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Diary

Sylvia Lawson: In Sydney, 8 April 1993

... In Manufacturing Consent, the brilliant Canadian documentary about Noam Chomsky and the American media, one troubled citizen asks the literal hero whether he thinks there might come a day when ‘we could again be proud of our country’. He answers: ‘It depends what you mean by your country.’ Quite. No nationalist, I am tempted today to feel proud of my country; but by that I mean the 50-plus per cent of it which, on 13 March, delivered a magnificently thunderous No to the Thatcher-Reaganite dinosaurs and voted to hang on to what we’ve got of social democracy ...

Greeromania

Sylvia Lawson, 20 April 1989

Daddy, we hardly knew you 
by Germaine Greer.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 0 241 12538 3
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... and incantations’, and the epigraphs, from Sophocles to Akhmatova, Tsvetayeva and Sylvia Plath, deepen the resonance. The Shakespeare scholar knows perfectly what she is doing in reversing the drama of the daughterless father; she had clung to the crumbs and rags of fatherly love and veracity, then has to let them blow away in the wind. The ...

Bags and Iron

Sylvia Lawson, 15 August 1991

Patrick White: A Life 
by David Marr.
Cape, 715 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 224 02581 3
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... Gossip makes the world go round, and we always want the stories of the gods. So biography prospers, and whatever’s between its covers, the big one is always a glossy commodity, further upmarket than most fiction. The hype for this one was noisy and predictable: excerpts, interviews and even reviews focusing on homosexual love-lives, Patrick White’s awful temper, and the detective-biographer’s own gripping adventures getting hold of 2500 letters ...

Sickness and Salvation

Sylvia Lawson, 31 August 1989

Aids and its Metaphors 
by Susan Sontag.
Allen Lane, 95 pp., £9.95, March 1989, 0 7139 9025 2
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The Whole Truth: The Myth of Alternative Health 
by Rosalind Coward.
Faber, 216 pp., £12.99, June 1989, 0 571 14114 5
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... Each of these polemical books considers health and illness in recent Western history. Each moves in to large areas of disputation and advertisement, involving sections of the medical and paramedical professions, the academy and the media, with populations of patients, families, commentators and consumers. Each is launched against beliefs and ways of speaking seen to be retrograde and damaging; each communicates a broadly progressive politics and brings to bear long-developed skills in argument and writing ...

All in the Family

Sylvia Lawson, 3 December 1992

Letters to Sartre 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Quintin Hoare.
Radius, 531 pp., £20, December 1991, 0 09 174774 0
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Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvior, 1926-1939 
edited by Simone de Beauvior, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee.
Hamish Hamilton, 448 pp., £20, November 1992, 9780241133361
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... On these two sacred monsters, the tally of evidence is still incomplete: there’s another volume of the translation of Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres to come, and Quintin Hoare has translated only two-thirds of the Lettres à Sartre. But you could already tabulate the chronologies into a glorious, full-colour-coded spreadsheet jigsaw, mapping the stories from the Sartre biographies (Annie Cohen-Solal, John Gerassi, Ronald Hayman) over those from the Beauvoir biographies (Deirdre Bair – very much the best; Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier, Margaret Crosland ...

Intelligencer

Sylvia Lawson, 24 November 1988

Games with Shadows 
by Neal Ascherson.
Radius, 354 pp., £18, April 1988, 0 09 173019 8
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... The book’s title mocks the author’s own position. It comes from a newspaper column of 1985 in which he attacked what he saw as ‘the retreat from politics’ into nihilistic spectatorship, and thus passivity. ‘Games with shadows and changing reflections threaten the citizen’s most elementary weapon of self-defence: memory.’ Acutely and characteristically, he links passivity to unemployment, and the argument moves off from the dubious ‘politics of spectacle’ into the world Ascherson so insistently dissects, the one in which most people are without power, where social participation is not a right but a privilege ...

Island Politics

Sylvia Lawson: The return of Australia’s Coalition Government, 12 November 1998

... The headline news around the South-East Asian crescent after last month’s Australian Federal Election was ‘Hanson Loses Seat.’ For the South China Morning Post, the Straits Time and the Nation in Bangkok, it seemed that Pauline Hanson, the red-haired maverick of the populist Right, was all that mattered about Australia. Ratih Hardjono, who works from Melbourne for Jakarta’s daily Kompas, led with John Howard’s win and the election-night speech in which he promised, hand on heart, a new commitment to Aboriginal reconciliation ...

Boomerang

Sylvia Lawson, 18 February 1988

Australians: A Historical Library 
Fairfax, Syme and Weldon, AUS $695Show More
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... were never merely mirrors, but always agents, working on their worlds. Francis Adams and Henry Lawson are present in these pages as individual voices: but they were empowered by the Bulletin, which gave them and thousands of others their moments of public speech. Country-town newspapers were often literate and politically independent, some of the religious ...

Bullshit and Beyond

Clive James, 18 February 1988

The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... because the culturati, eternally anxious to place themselves in a context, try hard to evoke it. Sylvia Lawson, a descendant of Henry Lawson, was a pioneer –the pioneer – Australian woman literary journalist in the Fifties. In the editorial office of Tom Fitzgerald’s Nation magazine in George Street, Sydney, she ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: Costume Drama, 11 October 2012

... Christopher Tietjens says, setting himself against the times as well as his devil-wife, Sylvia. The books are suffused with a seriously meant – if somewhat vague – neo-feudalism, partly in tribute to Ford’s friend Arthur Marwood, from whom he took Tietjens’s grand Yorkshire background, mathematical skills and habit of ‘tabulating from ...

Advice for the New Nineties

Julian Symons, 12 March 1992

HMS Glasshouse 
by Sean O’Brien.
Oxford, 56 pp., £5.99, November 1991, 0 19 282835 5
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The Hogweed Lass 
by Alan Dixon.
Poet and Printer, 33 pp., £3, September 1991, 0 900597 39 9
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Collected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £18.95, November 1991, 0 85635 923 8
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... students who move from ‘their latest adventures in learning to spell/To a common obsession with Sylvia Plath’. These are not all hymns to boredom, however – far from it. ‘Working on the Railway’ broods on a dream of past railway travel as the poet reads ‘Lost Railways of England’ instead of working. ‘From the Whalebone’ shows affection for a ...

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