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MoneySexPower by Julianne Schultz


by Julianne Schultz

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Before the contents page of MoneySexPower there's a manifesto of sorts, which includes the boast: 'Griffith REVIEW [it always refers to itself capitalised like this] captures the spirit of the times. ... Personal, political and [un]predictable, it is Australia's best conversation.' Frankly, I found that offputting -- conversation rally doesn't work so well when it's a competition. Considered as conversation, the contents go something like this: 'Things are rough in Aboriginal politics. Enough is enough.' 'A mediocre English Internet scammer killed his wife and child in the US.' 'The News of the World was a sleazy newspaper in England decades ago.' 'I was there at Tienanmen Square, but I didn't understand as much as I pretended at the time.' 'Me and my friend were on opposite sides in the war in Bosnia, but he was a decent man.' 'I've been to Thailand. You wouldn't believe what Australian men get up to there.' 'A friend of mine has made an excellent documentary about Afghanistan.' 'Women have a hard time in the Queensland coal mining industry.' 'I've got a great book of ekphrastic poems coming out soon.'

That is to say, the individual pieces don't resonate with each other much at all. Nor are they in such a wide range of forms: the contents page divides them into Reportage, Essay, Memoir and Fiction, but the boundaries between those categories are blurry. Why, for instance, is Wayne McLennan's 'My Banker', about his involvement in dubious financial practices in Costa Rica in the 90s, filed as reportage rather than memoir? What makes 'The Heaviness of Keys', Edwina Shaw's sharp and unsettling first-person story about a frisson between teacher and student in a boys' detention centre, memoir rather than fiction? And Louis Nowra's 'My Three Beggars', reflecting on his relationship with street people in Kings Cross, is surely too current to be memoir? It's probably true to say that all but two of the pieces are actually personal essays, and of those two, one is classed as memoir and the other could well be based in actual experience. Of course, there's plenty of room to manoeuvre in the essay form, and here they range from Marcia Langton's sustained, fierce and unsparing polemic, 'The End of "Big Men" Politics', to Sydney Smith's bitterly personal 'My Mother, My Monster' by way of a photo essay by Roslyn Sharp, consisting of portraits of a homeless man.

Of course it's ridiculous to aspire to be the 'best conversation', and the phrase is probably better read as a self-promoting gesture rather than a statement of intent. As a contribution to ongoing conversations, a much more interesting thing to aspire to, MoneySexPower succeeds admirably. Marcia Langton's attack on 'big bunga' politics (apparently the meaning of this phrase is much ruder than the 'big men' of the essay's title) reads as a major contribution to our understanding of what the hell is going on with the NT Intervention, though I'd like to see Germaine Greer, Larissa Behrendt and Geoff Clak given a right of reply to her savage swipes at them, and it would have been good if her occasional non-sequitur and self-contradiciton had been successfully challenged by the editors. 'Getting to Grips with Naked', Barry Hill's piece on his poems responding to Lucien Freud's paintings, delivers some glancing but telling blows in the debate that recently exploded around Bill Henson's photographs. Mary Rose MacColl's 'The Birth Wars', a promo for her forthcoming book of the same name, reminds us that the fierce conflict about how childbirth should be managed is still raging,and that the casualties are real and very young. Charlie Stansfield tells of taking a severely disabled man, at his request, to see a prostitute -- and I remember attending a conference on Sexuality and the Disabled 20 years ago, another debate that's still raging. When I told a friend about Rachel Robertson's 'Bonus', in which she ponders the effect of being 'interpellated' as a carer for her son with autism rather than as his mother, the friend exploded: apparently this is a frequent whinge among 'carers' and their advocates, one that in my friend's opinion stems from rampant indiviidualism and has a destructively divisive effect, and so on ... the article has brought it into the public arena. ( )
  shawjonathan | Feb 3, 2009 |
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