Category: Literature

Why Davos Man Loves Big History

Why Davos Man Loves Big History

On the face of it, David Christian’s Origin Story doesn’t look like the kind of book that demands a political analysis. Subtitled A Big History of Everything, I imagine it will strike most readers as a weightier, less amusing, version of Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything – a book for the interested non-specialist, if not the shameless dilettante. […]

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Bullshit Jobs and Blue Collar Frayed: A Review

Bullshit Jobs and Blue Collar Frayed: A Review

In 2013 an essay entitled ‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs’ appeared in the radical magazine Strike! Its author was the anthropologist and political activist David Graeber, who sought an answer to a simple question: How is it that developed economies in thrall to ideals of efficiency and high productivity generate so many jobs that even the people who do […]

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Tim Winton’s The Shepherd’s Hut: A Review

Tim Winton’s The Shepherd’s Hut: A Review

“Anything with blood in it can probably go bad. Like meat. And it’s the blood that makes me worry. It carries things you don’t even know you got.” So thinks Jaxie Clackton as he hides out in the Western Australian wheatbelt, casing a corrugated iron shack. He’s on the run, having found his father crushed to death under a Toyota […]

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The War on the Young and Australia Reimagined: A Review

The War on the Young and Australia Reimagined: A Review

Both John Sutherland and Hugh Mackay were born in 1938. According to my instruments, that makes them old men, and it is as old men – or, if you prefer, ‘elders’ – that they have taken up the urgent task of diagnosing contemporary society’s ills and prescribing an appropriate course of treatment. Sutherland does so in rank-breaking style, suggesting in […]

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Peak Bullshit?

Peak Bullshit?

Earlier this year, as the US journalist Michael Wolff was angrily defending his chart-busting exposé Fire and Fury against allegations that it was thinly sourced and inaccurate – allegations, it should be pointed out, that flowed principally from its apricot-coloured subject – a passage purporting to be an extract from the book was published and widely shared on Twitter. Originating […]

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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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