Rafe’s Roundup 21 March: Culture Special

A bit of culture to break the monotony of politics and world news. Historical feature.

Another historical reminder, Quadrant XXIX number 1-2 January-February 1985 double issue. It takes a long time to load [save our NBN] and it is worth the wait. Edited by Peter Coleman.
21 J.D. Pringle on Molnar
22 John Whitehall: Liberation Theology
29 J.O. Stone: Political “Trade-Offs”
36 David Butler: 1984 — An Apocalyptic Election?
39 John Ray: Conservatives, Permissives and Love
42 Barry Lewis: Jaroslav Seifert, Nobel Prize-Winner for Literature, 1984
44 Lauchlan Chipman: To Hell with Equality
66 John Carroll: The Battle for Sir Robert Menzies
71 Elizabeth Durack: Land Wrongs
76 Roger Scruton: Does Australia Belong to the Aborigines?
79 John O’Sullivan: Leaving Unesco
87 Michael McDonnell: The Mentality of Hate (with a prefatory note by John Carroll)
93 Philip Ayres: Locating the Conservative Electorate
96 Andrew D. Irvine: Canada’s Conservatives
100 Geoffrey Bewley: Travels in Khomeini’s Iran
103 Gordon M . Bryant: Don’t Blame Whitlam, Blame the System
114 Nicholas Hasluck: Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County
116 Brian Elliott: The Convict Novel and Australian Literature
119 John Barnes: The Fiction of Lee Kok Liang
123 Michael Hulse: Book Booker Bookest
133 Hal Colebatch: Polishing the Brass on the Titanic
135 Gary Sturgess: Chaining or Changing Australia?
138 Thelma Forshaw: Recent Australian Fiction
140 Carmel Oakley: David Malouf and the Artist
141 Geoffrey Partington: Mediaeval Mysteries
142 John Shaw: Portrait of a Tyranny
A Personal Notebook 144 Richard Krygier

My reason to track down this particular issue was to find the review of a book Liberals Face the Future: Edited by George Brandis, Tom Harley and Don Markwell. Hal Colebatch was scathing on the contributions from notorious “wets” of the time, Ian McPhee and Chris Puplick. Others did better, such as John Hyde on tariffs and the deep-seated damage that they do to the economic and political fabric. Colebatch regarded this as a classical statement and I will ask John for a copy so we can all see it.

Roger Scruton and the State. An interesting letter in the same edition from Michael James, sometime editor of CIS Policy, commenting on a lecture delivered in Australia by Scruton.

In his 1984 Latham Memorial Lecture, “The Usurpation of the State” (Quadrant, November 1984), Roger Scruton rejects the arguments for “rolling back the frontiers of the state” with which some conservatives have countered the radicals’ demands for social justice. He argues instead that conservatives should “confront directly the question of what the state is and what it ought to be”.
But any such enquiry must unavoidably lead to certain conclusions about what the state should and should not do. And any attempt to return to individuals responsibility for their own lives must involve substantially reducing state intervention in those lives. Why does Scruton not accept the practical consequences of his own ideas?
The reason seems to be his fear that less government would increase the power of the strong at the expense of the “weaker members of society who are the majority”. But this is to accept precisely that welfarist mythology which he otherwise exposes so effectively. If the welfare state really did concentrate on the weak, there would be no problem. As it is, it is threatened with bankruptcy by the demands of the politically strong special interests organisations which should be able to look after themselves.
Conservatives who reject the arguments for smaller government should recall that the modern interventionist, redistributive state which the radicals have usurped was itself largely the creation of post-war conservatism.

Remembering James McAuley. This year Quadrant Books will publish a selection of essays by James McAuley. This will be a Good Thing for Western Civilization (in the language of 1066 and all that). Keith Windschuttle has invited me to make the selection and write a Preface or Introduction. This is an exciting and challenging assignment because McAuley was a prolific writer across a wide range of subjects, in addition to his substantial body of poetry.

James Phillip McAuley was born in 1917 and died in his prime in 1976. He attended Fort Street Boys High School in Sydney and went on to become one of the many significant talents that were nurtured there. At the University of Sydney he was the outstanding intellectual figure of his generation, distinguishing himself as a conversationalist, poet, jazz pianist, drinker, and bohemian. Strangely, he did not top the honours list and missed out on a travelling scholarship to Britain. Instead he became a school teacher until he was recruited into the mysterious wartime research unit convened by Alf Conlon. Fellow poet Harold Stewart was a colleague in the unit and together they produced the ‘Ern Malley’ poems during a wet weekend in barracks.

