Everyone’s story is an interesting whole in its own right, and this book is what Tom has made of his – but it also captures the rich political history of the past six decades. The German student movement, Berkeley radicalism, the Whitlam sacking, the Portuguese and Nicaraguan Revolutions, the Lebanese civil war, dissidence in the Eastern bloc, labour struggles in South Korea, the fall of Suharto – many such episodes are told as eyewitness accounts, amid Tom’s reflections on building the International Socialist tradition in Australia.
None of the women have much to say, but they sure look great striding around in their helmets and breastplates, muscles gleaming in the shimmery light of the Aegean sea.
Among the various portentous ‘deaths’ that seem to be befalling contemporary culture – the death of the ‘manly man’, the death of ‘Australian values’, the death of the personal essay – is the lesser-known apparent death of the editor. In a 2008 long-read for Essays in Criticism, Harvard University’s J Stephen Murphy lamented the slow demise of my long-beloved profession, largely as a result of the changes to the publishing landscape wrought by new media and their ostensible democratisation of writing and literature.
It’s been almost ten years since 21-year-old Australian Jock Palfreeman found himself alone one night in Sofia, Bulgaria, confronted by a group of fascist football hooligans he’d witnessed attack two Roma men. In the ensuing altercation Jock was injured and one of the gang, a young man called Andrey Monov, was fatally stabbed.
In such circumstances, the eminently sensible voice of Richard Rorty is sorely missed. Rorty, who died in 2007, was one of our most compassionate philosophers. You can gauge his worth by the fact that he seemed to get under the skin of just about everybody, occupying a transient between-space in a manner off-putting to commentators who spend careers building conceptual fortresses behind which to protect their worldview.