library ticket for Defending Country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Military Service since 1945, that it’s “in demand” and that my “prompt retlibrary ticket for Defending Country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Military Service since 1945, that it’s “in demand” and that my “prompt return would be appreciated”. That means that there’s keen interest in this book, and I think that’s a good thing. As I said in my previous post about Our Vietnam Nurses the history of marginalised groups in the military has been overlooked for far too long, considering the plethora of books we have about war service.
However, I suspect that some readers will be disappointed by this one, no matter how interested they may be in the subject.
Warren Young argues that the relationship between minority participation in military versus civilian societies may follow one of three patterns, continuous, discontinuous or parallel. Continuous patterns signify the ‘deliberate projection of the minority-societal relationship onto the military organisation’; discontinuous means that the minority’s relationship within the military differs from its status within civilian society; and parallel patterns suggest that the relationship mostly mirrors that of civilian society but with some discontinuity. (p.136)
You see what I mean? Defending Country is an academic study, not written with a general audience in mind…
The book ranges across a number of themes, some of more interest to the general reader than others. The book focuses on service post WW2, but of necessity it has to cover the fact that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were disbarred from enlisting in WW1 and WW2 unless they circumvented the contemptible provisions of the legislation. The first chapter refers to the way that many of them did enlist, served with distinction as men among equals and were then confronted by discrimination when the war was over. The chapter then explores Indigenous participation in the postwar Occupation of Japan, exposing the dichotomy between government intentions and what actually happened. Military selection boards excluded indigenous enlistment by enforcing the rules about European origin and descent but there were some Aboriginal soldiers still in the army from WW2 and there is documentary evidence that some of these went to Japan. It was interesting to note that official determination to prevent Aborigines from serving there was in part due to wanting to placate local racial sensitivities i.e. the racism of the Japanese.
One thing’s for sure about the people working in creative industries, they like to be involved in new, original and different projects. So my guess isOne thing’s for sure about the people working in creative industries, they like to be involved in new, original and different projects. So my guess is that journalists in the media approach certain commemorative events with an inward groan… how do you do something different with the annual Christmas and Easter programming, and – even more challenging – how do you make something new and interesting about more controversial commemorations such as Australia Day and yes, Anzac Day?
Teachers face the same dilemma. Every year they are required to acknowledge Anzac and Remembrance Day to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the age of the students they teach. As Director of Curriculum before I retired, it was my job to coordinate the whole school program, so that the kids didn’t get the same old lesson every year, and if you read my post at LisaHillSchoolStuff you can see that I implore publishers to think outside the box, especially when it comes to acknowledging the participation of those often overlooked in the national narrative. Always on the lookout for background reading to improve my own knowledge about the service of indigenous Australians, peacekeepers and women, I would have been pleased to discover Our Vietnam Nurses had it been available while I was developing resources for my students to use.
Longlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Award, The World Without Us begins slowly with a network of scenes that eventually form a structure in a way thLonglisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Award, The World Without Us begins slowly with a network of scenes that eventually form a structure in a way that a beehive does. It takes a little while to connect the characters and their relationships, so the reader needs a bit of patience in order for the story to cohere…
Just as a hive depends on its Queen and will swarm wherever she leads it, so the central character of this novel is Evangeline, whose family is adrift ever since she lost her way when her daughter Pip died two years ago.
(Yes, it is another story about grief and loss, there’s a lot of this about in Australian literary fiction at the moment, and the Miles Franklin judges have acknowledged that it’s a common theme in their choices:
“The impact of grief and loss – complex families, unstable relationships, accidents, European war crimes, suicide, – and how the experience of these issues deeply determine the narrative and direction of lives”.
That’s as quoted in the SMH, I defy anyone to locate judges’ comments on the new MF website!)
The story begins with conflicting images of Evangeline: a strong, arresting-looking woman confidently stripping off to swim in the river, she’s not embarrassed to be joined by a neighbour, the new teacher in town who’s called Jim. But as he soon realises, there is a powerful undercurrent drawing her towards the falls, and she seems to be drifting towards oblivion. When he pulls her back to safety, he sees her private memorial, a sort of installation composed of Pip’s medication boxes and mementoes strung from a tree. In withdrawing with her own grief in this intensely private way, Evangeline has abandoned her other two daughters Tess and Meg and her apiarist husband Stefan, leaving them to flounder around on their own
Now that the pumpkins have been harvested and the very last of the tomatoes have only days left to ripen, it’s time for the vegie patch to be made reaNow that the pumpkins have been harvested and the very last of the tomatoes have only days left to ripen, it’s time for the vegie patch to be made ready for Winter crops. And, as I’ve been doing now for 25 years or more, I turn to my copy of Shirley Stackhouse’s Gardening Year, to tell me what to do next.
