Home » Archive

Articles in the Reviews Category

Columns, Reviews »

[19 Sep 2020 | No Comment | 17 views ]

RADIO GIRL: The story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend by David Dufty. Publisher: Allen&Unwin, 2020, pp 302, $22.99
Review by ROSS FITZGERALD
Florence Violet McKenzie, nee Wallace (1890-1982), usually known as Violet or Mrs Mac, is someone who, up to now, I’d never heard of.
But thanks to David Dufty, an expert in Australia’s military intelligence during World War Two, I now realise how crucial she  was in training our first women code-breakers (initially in signals, not in code-breaking as such) and also, as an early feminist, in persuading the navy to establish the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS).
Importantly, Mrs Mac was Australia’s first female electrical …

Reviews »

[18 Sep 2020 | No Comment | 10 views ]

Deborah Cassrels, ‘Gods and Demons’ (ABC Books, 336pp, $34.99).
Review by ROSS FITZGERALD
Bali is a special place for Australians. For some of us it’s a touchstone, a much-loved haven.

Until she died in January, my darling wife Lyndal, who spoke Bahasa Indonesian and some Balinese, travelled with me each year to Bali. We always stayed at the Puri Saraswati Bungalows, a home away from home in culturally rich Ubud, next to the Royal Palace.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Yet despite an influx of immigrants, mainly from Java, Bali remains predominantly …

Reviews »

[24 Jul 2020 | No Comment | 176 views ]

One of the best non-fiction books of the year is an elegant memoir by Paul Bugden who, from 1995 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, ran Bugdens Bookshop in Kings Cross for almost 20 years.

Released this month, Tales of an Accidental Bookseller tells the true story of a struggling actor and aspiring filmmaker who, amid great personal loss and tragedy, finds redemption in the most unlikely place – the second hand book trade.

Tales of an Accidental Bookseller is available for $29.99 from bugdensbooks@bigpond.com

It is an enthralling and fascinating read.

Professor Ross Fitzgerald AM is the …

Reviews »

[9 Jul 2020 | No Comment | 265 views ]

The Insider : The scoops, the scandals and the serious business within the Canberra bubble
by Christopher Pyne
Hachette Australia, 
$34.99, pp 321,  ISBN 9780733643422 

review by ROSS FITZGERALD
The trouble with political memoirs is that it’s very hard to get the balance right between the book-length version of an after-dinner speech, with its jokes and stories; and an elaborate re-telling of recent history, invariably told to make a hero of the author. Christopher Pyne’s account of his part in the post-Howard years occasionally prompts a chuckle and sometimes has interesting things to say. By …

Reviews »

[4 Jul 2020 | No Comment | 265 views ]

UNDER FIRE : HOW AUSTRALIA’S VIOLENT HISTORY LED TO GUN CONTROL
By Nick Brodie
Hardie Grant, 289pp, $29.99
ONE PUNCH : THE TRAGIC TOLL OF RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE
By Barry Dickins
Hardie Grant, 182pp, $29.99
reviewed by ROSS FITZGERALD
From the beginning of white occupation, guns and booze have played a pivotal role in our culture, from the so-called Rum Rebellion in January 1808 to Martin Bryant’s murder of 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in April 1996.

Bryant’s consumption of booze was excessive: a bottle and a half of liqueur, plus port wine and other sweet …

Reviews »

[30 May 2020 | No Comment | 428 views ]

‘Cry Me a River: The Tragedy of the Murray-Darling Basin’
By Margaret Simons
Quarterly Essay 77
Black Inc, 250pp, $22.99
reviewed by ROSS FITZGERALD
The Murray-Darling Basin is often in the news and seldom for the right reasons. It is troubled by drought and climate change and the unquenchable thirst of agriculture. Yet belief in it is an article of faith for politicians, causing regular scraps over its management and its future.
In ‘Cry Me A River’, journalist and author Margaret Simons chronicles the results of her decision to take a close look at it herself. …

Reviews »

[28 May 2020 | No Comment | 447 views ]

