Peter FitzSimons: A league of their own – it won’t last

SPEAKING of the NRL and its administration or lack thereof, my pound to your peanut says there will be a change in their scheduling next year. I refer to the A-League grand final being on when the leaguies had just about nothing on against it. In fact, just about nothing the whole weekend! There was the Kiwis Test on Friday night, which is always about as fifth as good as a State of Origin; a ”World Cup” game (no, really) between Samoa and Tonga; and was it the City-Country thing that only drew 4000? The net result, of course, was that the sleeping giant of Australian sport, soccer – now obviously awoken – was given a free kick.
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The AFL might feel equally aggrieved with the weekend. While the Wanderers have clearly captured the imagination of western Sydney and seem to have acted as a unifying force on a highly diverse population – even as they went within a whisker of winning the whole competition – the GWS Giants played to a paltry crowd and managed to become the only team to lose to the Melbourne Demons. And rugby in all that? Obviously struggling across the board. Crowds of 11,000 to 16,000 for the Waratahs speaks for itself. But, last weekend, at least a pulse! Queensland and the Brumbies played themselves to a standstill in a game where penalty goals were eschewed in favour of running the ball, and a fantastic game resulted.

BANNED DRUGS

Two months ago, as this column noted at the time, NSW Minister for Sport Graham Annesley was called with other sports ministers for an emergency briefing by the ACC on where the investigation into drugs in sport was up to. Coming out of the meeting, he went straight into a live cross with Channel Nine, where there appeared to be an expectation among panellists that he would confirm there was not much to it. But no. When host Karl Stefanovic asked the former league referee his thoughts, the obviously shellshocked Annesley replied: ”[It’s] quite serious … and scary in some ways.” Interviewed a couple of days later on the ABC why the ACC and ASADA had made their announcement seemingly so early, Annesley replied that it was better to go early than, ”have to explain to the coroner why we announced too late”. Tragically, this week, we may have seen something of what Annesley was referring to – the potentially lethal consequences of taking supplements on the banned list.

It is, of course, way too early to determine if – as reported yesterday – there might have been a causal link between the peptides and Cronulla player Jon Mannah in 2011, and the return of the cancer that killed him. In fact, it has not been confirmed that Mannah did receive any of the substances. However, it does highlight the fact that all the concern about such drugs is not simply to do with their effect on sport. The reason a lot of them are on the banned list is because they are dangerous and potentially fatal. If that link is established in this case, it will move the whole terrible saga into an entirely different realm. And there really will be a lot of explaining that needs to be done to the coroner.

Annesley’s words are looking tragically prophetic.

THE POINT IS?

Who knew? After TFF wondered idly last week why the AFL gives out four points for a win and two points for a draw, some readers pointed out that, pretty much across the world, soccer gives out three points for a win and one each only for a draw. Why, I wonder?

TOSSERS INC.

Dear TFF

Those bunch of d—heads prancing about a pub betting on the TAB and, of course, winning and ”impressing” the ladies, are in many ways just as annoying as the Tom Waterhouse ads. The TAB ad pretends the beautiful people are smiling indulgently at the d—heads – but that just proves what loveable, and winning, d—heads they are. Just shows you don’t have to do anything meaningful or challenging in life to be both loveable and a winner. Right?

Regards

Mike Sandy

NO EXCUSES

A point of order, NZRU chief executive Steve Tew, re your remarks after All Blacks and Hurricanes winger Julian Savea was charged last week with assaulting his partner. ”Without judging the rights or wrongs of this case,” you said, ”we are concerned that this is another incident involving a young player. We need to find out whether we are doing enough to help these young men cope with the pressures of the professional game.”

Can I say a word? That word is: ”Nuh.” Steve, that almost sounds like you’re excusing it. And yes I know that Savea has publicly apologised and begged his partner and her family for forgiveness, but the point remains. Playing a game for a few hundred grand a year, and being internationally famous is not ”pressure”.

Raising a family of five on the basic wage is pressure. And in either case, whatever the situation, real men do NOT hit women. No excuses, no exceptions. And of course it is for the courts to judge his guilt or innocence, beyond reasonable doubt. But the standard of proof required to stand him down from the team is a lot less.

Savea played last weekend, despite the Hurricanes knowing of the incident. He is due to play this weekend. A man who hits a woman sullies the jersey he wears. He should be stood down for a long time, perhaps doing volunteer work in a women’s refuge.What they said

Ray Hadley on NRL chief Dave Smith: “I will tell you what you want to do Dave; pull your head out of your bum and build closer links with the grassroots of the game, the people who will pay your wages for the next two decades.” And welcome to rugby league, by the way.

Former NRL chief David Moffett: “It’s like a coach losing the dressing room. I feel sorry for Dave Smith. He was pitched into a job that his background would indicate he’s not suited for or prepared for. It’s one of the toughest gigs in world sport. It will end in tears.”

Dave Smith on the structural changes he has made to the administrations: “But I feel really pleased that I put my stamp on it. This is me, this is Dave Smith, this is his leadership structure.” Talking about yourself in the third person? Mate, you’re going to fit right in.