I’m not keen on gardening. I like having a nice garden, but I don’t much like the labour that goes with it. So I’m not interested in books written for keen gardeners, I want something simple and practical that doesn’t waste my time. First published in 1980 the Stackhouse book is a month-by-month guide to the garden and it’s been my gardening bible since I bought this reprint in 1990. This is why I like it: •Each month gets its own chapter, which begins with a checklist. The checklist on the left hand side tells what should be flowering now, grouped by trees and shrubs; bulbs; annuals and perennials; climbers and natives. The checklist on the right hand side tells you what to plant in that month, grouped by trees, shrubs and climbers; annuals; bulbs and vegetables. The page also tells you what to prune, if anything, in that month. •Turn the page and it tells you what pests and diseases may be giving you grief, and what to do about them, and some tips for general garden care. •Then the chapter launches into more detail about how to achieve an attractive garden for each month whatever the season, and lots more detail about planting, keeping things in bloom, dividing plants, re-potting, composting, pruning, weeding and feeding, pests and all kinds of whatnot. I usually only browse these sections, because ours is now an established garden and I’m not into planting new stuff and flowers. For me, now, it’s the vegetable checklists that are invaluable.
Destined for non-fiction and biography shortlists, Georgiana Molloy, the Mind that Shines rivals Journey to Horseshoe Bend as the best non-fiction booDestined for non-fiction and biography shortlists, Georgiana Molloy, the Mind that Shines rivals Journey to Horseshoe Bend as the best non-fiction book I’ve read so far this year.
Regular readers of my blog know that I love botanical illustration and it has its own category here, but Georgiana Molloy, the Mind that Shines is the first full-length biography I’ve come across that tells the life story of a woman working in this field of knowledge.
Like the women whose work Penny Olsen celebrates in Collecting Ladies, Georgiana Molloy (1805-1843) was a significant botanist in the years of early settlement, but I first encountered her in The Complete Book of Heroic Australian Women by Susanna De Vries, an unimpressive book which harped on the drudgery of pioneer life for women and failed to make its subjects interesting. Molloy also gets more than a mention in Curious Minds by Peter Macinnis, a much more engaging and better-written homage to the naturalists who began the work of studying our unique flora and fauna. But in a twelve-year labour of love, Bernice Barry has given Georgiana Molloy a whole book of her own, and this biography is sheer delight to read.
Quite unexpectedly, now that I’ve finally read it, I found myself having reservations about this much-lauded book. (And, to be honest, I have some quaQuite unexpectedly, now that I’ve finally read it, I found myself having reservations about this much-lauded book. (And, to be honest, I have some qualms about saying so). Charlotte Wood was troubled by the lack of structure in the book in her review for The Age but I was more bothered by the tone. In exploring the haunting nature of places where terrible things have happened, Tumarkin selects Moscow, Bali, Berlin, New York (9/11), Shanksville, Sarajevo and Port Arthur and others – but adopts a lofty tone. God forbid, Tumarkin says on page 224 that I might sound moralising or rhetorical. Yet in the midst of this most thoughtful of books, here and there I found myself confronting accusatory generalisations.
Unravelling what is labelled ‘dark tourism’ Tumarkin explores the compulsion that takes people to the sites of tragedy. But at pains to separate her motives for doing so from the herd’s, Tumarkin claims an immunity conferred by her upbringing in the Soviet Union.
Our life in the former Soviet Union taught us that people’s only real defence against paranoia and deceit perpetuated by the totalitarian regime was their individualism – hungry, uncontrollable and self-renewing. Being part of the herd was a sure path to moral and psychological disintegration. For as long as I can remember, I have referred to emotionally or otherwise charged activities customarily done in groups (demonstrations, mediations, parties, book clubs and group tours) as ‘group sex’. Collective undertakings like these have always seemed to me like the very definition of unnatural acts. (p.33)
This makes her, she says, an ‘unlikely pilgrim’. She isn’t ‘comfortable’ with ‘the idea of trauma tourism.’