The Defeat of Literary Censorship
The Trials of Portnoy : How Penguin brought down Australia’s censorship system
by Patrick Mullins
Scribe Publications, 2020, pp 329, $35
Review by ROSS FITZGERALD
It took a book about masturbation to bring down Australia’s repressive regime of literary censorship. Philip Roth’s hugely controversial, highly sexualised novel Portnoy’s Complaint is a book about the habit that in the 1960s scarcely dared speak its name.
Unseemly subject matter in the eyes of some, but that’s the point really. Patrick Mullins, author of Tiberius with a Telephone, the award-winning biography of Liberal prime minister ‘Billy’ McMahon now explores how, in August 1970, Penguin Books Australia published Portnoy’s Complaint.
  Philip …

Reviews »

[1 May 2020 | No Comment | 461 views ]

             A smaller man
              Malcolm Turnbull, A Bigger Picture, Hardie Grant, 704 pages, $55.
              Review by ROSS FITZGERALD

Never trust a person who keeps a diary. After all, who keeps a diary other than someone who wants subsequently to tell a story where the diarist is the hero, while everyone else, almost invariably, falls lamentably short of the hero’s expectations and deserts?
 
And so it turns out with Malcolm Turnbull’s political memoir. Like the lawyer he once was, the diary entries …

Reviews »

[29 Apr 2020 | No Comment | 345 views ]

Book Review
Ross Fitzgerald Fifty Years Sober: An Alcoholic’s Journey
Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, 2020, $27.50.
reviewed by Alan Gregory 
   Ross Andrew Edward Fitzgerald was born on 25 December 1944, and attended Melbourne High School from 1958 to 1961.
A highly intelligent student, he won the Economics prize in year 12 and gained Honours in every Matriculation subject and so gained a Commonwealth scholarship which, as he came from a poor family, enabled him to attend university.  
He had a great admiration for his teachers at the school, particularly Neville Drohan, Norton Hobson, Graham Worrall, Arthur Cocks, Ben Munday, Brian Corless and David Niven. He was a contemporary of Gareth Evans. He was also good at sport, football and cricket and he captained the school second XI and also featured in debating.
His left wing political bent meant a close association with Graham Worrall who he kept up with in later life. 
He was also close to Norton Hobson who told him he was an ASIO man.
Fitzgerald, who is now one of the best known public intellectuals, became also well known as an alcoholic. 
He states that his first  alcoholic drink was as a school boy in school uniform at the Her  Majesty’s hotel which was near the school.
Before being served, the barman for his first drink asked him to take off his school cap!
He also had his last alcoholic drink at  Her  Majesty’s hotel, commonly know as Maisy’s, where a group of Melbourne High teachers regularly drank after school.
He also seemed to collect a number of high profile friends like Barry Humphries, and on his many overseas trips recounts (to his great advantage) being mistaken for the eminent Dr Stephen FitzGerald, a former Australian Ambassador to China. 
His university days at Monash University were taken up mainly drinking alcohol and the dreadful consequences of his frequent drunkenness. Intellectually brilliant he still managed to do well. 
While no Adonis he seemed to be attractive to people and especially women and somehow engendered something in people who helped him out of his frightening escapades.  
He treated …

Reviews »

[18 Apr 2020 | No Comment | 287 views ]

Non Fiction

Fifty Years Sober

Ross Fitzgerald

Hybrid, $27.50

When he was 20 and studying at Monash University, Ross Fitzgerald and a bloke he met at a pub stole a car and drove it off a bridge.

 

It was one of many incidents, including attempted suicides, that led him to AA.

 

This updated version of his 2010 memoir, My Name is Ross, charts in plain-speaking, detached writing, which accentuates the gravity of the tale, the path to alcoholism.

 

There was the difficult childhood, troubled relationship with his mother, first drinks in school uniform at 15, …

Reviews »

[11 Apr 2020 | No Comment | 256 views ]

POLITICS
City On Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong
Antony Dapiran
Scribe, $35Review by ROSS FITZGERALD
These days, there’s a lot to bash China about, but the protesters in Hong Kong have hardly bathed themselves in glory, either.
Most of us have seen footage of the mass movement that began in Hong Kong in June 2019, as a protest against a proposed bill extraditing lawbreakers to mainland China. Protesters claim this resulted in a march 1 million strong on Sunday, June 9, and then of 2 million a week later.
But after the extradition bill was …