Recollections of a Bleeding Heart

(by Don Watson) A portrait both affectionate and sharp, of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, beautifully written and constructed by his ‘bleeding heart’ speechwriter (scribbling for him 1992-96).  For all his faults, Keating was a remarkable polemicist and his panache, once he had got to grips with a concept, or a slip by the enemy, was extraordinary. Best example: turning John Hewson’s budget reply charge that Keating would “pull everyone down to the lowest common denominator” into a lethal riposte: “Nothing Keating said in 1992 was as good as this. John Hewson had defined himself as Gordon Gecko….

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Power Without Glory

(by Frank Hardy) Never mind that Hardy was an unreconstructed Commo; this is a great, great-big book, a scandalous roman-a-clef based on a Collingwood Mafioso, John Wren and his rise (and rise).  Blessed with no literary touches but a lot of narrative drive, the book has become, in its unpretentious way, a landmark of Australian literature.  Hardy had to overcome a myriad hurdles to get his work published and only then did his troubles really begin, in the form of various reprisals, including an almost ruinous trial for criminal libel.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock

(dir. Peter Weir) (1975)         St. Valentine’s Day, 1900.  The young ladies of Appleyard College are treated to a picnic at Hanging Rock, a volcanic pile in the heart of the Victorian countryside, near Mount Macedon.  There is twittering around the teacups, too much cake and Australian sunshine, and whilst the party are having an al fresco siesta, people go missing.  But while the film has aspects of a whodunit or a thriller, it cannot be categorised because it simply transcends classification.  As F.R Leavis said of Wuthering Heights, you can call this a sport. Totally magical,…

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The Merry-go-Round in the Sea

(by Randolph Stow) The great Australian family-at-war yarn. The scene of Rick and Jane on the beach is the literary high watermark of dates gone wrong.

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The Last Confession

Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on May 18 (1920) and we take the opportunity to remember The Last Confession, a papal election drama that suggests mere mortals can somehow connive their way to the right result… (by Roger Crane) (Australia, 2014) The Pope is dead.  Long live the Pope.  And his election shall be the wish of God, even if the processes seem all-too awful and human. This is a fascinating account of the serpentine path to that puff of white smoke which signals the supposed will of God.  These Cardinals are wily, sly, two-faced and yet somehow, they seem to genuinely…

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