One thing leads to another … treasure!

This post caused a slight stir as I was rather dismissive of Dyson Heydon’s “The New Struggle for Religious Freedom”, recycled in the current number of Quadrant. However, that lecture has prompted some interesting further reading, including Civilising a colony? Sir Richard Bourke and the Church Act, NSW, 1836 ~ Siobhan Whelan. Must explore that blog further!

I also was reminded what treasures exist in our various universities in the form of Ph.D. theses, often readily available for free download. Such a treasure is this from the University of Newcastle (1991).

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Dr Patrick, who passed away in 2013, was a treasure of the Adventist Church — hence one strand of that thesis. And a great thesis it is, remarkably clear-eyed and objective.

The adherents of an ideology usually possess common ideas and values, and tend to cluster together as a subculture. Consequently they often experience difficulty in relating to the wider society which exists in the same time and place. Early in its history, Christianity encountered relational problems with Jews and pagans; controversies also developed amongst rival Christian groups. The persistence of this
conflict caused H. Richard Niebuhr to call it ‘the enduring problem’; he also identified a range of typical responses, particularly in Western civilisation. On the two extremes are those Christians who withdraw and accommodate; occupying the middle ground are dualists, synthesists and conversionists. These solutions may be held in their pure form or in a variety of combinations. They may be influenced by a range of ideas about salvation, the church, eschatology, the relations of church and state, Christian history and patterns of thought in society.

The Christianity which was transplanted into colonial Australia was derived from Northern Hemisphere denominations, and experienced the persistent effects of distance, dependence and sectarianism. Divided by national and religious loyalties and antipathies, and challenged by a desacralised society, the churches . tended to develop a conservative ethos which failed to address crucial religious and social questions. Denominational attitudes toward educational, economic and political issues may be used to identify the various stances which were present in New South Wales near the end of the colonial period. Selected Roman Catholic, Church of England, Wesleyan Methodist and Seventh-day Adventists perspectives are explored in the light of Niebuhr’s typologies….

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A sane book on energy

Yes, I am reading heaps, library books and ebooks, moderns and classics —  but I am not bothering to document it all here. Some I will mention, including this latest: A History of the Energy We Have Consumed. In fact it is:

energy

It’s quite fascinating, and so refreshing in contrast to the partisan claptrap we have had from our PM du jour down through the buffoons who fester on the pages of the Murdoch tabloids or lurk at night on Sky. Shocked to discover Rhodes is 81 years old too! You’d never guess!

Lots of who’d-a-thought moments. Did you know there was a link between bird-shit on islands off Chile and the Irish potato famine of the 1840s? Did you know that burning coal “with its ubiquitous content of radium and thorium, releases more radioactivity into the environment… than any other fuel”?

Rhodes makes an intelligent case for properly managed nuclear power.  He cites the capacity factor (pp. 330-1) of various power sources in the USA, that is how much of the time they actually generate electricity. “Even plants powered with coal or natural gas generate electricity only about half the time.”

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Compare:

capacity

Lately we have had the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the response to which by Scott Morrison was south of pathetic. See also Coal is on the way out, the only question is how quickly.

A supplementary thought from my cousin Ray, from the Mining Museum at Lithgow NSW. “This happened at the Lithgow State Mine site. Lithgow has the credit of hosting Australia’s first privately owned wind farm, and the world’s first solar powered train. People should never question my coalmining town’s environmental credentials.” He is referring to Lithgow Railway Workshop gets national engineering nod for solar train.

War and Peace

SBS is about to screen the 2016 BBC adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

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I’m looking forward to it. In preparation I am rereading the novel, which I last read some twenty years ago. I am really enjoying it, more so I think than last time.

Happens I am reading the Project Gutenberg e-book version on my laptop, using Calibre. Something I have noticed before: long works seem less daunting this way, and I seem to read them faster!  I am about half-way through.

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More of those Wollongong Library books…

penguinThis one is outstanding: Penguin and The Lane Brothers by Stuart Kells (2015). I had, I thought, a fair idea of the story behind Penguin Books, one of the 20th century’s great blessings, but this book convinced me that I didn’t know the half of it. Nor did I know the Australian connection.

The back page of every low-cost reprint in Australia tells the story of how Allen Lane was stuck for a decent paperback to read at a train station.

Allen then came up with the idea of cheap, high-volume publishing, and Penguin, with its famous logo, was born.

Except, Stuart’s extensive research revealed that isn’t what happened at all, and the truth is far more interesting.

The real story of Penguin involves three pioneering brothers, a highlife in London, wife-swapping, cocktails, bathroom board meetings, tragedy and betrayal.

Graham Greene, Agatha Christie and George Bernard Shaw all play bit parts in this tale of a publishing revolution.

howlNext some Southern Gothic in Taylor Brown’s Gods of Howl Mountain (2018):

In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.

Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood – a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted ’40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.

In the mill town at the foot of the mountains – a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing – Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that “some things are best left buried.” A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother – the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory’s life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows…or protect her only grandson from the past.

With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.

I really enjoyed it.

indexPPZ6BXFGThird, a thriller: Scottish author Alexander Lindsay, The Naked Soul (2015). Worth the effort.

Reverend Jack Mallund knows his SAS regimental reunion party won’t be for the faint-hearted. When a pornographic movie is played, he turns away, but before doing so, the face of one jumps out at him with a familiarity that makes him sick: it is his teenage daughter, missing, presumed dead. That night turns Jack’s life upside down all over again. With police reluctant to reopen the case, Jack must go it alone. His faith is pushed to the extreme and his conscience to the precipice of insanity as he fights to find his daughter.

Of those Wollongong Library books…

hutcheonSo inspiring! I have long admired Jane Hutcheon’s ABC series One plus One. China Baby Love (2017) is about Gympie woman Linda McCarthy Shum’s Chinese Orphans Assistance Team and their quest

…to help orphans, many with multiple disabilities, reveals the hidden human aftermath of the One-Child Policy. A tentative visit to an orphanage in a small Chinese city turned into many over a period of twenty years. Linda’s curiosity transformed into sheer determination to battle superstition, bureaucracy and a constant lack of funds, to found foster homes and a special needs school that has transformed hundreds of lives, including her own. What Jane intended as a five-minute ‘human interest’ segment in a news broadcast inspired an unexpected friendship and the writing of a book, that would take Jane back to China. Through the story of Linda Shum’s life and work, Jane gets to the heart of some painful truths behind modern Chinese families living in a one-party state.

5 stars!

morrisonBlake Morrison’ s The Executor (2018) was a novel I expected to enjoy, and did.

What matters most: marriage or friendship? Fidelity or art? The wishes of the living or the talents of the dead? Matt Holmes finds himself considering these questions sooner than he thinks when his friend, the poet Robert Pope, dies unexpectedly. Rob had invited Matt to become his literary executor at their annual boozy lunch, pointing out that, at 60, he was likely to be around for some time yet. And Matt, having played devotee and apprentice to ‘the bow-tie poet’ for so long, hadn’t the heart (or the gumption) to deny him. Now, after a frosty welcome from his widow, Matt sits at Rob’s rosewood desk and ponders his friend’s motives. He has never understood Rob’s conventional life with Jill, who seems to have no interest in her late husband’s work. But he soon finds himself in an ethical minefield, making shocking and scabrous discoveries that overturn everything he thought he knew about his friend. As Jill gets to work in the back garden, Matt is forced to weigh up the merits of art and truth. Should he conceal what he has found or share it?

The poems appear in stages throughout the novel, with the final “published edition” at the end. They are not half bad either! You will be encouraged to explore Ovid again….

4 stars. See also The Executor by Blake Morrison review – a novel with poetic vision.

I could not help but think of Laurie Duggan’s smart Martial’s Epigrams (1987). Duggan is an Australian poet. Do explore.

indexJK5EIT18And for something completely different: Drinking in America : our secret history (2015) by Susan Cheever, who turns out to be the daughter of  John Cheever. Well worth a look.

Goes back to earliest colonial times, but this extract is from a chapter on Prohibition:

The intersection of writers with Prohibition was at its most intense in New York City — the mecca for all talented young men and women in the 1920s. Seven thousand arrests for alcohol possession in New York City between 1921 and 1923 (when enforcement was more or less openly abandoned) resulted in only seventeen convictions.

For some writers, Manhattan, with its habitual speakeasies and after-hours clubs as well as its famous flouting of the law even in restaurants, became synonymous with drinking too much. Eugene O’Neill and F. Scott Fitzgerald were two writers who were only able to stop drinking, or at least moderate their drinking, after they left what one minister called “Satan’s Seat.”

It is a truth universally acknowledged that writers drink too much and that, at least in America, writing goes hand in hand with a bottle or a brew, a bad liver, and a very bad temper. “Of course you’re a rummy,” Ernest Hemingway comforted his friend Scott Fitzgerald, “but no more than most good writers are.” In the mid-twentieth century, five of the seven Americans who won the Nobel Prize were alcoholics—Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck. The writer Ring Lardner once listed every writer he knew and concluded that at least a third were alcoholics. “There is no question that alcohol ran through the lives and works of great writers,” notes journalist Kelly Boler. “Stories of the grand boozy excesses of twentieth-century literature provide a substantial part of our cultural currency.”

So prevalent was the combination of writing and alcoholism that when Dorothy Parker went to a famous writer’s funeral and a friend commented on how well the man looked in his coffin, Parker remarked that of course he looked well — “he hasn’t had a drink in three days.”