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Monday, May 2, 2011

April 12th

A special welcome to Stephen, Michael, Leo and Doreen…and to Leo Renkin, filling in at the desk for Emma.

Book & Publishing News:

* “The Monthly” is a good read again, although I’m not sure what PETER VROBB was attempting with his piece on Marcia Langton. I usually love his work [eg “Street Fight In Naples”,2010.] Beautiful artwork from the talented SHAUN TAN. Succinct assessment of Tony Blair by one of the last great hopes the Labor Government had, LINDSAY TANNER.

* “Overland’s” theme this edition is freedom so WENDY BACON reminds us of the censorship battles of the 60s and 70s. ALEXIS WRIGHT [“Carpentaria”] on the Intervention legacy. JUSTIN CLEMENS on the poetry of PORTERS,P. and D. and DOROTHY HEWETT.

* ANZAC DAY I will look at some more books on Australians and war…and hopefully speak with GERARD WINDSOR about his new book on Vietnam, “All Day Long The Noise Of Battle”.

* Advance notice of Torquay’s “Froth’N’Bubble” Literary Festival, JUNE 19-20.

* I recently found a little treasure of a book, “Who Wrote The Ballads?” by J.S. Manifold,1964 whose “The Tomb Of Lt. John Learmonth” featured here for Anzac Day 2009.

* The latest “Quadrant” has a long essay by an academic from the DFA in Duntroon on that most bloody of novels, “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy. I’ll try to find time to talk about the book and the article one day.
Did you know the American Civil War began 150 years ago this month? April 12th,1861.
There is a good article about the causes this month too.

Gaita [ed.]: Essays On Muslims And Multiculturalism
Birch: Jamrach’s Menagerie [Review coming up.]
Griffiths: A Love Letter From A Stray Moon […novel about Freda Kahlo.]
Kennedy: The Moment
CD set of R.S. THOMAS reading his poems. [I have featured the work of the late poet on the program.]

* Local author, JUNE ALEXANDER, will be speaking about a new book “A Boy Called Tim” at Bookgrove in Ocean Grove,11 am, Saturday April 23rd.

* The April ALR [in “The Australian”, first Wednesday of the month] maintains its rather lofty tone; as I do so often ask – who are the audience? An interesting article on the ‘difference’ of writers from WA. [I believe GEORDIE WILLIAMSON does a great job with the same paper’s Saturday “Review”.]

* This month it will be 150 years since the American Civil War began.. There is a useful article on the causes in the latest “Quadrant” – which borrows very heavily from a book discussed on this program early last year: McPherson – “The Battle Cry Of Freedom”. The exceptional KEN BURNS’ documentary from years ago on the Civil War is available on DVD from Geelong Regional Library.

* Wed April 6th’s “ALR” continued on its rather lofty way, though there was an interesting article on the ‘loneliness’ of Western Australian writers.

* I’m looking forward to GERALDINE BROOKS’ latest, “Caleb’s Crossing”, another historical novel based on the life of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.

* Would-be-writers can take advantage of a CREATIVE WRITING GROUP which gathers at “Cloverdale” in Purnell Rd 9.30 am Wednesdays.

*…And there is a BALLAD WRITING WORKSHOP held
at Belmont Library from 6-8 pm Wednesdays.

* My pedantic pout for this week: when will someone teach our PM how to pronounce the consonant “t”?..And is her “HYPERBOWL” [hyperbole] held the same time as the USA’s Superbowl.

This Week’s Reviews :

John reviewed- “Five Bells” by Gail Jones


“The Many Worlds of RS Mathews- In Search Of An Australian Anthropologist” by Martin Thomas

Another beautifully designed tome from A&U, this has clearly been a labour of love for Thomas. His ‘search’ has ranged far and wide in place [all over Australia and to the British Isles] and in time [from the 1850s to the present.]
He also seems to be after an answer to the question: What is anthropology?...and ethnography?......and “ethnomania”, a term he coined for Mathews’ [hence, “RHM”] decades-long dedication to an emerging science. Both targets prove rather elusive, so the book takes on some of the elements of a detection story. RHM left almost tonnes of leaflets, booklets, articles, sketches and notes which our author has ruthlessly sort out and studied. The results provide a portrait of a most interesting man and, in the process, the reader learns a lot about perceptions of the first Australians to be gleaned from RHM’s unique research. Thomas uses the phenomenological approach RHM himself apparently used: trust only the ‘sensible’ evidence – what can be recorded or gathered. Lots of us studied this model, preached by the pioneering MIRCEA ELIADE. Hence, the author examines EVERYTHING he can find that remains of RHM. This leads to a long book, but I never found it boring.

I must single out the “PROLOGUE” [sic] to this book: it is fine an essay as you will ever read. Our author writes beautifully as he tells us why and how he became captivated by this project. The remainder of the book didn’t let me down. The reader needs to be patient as Thomas trawls for information about RHM’s forbears and his childhood. We are rewarded through learning that the young Mathews was determined to be successful because of a shadow in his ancestry that rendered his father an unsuccessful farmer in the Goulburn region of New South Wales in the middle of the 19th century. It was here that RHM developed an acute love for The Land – and friendships with local Indigenous youth that inevitably led to the later passion. He had a first career – as a surveyor – which gave him financial wherewithal to indulge his ethnomania from early middle age. His empathy for Aborigines was probably fairly unusual for the times; it underpins his every observation though he doesn’t always have the language to express it. The book is replete with quotations and RHM’s sketches, as well as other useful illustrations.
There is so much to talk about in this book, though I would assume only those with a keen interest in Australian history and anthropology would find it as absorbing as I did. It is at time a challenging read. Throughout, however, we are drawn to this man who almost single-handedly – because he was continually out of step with contemporary academics [usually from overseas! in this new field] – found evidence of cultural practices and beliefs unknown until then.

Read this book and learn. There is so much more we must find out about Indigenous Australians.

SCORE: *****
MARTIN THOMAS: The many Worlds Of RS Mathews – In Search Of An Australian Anthropologist, A&U hc, pp 462, rrp $45

This Weeks Poem:

The last two stanzas of “Five Bells” by KENNETH SLESSOR, read by our guest Michael Bartlett.

Bernard would like to say FAREWELL to that encyclopaedia of jazz history, BARRY HART, who is returning to England to live. Thank you for the music and memories, Barry, and the friendship.

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