Category Archives: Blog Posts

Certainties

My euphoria after the people’s uprising in Tunisia and Cairo and the stirrings in Syria lasted for weeks. Then, during the long run up while the UN was deliberating over the no-fly zone for Libya, I was visiting the fiord … Continue reading

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Great days

Hosni Mubarak looking strangely like Silvio Berlusconi (who also doesn’t get it) has handed over power. Once the middle classes – especially when thousands of doctors and the elderly – joined the young, it was probably all over. But earlier … Continue reading

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Youth lash out

It seems to me there are a few hopeful signs – Egypt especially – and here  a generation of young Australians who can’t wait to get out there, lining up to study international relations and cross-cultural complexities, volunteering, learning second … Continue reading

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Lesley Hazleton: On reading the Koran

Lesley Hazleton sat down one day to read the Koran. And what she found — as a non-Muslim, a self-identified “tourist” in the Islamic holy book — wasn’t what she expected. With serious scholarship and warm humor, Hazleton shares the … Continue reading

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National Biography Award Talk & Podcast

[i]excerpt[/i]…

Tonight, because I am in the Friends Room of the splendid Mitchell Library, talking to people who can be assumed to be interested in biographical writing, it seemed like a fine opportunity to talk a little about some of my time away from here when I was writing a complex biography.

Talking about the book at all is hemmed around by stop signs and no-go areas – most of them in my head, some of them the normal restraints of confidentiality and privacy, some of them might sound a little paranoid to you, like an episode from Spooks, but I was in a world of security concerns, where emails are vetted regularly, at least for keywords, where computer files sometimes seemed to come and go – and formal communications are always coded and oblique.

A few years ago, I was solicited for the task of writing a biography of a well known public figure in Amman – a man greatly respected all over the Arab world and in Europe. He is not at all well known in Australia, which is a pity because we could do with his insights, but it does make talking about the project slightly easier. I don’t need to name him but will try to ensure he gets a copy of this paper. He doesn’t ‘do’ emails, his staff do. And it’s a world of multiple agendas. Continue reading

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Timid Minds

CAL / Meanjin Essay ‘Cringe’, wrote A.A. Phillips, is ‘a disease of the Australian mind’. This was an unpleasant enough notion in the Australia of the 1950s, then a remnant colonial monoculture with no separate language to hide behind. Now … Continue reading

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Nomad

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s convert-like zeal is both disturbing and delusional, writes Hilary McPhee… Nomad: A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations By Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Fourth Estate, $35.00 Ayaan Hirsi Ali has brains and beauty and is a gift … Continue reading

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Yann Martel – Beatrice and Virgil

Beatrice and Virgil By Yann Martel, Text Publishing, $32.95 In a small room as white and brightly lit as an operating theatre, an antlered creature stands at bay, a beautiful commodity, a thing. Encrusted with large balls of acrylic and … Continue reading

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Glimpses of Heaven and Hell in Dubai

The 8th Wonder of the World had already been proclaimed well before the grand opening in Dubai of Atlantis – The Palm in November 2008. The thirteen acres of artificial palm-shaped archipelago jutting out into the shallow waters of the … Continue reading

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Deep Listening – three novels by M. J. Hyland

MJ Hyland This is How, Text Publishing (2009) How the Light Gets In (2003), Carry me Down (2006) I have women friends who say they cannot finish MJ Hyland because she cuts so close to the bone. The blind spots … Continue reading

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