McAuley’s work in the research unit took him to New Guinea where the drama of impending decolonisation aggravated his mood of spiritual and intellectual turmoil. After the war he worked out his professional and intellectual concerns in the Australian School of Pacific Studies, and joined the Roman Catholic church in 1953.

He was the first editor of Quadrant Magazine and he was heavily involved in the two seismic events in our postwar history – the split in the ALP in the 1950s and the Vietnam drama of the 1960s and 1970s.

One of his early poems, Envoi, conveys an unsentimental sense of place and provides a hint of his lingering need for some kind of spiritual consolation which he eventually discovered in the church.

And I am fitted to that land as the soul is to the body,
I know its contradictions, waste, and sprawling indolence;
They are in me and its triumphs are my own,
Hard-won in the thin and bitter years without pretence.

He ended his career in academia at the University of Tasmania and it is likely that his best work was to come when he died at the age of 59.

More details on his life and work.

The website of the art historian and commentator Ernst Gombrich.

From an obituary in The Guardian.

Gombrich engaged for 50 years in a polemic against invoking the collective mind – whether of an age or a nation or a class – as explanatory of changes in art or politics. He did so because he saw such explanations as not only circular but as failing to recognise the essentially rational nature of the way artists experimented and learned from each other.

His writing was always vivid and accessible. When he was a research student in Mantua writing a thesis on Giulio Romano at the Palazzo del Tè, a 10-year-old daughter of some family friends wrote to ask him what he was doing. In his correspondence with her he described how, once upon a time, there was a prince, and in his court he had an artist who delighted in surprising people by his paintings. A little later he wrote a world history for children (Weltgeschichte für Kinder, 1936, revised and enlarged 1985, though not translated into English) and famously – at the prompting of his publisher Bela Horovitz of the Phaidon Press – he wrote The Story of Art (1950).

Among his most accessible and seminal papers dating from the same decade as Art and Illusion are those in the volume Meditations on a Hobby Horse. Here the fundamental questions of aesthetics are explored: how the imagination functions in painting, how it elicits or transforms our psychological urgencies and how aesthetic and moral awareness are related to each other.

These essays combine a conversational ease of expression with a depth of thought which makes them perhaps the finest introduction to the subject. Several volumes followed, mostly on Renaissance art, the most important being Norm and Form (1966), which includes the paper on Raphael’s circular Madonna.

Gombrich on Winston Churchill as a very competent painter, with some critical comments on the obsession with novelty in the arts.

Winston Churchill tried several times to force the issue of objectivity. In 1921 he exhibited in Paris under the pseudonym of Charles Morin and sold four out of five landscapes for thirty pounds each. After World War II he submitted two paintings to the Royal Academy under the name of Winter and got them accepted by the jury. Clearly, this amateur who had begun painting in his forties had reached a standard of competence that satisfied the guardians of traditional skills.
Things being what they are, however, this test will hardly satisfy those who denied Churchill’s paintings the status of art. If the Academy accepted them, so much the worse. It can only mean that Churchill was far behind the times.

Books. Crime fiction.

Around the town: IPA HEY. The Sydney Institute. Australian Taxpayers Alliance, Liberty on the Rocks, the notice board for the ATA: Quadrant on line, Mannkal Foundation, Centre for Independent Studies.

Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog [refreshed on Friday afternoon]

New on the block. Regular contributor Jim Rose has gone feral and utopian!

Don Aitkin, usually a good read.

How we live. Blowing smoke in the sunshine state.

For nerds. Melvyn Bragg’s radio program.

A haunting anticipation of the modern worldwide terror campaign against the west.

T. E. Lawrence’s account of the way his Arab cutthroats would beat the Turks makes eerie reading today. He asked himself how a handful of fierce zealots, whose main activities had been pilfering and brigandage, could possibly bring the Ottoman Empire to its knees. Obviously not by punching toe to toe with Turkish artillery.

“But suppose” (he writes in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom) “suppose we were an influence, an idea, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas?” Conventional armies were large and immobile, and conventional generals equally so. Instead, “we might be a vapour, blowing where it listed. Our kingdoms lay in each man’s mind, and as we wanted nothing material to live on, so perhaps we offered nothing material to the killing.”

