This starts in Melbourne on November 10, with some prep happening here in Sydney right now, which led to a surprise visit from my old young friend Philip, whose place M and I shared when we began living together exactly fifteen years ago. Philip moved to Melbourne at least ten years ago, and I had not seen him again until tonight. We went to a Thai restaurant in Crown Street — the same one where Mr R and I once had some excellent fish — and spent a lot of time catching up. He is working as a stage manager on the above production, having recently graduated from university in Melbourne. Read the rest of this entry »
Monthly Archives: October 2005
Insights – Uniting Church magazine online: review The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris
Sam Harris, philosopher and neuroscientist, argues cogently in this, his first, book that religions are dangerous, indeed evil. He dismisses the excuse that they are simply sullied by sin; they are dangerous, particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam, for claiming to be based on “Creator-authored texts”. Reading his graphic descriptions of the Inquisitions, witch-hunts, and anti-Semitism, as well as his two pages of Koranic quotations on the need to deal harshly with the infidel, you could surmise that he is merely condemning extremist interpretations of religious teaching. But this would be wrong, for Harris is no less critical of religious moderates, as well as pluralism, relativism and pragmatism. To him all are equally irrational…
Harris is right about the implicit danger Read the rest of this entry »
Zadie Smith is 28. The Autograph Man, her second novel, ranks 3,669 on Amazon. White Teeth , her debut, at 4,323. She clocked a fair advance on the books — £250,000, people say. She’s smart, thin, and — bar her boyfriend, poet Nick Laird — the best-looking person in the room. Oh Zadie, Zadie: where did it all go wrong?
For Zadie is disgruntled…
…Flat-footed, grudging, pompous etc. catches the tenor of her answers rather well. Asked why people like lists such as the Granta one, she is scathing. “Lists are less trouble,” she tells us. “I think it’s a slightly depressing English habit. We’d much rather have somebody else’s taste to follow rather than having to take any time finding something new; discovering new writers or going to a bookshop without instruction. It is depressing.”…
“This culture is so in overdrive about any kind of youthful fiction,” she fulminates. “Monica doesn’t think hers is the greatest book ever written, but you find yourself defending something you never believed. The hype is an enormous psychological pressure on a writer. Not that anyone should weep for a writer who has earned loads of money. But the bottom line is, this is not a healthy thing to have in your head at eight in the morning when you’re trying to write something. It’s just very messy. Even in America you have a better chance of having a basically healthy literary career, at least in the beginning, than you do in England. We’re driven by the celebrity mania that this whole country is sunk in.”…
Sounds to me that Zadie Smith could be right, and “Book Slut” a tad bitchy… But that’s just my opinion.
All I know is I am really enjoying The Autograph Man, which is hilarious, even if it is really about death — in a rather serious way. Mr Rabbit is right about Zadie Smith!
Here are my select quotes so far: Read the rest of this entry »
“Alex-Li Tandem survives a bad name day, a bad trip and a raft of unlikely coincidences to discover celebrity has its price.” That sounds like a send-up to me… Nonetheless, despite my obvious cringe when Thin Potations gets into PC-kickback mode — I mean, what do you expect me to do? — I still follow his literary recommendations with respect, and you might recall his recommendation of White Teeth, Smith’s first novel, earlier this month. So I borrowed The Autograph Man (2002) just now from Surry Hills Library, along with:
I wrote the entry above on 7 July 2005, and how true it has proven to be! (Even Mr Rabbit praised me for this entry.) Consider the propaganda campaign we have been seeing lately on behalf of “WorkChoices” (sic) — itself an example of Newt Gingrich’s 1996 thesis “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”, in turn an application with brainwashing intent of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Go to the link above and see how those semi-hypnotic TV ads have selected from Newt’s list of magic words. Note also syntactic tricks, such as “Employees, together with employers, can…” Note how that endows “employees” with a spurious sense of agency. Now of course we see what is “guaranteed by law” in this interview yesterday with Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews:
Read the rest of this entry »
The steak was to die for. Lord Malcolm, Sirdan and I kicked on for several hours more. A really delightful afternoon. Sirdan is enjoying his new place in Kensington.