To this day, when I go to the sites of trauma, I always catch myself trying to keep the greatest possible distance from tourists. I am writing a book, I tell myself. I need to come here. I am not sightseeing, but gathering vital research. I have no curiosity, only the need to see these places with my own eyes. When I come to sites of trauma, I try not to stay in hotels. This is not just a money-saving strategy; I need to make sure I am not bound in any way to other tourists. If it so happens that I end up joining guided tours – an extremely rare turn of events, all in all – it is only to see what kind of stories are being fed to tourists – a category from which I obsessively exclude myself. (p.52-3)
I find this sanctimonious. When in Berlin to visit museums of classical antiquity, The Spouse and I also visited the Berlin Holocaust Memorial out of respect. For us, one cannot visit that city without acknowledging its evil history; no matter how much time passes it would be morally wrong to ignore the past. We were not looking for a ‘cathartic experience’ as a ‘release from the burden of a traumatic past‘. We were honouring the murdered. We were asserting that they are not forgotten and that individually and collectively they still matter, to gentiles like us from the other side of the world who were not even born when it happened. It is not just that I could not look my Jewish friends in the eye if I chose not to do this; it is part of being fully human to remember the Holocaust. I don’t think this makes me and my motives special, because I don’t presume to judge the motives of the other people who are there.
It takes a special kind of crazy-brave to write a novel about domestic violence that makes the reader feel sympathy for the perpetrators, and it takesIt takes a special kind of crazy-brave to write a novel about domestic violence that makes the reader feel sympathy for the perpetrators, and it takes a remarkable level of skill to create one that I am interested in reading. But as I predicted when I read Josephine Rowe’s short story collection Tarcutta Wake (see my review) this debut novel fulfils the promise of arresting characterisation. A loving, faithful animal is a multifaceted dissection of dysfunctional family life with unexpected moments of humour and a keen perception of Australian larrikinism as it plays out among young people in Australian country life. It’s a very good novel indeed.
The novel begins at the approach of New Year 1992, in the wake of that great family festival, Christmas. Ev (Evelyn) insists on the annual ritual of de-Christmasing of the house lest leaving the decorations up bring bad luck. Her adolescent daughter Lani doesn’t think their luck could get any worse, but younger sister Ru (Ruby) isn’t complaining. In a novel which offers the perspective of all the members of this fractured, damaged family, it’s her point-of-view we hear first...
One thing for sure about Anzac Day next week, is that the template will be the same as in previous years. There will be an outpouring of sentimentalitOne thing for sure about Anzac Day next week, is that the template will be the same as in previous years. There will be an outpouring of sentimentality about old soldiers long dead, there will be grainy footage of trench warfare, there will be quotations from musty diaries, there will be politicians laying wreaths, and there will be scenes of people weeping for ancestors they never knew.
And there will be scant media attention paid to the veterans of Vietnam who are still among us. If they get a mention, the tropes will be all about PTSD and not much else, unless it’s to resurrect memories of the controversy surrounding Australia’s involvement in Vietnam. It must be galling indeed for returned soldiers from that conflict to be, still, a bit of an afterthought in military commemorations.
(This is not a case for more, it is a case for reassessing the privileging of some at the expense of others. If you haven’t yet read James Brown’s Book, Anzac’s Long Shadow, the cost of our national obsession, I refer you to my review. IMO Brown’s book is essential reading for all Australians, whether interested in matters military or not).
I was against the war in Vietnam, but it is because our Vietnam veterans are treated shabbily that I am so pleased that Seeing the Elephant is such an excellent book. There are histories of the Vietnam War, but it is novels which speak up for the heart and soul of the individuals who were there. In Portland Jones’ debut novel, set in the highlands of Vietnam in 1962 as Australia’s involvement began, the story of Frank Stevens and his translator Minh will hold you transfixed until you turn the last page.
Following on from his exceptionally good debut thriller Prohibited Zone, (see my review) Alastair Sarre’s new novel Ecstasy Lake is enjoyable reading…Following on from his exceptionally good debut thriller Prohibited Zone, (see my review) Alastair Sarre’s new novel Ecstasy Lake is enjoyable reading…
Back in the lead role is Steve West (the ex-AFL footy star ‘Westie’), nursing a broken heart and laconically trading insults with exasperated cops and homicidal maniacs. He’s a classic irreverent Aussie laidback hero, and Sarre is a master at doing the dialogue:
‘Right,’ said Bert. ‘Your role in the incident would also be scrutinised. As it is, you’ll no doubt hear from cops regarding events at the restaurant.’
