedom: On Chris Berg, Andrew Bolt and Paul Ritchie

In October 1976 an aged Austrian economist assumed the podium in a Melbourne hotel and delivered, extempore, a speech that set libertarian hearts racing. The economist was Friedrich Hayek and the occasion was the Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which was then in the process of transforming itself into a radical free-market think-tank of the […]

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Double Disillusion

Double Disillusion

First there was Trump, then there was Brexit, then there was the Australian Senate. Not all developments of equal moment, though underlying each of them, we are invited to believe, is a common foundation: disenchantment with the political class. Lashed by the winds of globalisation and regarding our dwindling pay packets with alarm, we are turning our backs on the […]

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A review of Meanjin (Vol 75, No 2)

A review of Meanjin (Vol 75, No 2)

The new issue of Meanjin arrives under a winter cloud. In a ‘note on funding’ placed next to his editorial, Jonathan Green announces that from 2017 the magazine will no longer receive financial support from the Australia Council, its application for four years of funding having been rejected in the last round of allocation decisions. Green expresses a hope that […]

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