OTHER RECENT POSTS

On Geoffrey Robertson and Michael Kirby

‘Although an expatriate, I am not an ex-patriot’, writes the human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson in his introduction to Dreaming Too Loud, a collection of essays spanning thirty years and touching on subjects as diverse as drones, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Julian Assange. It’s a point on which he insists more than once, perhaps because, as well as living in […]

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A dangerous cynicism

It is now almost exactly a quarter of a century since history – or rather History – ended. The year was 1989. Amidst the collapsing scenery of the Soviet Union and its European satellites, a political scientist called Francis Fukuyama stepped forward to declare that liberal democracy was now the only game in town. His essay ‘The End of History?’ […]

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On David Whish-Wilson’s Perth

The object of travel, wrote G. K. Chesterton, ‘is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land’. David Whish-Wilson returned to his own country, Australia, at the age of twenty-nine, having spent a decade ‘bumming around’ in Europe, Asia and Africa. I’ve no doubt he could […]

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Talking about offence with the ABC’s Richard Fidler

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/local/brisbane/conversations/201311/r1203534_15602380.mp3

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Would You Kill the Fat Man?

Consider the following scenario. Terrorists have hijacked three passenger aeroplanes, two of which have just been flown into skyscrapers in the middle of a busy city. On its first run, the third plane missed its target, but it is now lining up for another attempt. In the meantime, you – the head of the Air Force – have been able […]

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On John Kinsella’s Tide

John Kinsella’s new collection of short stories, Tide, begins with an acknowledgement of ‘the traditional owners and custodians of the land he [i.e. the author] writes’. Certainly Kinsella’s work can feel like part of the Australian landscape; with over thirty collections of poetry to his name, and many works of prose besides, the Perth-born writer is nothing if not conspicuous. […]

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Review: The Importance of Being Civil

In his stimulating book The Importance of Being Civil, John A. Hall tears a leaf from the street-fighter’s handbook and gets his retaliation in first. To those who will say that concepts such as decency have no place in a work of sociology, he insists that ‘civility is not sugary froth but an ideal of visceral importance’ and that ‘the […]

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Generation Ex

Considered in theoretical terms, the modern ideal of ‘marriage for love’ has never been more popular. In traditional societies such as India and China, arranged marriages (and certainly forced marriages) are less common than they used to be, while for many artists and activists in Muslim-majority communities the freedom to choose one’s life partner has become the emblem of freedom […]

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Review: Amanda Curtin’s Elemental

If the past is a foreign country, then Margaret Duthie Tulloch (‘Meggie’) is a traveller from a distant land. Indeed the narrator of Amanda Curtin’s splendid novel Elemental has led a life unimaginably different from the woman to whom her story is addressed. That woman is Meggie’s granddaughter, Laura, who in a hundred-page ‘Coda’ at the end of the book […]

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On the side of the Angels: A. C. Grayling

Of all the shady turns of phrase to have lodged themselves in the popular consciousness since the terrorist attacks of 2001, the term ‘Enlightenment fundamentalist’ is surely one of the shadiest. A version of the logical fallacy known as ‘the appeal to hypocrisy’, this ingenious bit of rhetorical jujitsu suggests that the enemies of religious obscurantism are no less intolerant […]

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