‘I’m not sure I want to hear about those,’ said Paul.
‘I pencilled a guy,’ I said.
‘Is that slang for something vulgar?’
‘No, I actually stuck a pencil in a guy’s leg. And I belted another guy in the head. Knocked him out. And of course I also knocked Harlin out with a pistol.’
Chris and Paul exchanged a look. ‘Most of the time he’s harmless,’ said Bert.
‘You put three men in hospital?’ said Paul.
‘I bet Harlin hasn’t gone to hospital. Maybe none of them has.’
‘The man with the pencil in his leg should go to hospital,’ said Paul ‘He could get lead poisoning.’ Bert and I laughed. (p.140)
The setting is not Adelaide as we visitors might know it. This is not Arty Adelaide with gourmet food trails and quiet leafy streets. This is Adelaide with gang warfare between two drug lords (and a wannabe) and a swathe of sordid suburbs called the Badlands. And beyond that there is the barren desert that might have a gold deposit big enough to create the mining boom that South Australia never had. A mining boom to lift Adelaide out of its economic doldrums and give the indigenous owners of the land a real future.
One’ is both a number, and a pronoun. It’s not just the lowest cardinal number, alluding perhaps to ‘one against the world’, it’s also half of two. SoOne’ is both a number, and a pronoun. It’s not just the lowest cardinal number, alluding perhaps to ‘one against the world’, it’s also half of two. So it can draw attention to duality in an individual – an alter ego, a second self, a Jekyll and Hyde, or good and evil in the same character. ‘One’ can also focus the mind on the interdependence of two characters, being two sides of the one coin. Among numerous other meanings, ‘one’ can also mean ‘the same’, or ‘identical’ (as in ‘there’s only one’), and it can mean ‘one amongst many’ suggesting perhaps that in one gang, there may be only one man that matters). And as a pronoun, again amongst other meanings, it can also refer to a person representing people in general, an impersonal pronoun as used in the last sentence of my previous paragraph. This usage is becoming less common in Australia, and sometimes derided as pretentious, but IMO it’s a handy way to focus away from the individual ‘I’ or ‘you’. Then again, in the context of Holland’s novel, set at the turn of the twentieth century when Australia federated to become one country instead of a jigsaw of squabbling colonies, ‘one’ can have an ironic undertone about the unity – the ‘oneness’ – of the emerging nation: its indigenous people weren’t included in the vote and as shown in this book, they were treated as Other rather than as The First Nations among One. My guess is that book groups could spend quite a bit of time pondering this title!
Ostensibly, Holland’s ‘One’ is a tale about bushrangers. The Kenniff brothers, James and Patrick, were Australia’s last bushrangers, running an extensive horse-stealing operation in outback Queensland at the turn of the twentieth century. But One is less of a ‘chase’ narrative and more of a meditation on law and what it means to us as a society. Nixon, a policeman in pursuit of the Kenniffs, doesn’t get much in the way of support from the sparse communities where the bushrangers operate: some don’t help because they fear reprisals; some don’t help because they don’t share the idea of law and order underpinning societies of any kind, much less theirs; and some don’t help because they would rather turn a blind eye.
I took the advice of Kim from Reading Matters, and read this book in daylight. Straight through without a break. It’s a macabre, tense thriller that –I took the advice of Kim from Reading Matters, and read this book in daylight. Straight through without a break. It’s a macabre, tense thriller that – as the title indicates – preys on a reader’s inchoate fear of being trapped in mortal danger…
In this case the mortal danger is a crazed madman in pursuit of a young woman called Katie, and of Shaw who blunders into protecting her. The setting is the hostile Australian outback where the couple are trapped by the perilous heat and the terrain.
Read but not reviewed because I didn't take any notes and I didn't do the review at the time because my mother was dying and I forgot about it. Now, IRead but not reviewed because I didn't take any notes and I didn't do the review at the time because my mother was dying and I forgot about it. Now, I can't do this excellent book justice without re-reading the entire thing. So you just have to take my word for it. If you are interested in Australian drama or literature in general, it's a must read....more