Magazine article IPA Review

Out of Step

Magazine article IPA Review

Out of Step

Article excerpt

Myles Breen

Double Take: Six Incorrect Essays

Edited by Peter Coleman

Mandarin

PETER COLEMAN has put together six essays. His book is of value for those who want to know what is going on behind the scenes in Australian intellectual life. Literally `behind the scenes' with the first essay, as Australia's premier playwright David Williamson provides a serious discussion as to why he risked the wrath of the intellectual establishment and satirized the current political correctness which is rampant in our universities.

Joining Williamson is the poet Les Murray exposing arts funding, Jamie Grant as sports critic, Beatrice Faust as feminist, Christopher Pearson as editor and critic with a comment on sexual politics, and Frank Moorhouse as a novelist interested in the future of Australian interests and sovereignty vis a vis the United Nations.

"What's the unifying theme?" you might ask. Clearly, with this book, Coleman is not expecting adoption in the academy for LIT 313, POL 218 or SOC 401. It violates too many publisher's canons for that. This is not an inclusive book. In fact, one would expect that if the writers were gathered around the table, they would soon be in spirited disagreement with one another. Also, the reader would probably soon be joining in arguing the point with one or all of the authors.

"Why would I buy a book like this?" you might ask. Answer: You are not going to find this kind of thing elsewhere. The universities avoid it, and the opinion pieces in, say, The Australian are predictable. The reader knows the position and style of both Phillip Adams and B.A. Santamaria. They have become as homogenized, in the marketing sense, as Velveeta cheese. No surprises, and they provide neat modules of opinion encapsulated in plastic. But not in Double Take.

SERVILE: In the introduction, Coleman begins by remarking on how servile the Australian literary world has become. Yet no-one in this book is servile. Also, they can all write well, and please the reader with memorable insights. Beatrice Faust: "Feminism is everywhere but nowhere in particular. It is like the Internet: everyone has heard of it and has an opinion on it, although few can define it."

Les Murray on the functioning of the system of semi-governmental boards and authorities built with the objective of entrenching leftist rule of society and culture: "It also serves as a sandpit in which a pragmatic Labor Right government hopes to dissipate the energies of strident leftist pressure groups with small sops and infi-- nite delays." Murray's essay, on its own, is worth the price of admission. It is so devastatingly accurate that he transcends mere poetry and achieves objective reporting. In the world of the reporter, "small sops and infinite delays," would be blue-pencilled, but Murray is a poet and sneaks in this and many other objective truths, which are not only sad and funny, but also useful to remember in one's day-to-day business dealings.

There is an element of the instructional handbook or cautionary tale about all the essays. Christopher Pearson's essay on `The ambiguous business of coming out' tells us about theological students: "Most of them were homosexual, a minority of them serious about chastity, and some of them visited bars, beats and bathhouses. …

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