A pamphlet rather than a book, this is well worth reading in order to clarify thinking, to avoid being trapped in some false dichotomy between “pomo” (bad) and “objectivity” (illusory). I cannot but agree with his summary definition of multiculturalism:
Part of being postmodern is being aware that, as a result of the colonial and post-colonial history of the world, the cultures we inhabit are multicultures. Multicultural societies are not those where different cultures are assimilated into a single culture (although wonderful things come from creative mixing of cultures). Rather, it is a culture of respect and negotiation between different traditions. As I have argued, Holocaust deniers hate this multiculture. [David] Irving certainly does… Read the rest of this entry »
THE Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission’s website took its place yesterday alongside Shakespeare’s King Lear and W.B.Yeats’s poetry as an examination topic for the NSW Higher School Certificate. Students taking their final Advanced English exam were offered a choice of “texts” to analyse, including the ATSIC site, drawing criticism that its inclusion was an insult to the classics.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Board of Studies said ATSIC’s abolition in March was no reason to remove the website from the curriculum and examiners had checked to make sure the site would remain up long enough for students taking yesterday’s paper. “Geoffrey Chaucer is dead – should we automatically drop him from the prescribed text list?” she said. Read the rest of this entry »
Strongly recommended yesterday on Mr Rabbit’s blog. Read the rest of this entry »
This is the “international” version of the essay Windschuttle published in this month’s Quadrant, and I am not going to quarrel with his assessment of Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story, which the two were already working on when I met them in Sydney in the early 1990s. I have not read the book, but I hope to. I think it will prove to be a valuable addition to the literature on the subject. The groundwork was done years ago, in fact, by clearly honest observers of China like Simon Leys.
Even Sydney’s lonely Maoist, Bob Gould of Newtown book barn fame, admits that Leys was right. Or so he told me some years ago when I bought a couple of Leys’s books from him. Amuse yourself with Bob Gould’s “Deconstructing the 1960s and 1970s — An open letter to Keith and Liz Windschuttle”.
Sadly for both Bob and Keith (and Liz), I thought in the relevant period they were all bonkers, and found the Chinese Cultural Revolution darkly amusing, except that it killed so many and caused such pain to the Chinese people. I used to listen to Chinese propaganda at the time on Radio Peking and found it horribly hilarious: “After studying the Thought of Chairman Mao, an illiterate peasant suddenly became a brain surgeon…” Almost as bad as that. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew Fraser the NSW Member of Parliament (see previous item) must not be confused with the lunatic at Macquarie University referred to in the item above.
Andrew Fraser is now notorious for his denigration of the civil standing of persons of African descent, whom he labels “Bantus”. What has been less noted is that Fraser also targets the standing of those of Chinese descent in Australia. Fraser asserts in his recent article, “Rethinking the White Australia Policy”, (an edited version can be read in On Line Opinion) that what he calls “the Chinese colonies in Australia” are marked by “rampant xenophobia and ethnocentrism”. These characteristics are the alleged result of an “evolutionary path” taken thousands of years ago.
Fraser’s wild claims about the Chinese are supported by no evidence, not even by a quotation from his own letter to a suburban newspaper that is used elsewhere in the article. Fraser simply asserts that “historic cultures of servility” mark Chinese communities. Paradoxically, this servility will not, in his view, prevent white Australians from being “outgunned” by East Asians. Fraser claims, “Within two to three decades, it is not unreasonable to expect that Australia will have a heavily Asian managerial-professional, ruling class that will not hesitate to promote the interests of co-ethnics at the expense of white Australians”.
If even for a moment you think there is anything even faintly reasonable in Andrew Barking Mad Prof Fraser’s brain seizure, read the rest of Pringle’s excellent piece.