Some of my best friends are gay –- Abbott on “Four Corners”: an irrelevant header

Yes, irrelevant because this is really a review catch-up post – almost a series of tweets.

Speaking of Twitter, as of last night I am a fellow traveller of one “Godwin Grech”. I am sure you can work that out, if you are Australian.

Books

star_icons25 star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 Margaret Attwood, Payback (2008)

Oh, sure, anyone can come up with a good aphorism or two, but I can’t think of anyone who has explained the subprime mortgage crisis quite as cogently as Atwood: "Some large financial institutions peddled mortgages to people who could not possibly make the monthly rates and then put this snake-oil debt into cardboard boxes with impressive labels on them and sold them to institutions and hedge funds that thought they were worth something."

Where Atwood particularly excels (not surprisingly) is in showing how strongly debt figures in some of our most beloved Western fiction. "When I was young and simple," she writes, "I thought the nineteenth-century novel was driven by love; but now, in my more complicated years, I see that it’s also driven by money, which indeed holds a more central place in it than love does, no matter how much the virtues of love may be waved idealistically aloft." – Salon.com

Loved this book. See also John Gray’s review.

star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 Iain Banks, The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007)

I really enjoyed this, though the Guardian reviewer is less enthusiastic: If in doubt, give Uncle Sam a good kicking.

star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25a David Sornig, Spiel (2009)

See the author’s blog: Truth, lies and storytelling in ‘Spiel’.

We are, I think, at least always one step away from the truth. Between the truth of an event, or an emotion, or a sensation and our ability to make sense of it, there are always words. And words have a way of meandering away from us, of not getting to the point.

Storytelling is part of this evasiveness. The joy we take in writing – and reading – a novel is about participating in the deferral of that moment when all a story’s truths are laid bare. This is the game of writing.

And I think the greatest pleasure to be had in playing this game is to involve the reader in it.

Indeed as writers it’s our responsibility to the game that we don’t see readers as mere passive onlookers who cheer or boo from the bleachers, but to think of them as being in there, on the ground, as part of the story.

Our job as writers is to imagine a truth and then to set the luscious and confounding texture of words and narrative before the reader and allow them to navigate their own way through. It’s something James Joyce took very seriously, and that Borges was endlessly fascinated by.

But to think of writing as mere play is perhaps to undervalue the meaning of the word ‘play’ itself. There still remains the problem of truth and how to approach it. This is why we really play the game. We write because we have some larger truth to tell, and it seems the only way to tell it is to tell a fiction about it. If a word is a symbol standing between a thing and our understanding of it, then a story is a symbl that helps us to see larger, more complex truths…

There was a lot I liked: the book really generates a ton of atmosphere, of time and its paradoxes, of place and politics and identity. It teases out the complexity of Australia’s connections with Europe. In short, there’s a lot there – but it was written as a PhD exercise over quite a long period, and I think it shows. Certainly a writer to watch though.

See his “The Climate Change Slap” on New Matilda October 2009.

star_icons25star_icons25 star_icons25a  Christopher Fowler, Seventy-Seven Clocks (2005)

I read one of the Bryant and May books a while back and rather enjoyed it, but while this one remains witty and cracks along well, I just didn’t buy the centrepiece of the story. I won’t spoil it though.

This review gives it three stars.

TV

Q&A last night

This time I rate the participants.

  • star_icons25 Miranda DevineIs she nervous in front of the camera? Perhaps. Demonstrates her own version of group-think
  • star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 Waleed Aly – the brightest person, and the most personable, by far. One up for the Muslims.
  • star_icons25a Catherine Deveny – crass and bombastic and amazingly immature. As Queer Penguin noted on Twitter: “Thanks @CatherineDeveny for once again setting back progressive representation about 40 years.”
  • star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25star_icons25 Bill Shorten — competent
  • star_icons25star_icons25 Peter Dutton – a very odd fish, in my opinion

There was a sterile verbal ping-pong about “symbolic” vs “practical” reconciliation. How soon we forget! Anyone who like me was at Redfern on that memorable 13th February Apology Day can have no doubt at all, simply from seeing the effect with my own eyes, about the utter primal significance of that day and, following from that, must see that “acknowledgement of country” is not just an empty formula. Catherine Deveny’s hyperbole notwithstanding… 😦

Extra

Marieke Hardy on The Drum.

… In it creeps, in it creeps, the political conservatism, the edging towards a pervasive moral tut-tutting, the hate literature disguised as ‘open discussion’. First the women are to blame, then the blacks, then the homos.

It begins with our leaders and their sly blustering about politically correct ‘terms’ and ‘straight talk’, it is taken up with gusto by our media who feast with bloodied incisors, and it is parroted by our neighbours over fences and on talkback radio. Before too long we are burning people at stakes and holding the heads of demon spawn underwater lest they infest us with their AIDS flu.

Nowhere was this insidious behaviour more on display than the now infamous episode of Q and A a week ago. As Julie Bishop felled all who dared cross her with her Vader death stare (my sources inform me that the audience member who suggest she ‘answer the question’ was immediately turned into a toad or small woodlands creature), Richard Dawkins spent a not uneventful hour gazing, slack-jawed, at Australia’s own one-man travelling fun show, Steve Fielding.

Fielding appeared to have a very jolly time of the whole affair, confessing chummily to a stunned audience that not only does he believe in creationism, but "I think the Prime Minster does as well".

Not content with dragging Kevin Rudd into the sandpit, he also stated solemnly that even though the Bible likes to demand that practicing homosexuals be sent to a bloodied death, he’s "not fearful of gays". Gays! He actually used the word ‘gays’. Perhaps still reeling from the creationism business, nobody blinked an eye.

Tony Abbott, clearly feeling left out, later bleated in the press that while he may not be fearful, he was certainly "threatened" by the thought of a man putting a penis near another man’s bottom – quelle horreur! – and all around Australia people defended a fellow’s right to simply ‘call it’ like it ‘is’.

This is where it gets ugly, isn’t it? This is where the country’s leaders appoint themselves moral guardians, and edge around subjects with coy smiles and ‘I’m not racist, but’-type statements, never coming out and speaking their minds: ‘that hussy Bingle is entirely to blame’, ‘I hate fags’, ‘Allah Akbar’ etcetera.

And they put it out there, they set it out amongst us and let it seep. They’re well aware of it, each and every word. The ‘beauty and danger’ nonsense, the ‘gays’, the ‘dignified wives’. We watch and listen. In it goes, in it goes.

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