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18 Responses to Rafe’s Roundup 21 March: Culture Special

  1. thanks Rafe, funny you mention James McAuley in PNG.

    My sister lived in PNG from the early-60s to independence. Her husband was a patrol officer. A wild and remote place was the highlands. I kept an interest in PNG ever since.

  2. Gab

    One of life’s little pleasures is nibbling on chocolate and quaffing a decent red while meandering through Rafe’s roundup. 🙂

  3. Rafe

    Jim, my mother was nursing in New Guinea when the Japanese started dropping bombs on the town, I think it was Wau, she was on the last plane out and she kept going until she got to Tasmania where she took a job as a bush nurse to avoid being “manpowered”. If you were not in a protected job like farming or bush nursing the Commission of Manpower could recruit you to work where they thought you would do more for the war effort. A little-remembered form of civilian conscription.

  4. Abu Chowdah

    One of the commenters at your crime fiction link notes (and I agree):

    No Ross McDonald. And no Elmore Leonard. Like talking about film directors and leaving out Stanley Kubrick.
    This is list seems like it was put together by a politically correct librarian.

  5. Peter

    For all Laurence’s waffling, the Turks were not beaten by an “idea”, but by one of the finest mobile campaigns in history. Not by Arabs (most of whom did not fight unless their chiefs were well paid in English gold), but by well-trained and equipped troops from Australia, New Zealand, England and other Dominions, ably commanded by another Englishman, Edmund Allenby.

  6. Ken N

    Thanks Rafe. Good stuff as always.
    Has anyone ever written the Alf Conlon story?
    I have heard bits of it and I think there was a small book done by Alf’s friends after he died.
    Anything else that you know of?

  7. Robert Blair

    Jim MacAuley: Hymns for the Year of Grace. Some of his most beautiful work, and, it seems, utterly neglected.

    It would be nice if you mentioned them in the Quadrant article. What would be much nicer for me would be to hear them performed, competently, by a full choir with organ (as I understand they were designed to be performed).

  8. NickBrisbane

    I have been recently reading some excellent crime books by Australians or others now living here:

    Peter Temple, Adrian McKinty, Tony Cavanaugh, Gary Disher, Alan Carter, Ed Chatterton

  9. daggers

    The Cassandra Pybus book on James McAuley was a disgrace. The left should not be allowed the last word.

  10. Rod Clarke

    Thanks Rafe – Much appreciated!

  11. johanna

    That is a seriously deficient list of crime writers. From where I sit, I can see valued works in my modest library from Elmore Leonard, Gladys Mitchell, Peter Temple, Colin Dexter, James Lee Burke, Rex Stout, Freeman Wills Crofts, Henning Mankell, Ruth Rendell, Carl Hiaasen, Elizabeth George …

  12. … and Leo Bruce, Josephine Tey, Arthur Upfield, Dick Francis, Margaret Allingham, Jill Paton Walsh, Michael Innes, Anthony Berkeley, Reginald Hill, Ronald Knox, Francos Iles, Lindsey Davis, G.D.H and M. Cole, Clemence Dane, Helen Simpson…

  13. johanna

    Ah yes, forgot Reg Hill (he is in another room). A superb writer – I highly recommend his “There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union”, one of the finest short stories ever penned.

  14. dover_beach

    Rafe, I know you’re a Barzun fan. Have you read his The House of Intellect? If so, what did you think of it?

  15. johanna

    Rafe, thanks for the link to Quadrant – full of excellent stuff.

    I am just reading Lauchlan Chipman’s article where he discusses (among other things) the debate about the introduction of the anti-“hate speech” clauses into the Human Rights Act. George Brandis and anyone else who still defends even a mild version of this travesty should read it. His arguments are impeccable, and all the bad things he predicted if it came into force have indeed happened.

    John Stone eviscerating governments that do “trade-offs” in pursuit of a quiet life, and the Hawke government generally, is also spot on.

    Only 100 pages to go!

  16. Poor Old Rafe

    Dover, it was the first one I read! In college at Tas Uni.

    a review http://www.amazon.com/review/R12006IDQUDCT6/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

  17. dover_beach

    Cheers, Rafe. It’s on my wish list.

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