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[4 Jul 2020 | No Comment | 269 views ]

By Nick Brodie
Hardie Grant, 289pp, $29.99
By Barry Dickins
Hardie Grant, 182pp, $29.99
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 …

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[30 May 2020 | No Comment | 437 views ]

‘Cry Me a River: The Tragedy of the Murray-Darling Basin’
By Margaret Simons
Quarterly Essay 77
Black Inc, 250pp, $22.99
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. …

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[28 May 2020 | No Comment | 449 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
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 …

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[1 May 2020 | No Comment | 468 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 …

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[29 Apr 2020 | No Comment | 349 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 …

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[18 Apr 2020 | No Comment | 289 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, …

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[11 Apr 2020 | No Comment | 257 views ]

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 …

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[27 Mar 2020 | No Comment | 207 views ]


Given the life-saving work of Alcoholics Anonymous, AA should be regarded as an essential service and its meetings still be open to its members.

Otherwise many alcoholics and other addicts will get back on the booze and drugs.

Surely members being able to attend  meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous is of more importance than being allowed to attend the hairdresser!
Professor Ross Fitzgerald, Redfern
The Daily Telegraph (Sydney),
27 March, 2020, Letters, p 70

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[20 Mar 2020 | No Comment | 106 views ]

Missing William Tyrrell
By Caroline Overington. HarperCollins, 304pp, $34.99
In ‘Missing William Tyrrell’, journalist and author Caroline Overington provides a series of compelling questions and answers regarding the most infamous recent case of a child who seems to have simply vanished. In doing so, she has produced her best book yet. The disappearance of three-year-old William, on the morning of September 12, 2014, from a quiet street in the mid-north-coast NSW village of Kendall is one of Australia’s most baffling and harrowing mysteries.

The boy was last seen playing in …

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[20 Mar 2020 | No Comment | 114 views ]

Here is the text of  Phil Brown’s review, which accompanies a photo of the books’ front cover.

By Ross Fitzgerald
Hybrid Publishers:Melbourne , $27.50
by Phil Brown.

First a disclaimer: the author is a friend of mine and I get a mention in the book.
Now that’s out of the way I want to recommend this updated version of Ross Fitzgerald’s entertaining and sobering (pardon the pun) memoir.

It’s a cautionary and edifying tale of a life lived sober, mostly.

The author’s battle with alcoholism and his long sobriety thanks to …

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[14 Mar 2020 | No Comment | 72 views ]

Book Review
Party Animals: The Secret History of a Labor Fiasco
By Samantha Maiden.Viking, 314pp, $34.99
Samantha Maiden is the latest of four journalists — the other three being Niki Savva, David Crowe and Aaron Patrick — who have written books about the 2019 federal election.

Like Bill Shorten and most of his frontbench, Savva and Crowe had assumed the ALP was a shoo-in. Hence after the May 18 result each had to change the title of their books.
Instead of ‘Highway to Hell: The Coup that Destroyed ­Malcolm Turnbull and Left the …