Chris Gayle showing how it is done, after his unbeaten 175 runs from 66 balls: “Everything just worked for Chris Gayle today … I’m an entertainer, I try to entertain as much as possible.” Deep sigh. Thousand yard stare into the distance.

James Magnussen in an interview: “The Missile is a more confident and aggressive character than I am. The problem in and before London was my everyday life didn’t diverge from that persona.” Magnussen is my bet to recapture Australia’s affection, and still be selling undies when he is 40.

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick on their poor training last week: “We didn’t train well, but does that get taken into the game? I wouldn’t think so. It happens all the time; sometimes I like to make love to my wife, I don’t always perform at a high standard.” Across Australia, men shifted uncomfortably.

These lines were on the back of a T-shirt of a man struggling along in the London Marathon: “50. Fat. Diabetic. Ahead of you.”

Former Test umpire Dickie Bird, who turned 80 last week: “The characters have gone out of all sports haven’t they? There’s no [Allan] Lambs, [Ian] Bothams or Dennis Lillees any more. We used to have a laugh in Test matches, which they don’t today – they don’t even smile.”

Kiwi rugby commentator, as the Queensland Reds put the Waikato Chiefs to the sword: “Genia, he’s been busier than a fiddler’s elbow tonight.”

George Smith on how much more rugby he has in him: “I don’t want to sound like Johnny Farnham.”

Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo on NFL players coming out. “I think it will happen sooner than you think. We’re in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now, and they’re trying to be organised so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy.”

Team of the week

Chris Gayle. In a game of bubblegum cricket in the IPL, the West Indian finished 175 not out from 66 balls, including 13×4, 17×6.

Jesse Williams. The Australian looks likely to be drafted to the NFL.

Melbourne Demons. Celebrated their win over Greater Western Sydney as if they won the grand final and to be fair it probably was.

Mike Denness. The only Scottish born captain of an English cricket team passed away last week. Denness once told the story of a letter addressed to him: “Mike Denness, Cricketer”. “If this letter reaches you,” it said, “the Post Office think more of you than I do.”

Central Coast Mariners. Finally savoured a grand final win and showed all knuckle-dragging Neanderthals of the other football codes – oh gawd, we hate you bastards! – just how well attended and enthusiastic a grand final crowd can be. And only 21 people arrested!

Mid North Coast Axemen. Just had their first victory in 13 years in the Country Rugby Championships. They defeated Western Plains 47-24. Let the word go forth from this place and this time: NO ONE beats the Axemen 14 years in a row! And good on yers.

The 18th Australian National Balloon Championships. Drew three times the crowd in Canowindra than rugby league’s City-Country game drew to Coffs Harbour.

RIP Margaret ”Nan” Barnes. (1919-2013). The greatest Cronulla Sharks supporter, ever, passed away last week. Vale.

Brumbies and Reds. Last Saturday night, the two teams played a cracker, spoilt only by the fact that itfinished in a draw.

Nic White. You all know the Beatles lyric: “Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy.” The Brumbies halfback looks like a terrier, thinks he’s a cross between an Alsatian and a sheepdog, but everyone can see he’s a great rugby player. And he should be Will Genia’s understudy in the Wallabies.

Jesse Mogg. Should be the Wallabies fullback. One of those blokes who sends a current through the crowd every time he touches the ball.

RIP Barry Taylor. 1935-2013. The well known Australian U/21, Manly and NSW Waratahs coach passed away on Wednesday. On ya, Tizza. You were a one-off.

Dank was ‘assured’ over Mannah supplements

‘Shattered’: Dank says his pain is with Jon Mannah’s family. Photo: Tim Clayton Sports scientist Stephen Dank believes he never compromised Jon Mannah’s health and says he consulted a leading oncologist before administering the late Cronulla forward with supplements.
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Cronulla’s supplement program has come under further scrutiny after a leaked internal report raised concerns of a potential causal link to Mannah’s fatal cancer. The front-rower, who played 24 games for the club between 2009 and 2011, died in January following a relapse of his Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Dank, who worked at the club during 2011, said he was “assured” that any treatments he administered to Mannah would not affect his health. “My sympathies to the family,” Dank said. “I consulted an oncologist in relation to treatments. I was assured what was being used wouldn’t affect Jon’s condition. Jon knew what was being conducted. We would never deliberately do anything to contribute to Jon’s illness, whether it be to accelerate or restore it.

“I’m shattered for the family more than for my own reputation or the damages it might have caused me. My greater pain is for the family at this difficult time.”

An independent report prepared by former ASADA deputy chair Tricia Kavanagh provides a timeline of events in an extensive document. Darren Kane, a sports and commercial lawyer at Colin W Love & Company Lawyers, was engaged by the Sharks to review it and report back to the board with any legal issues.

His leaked advice included the following: “A brief review of available published medical literature suggests an identified causal link between the use of substances such as CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 and the acceleration of the condition of disease Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Without knowing anything further about Mannah’s exact medical history and without seeking expert opinion from an appropriately qualified oncologist it is difficult to take this issue further. The issue of Mannah has the potential to be as serious as matters could get.”

Kane said he was not in a position to discuss the matter. “In respect to anything I have done for the club, it is all covered by legal professional privilege and that’s a privilege only a client can waive,” he said.

The developments prompted the Cancer Council Australia to release the following statement: “Based on an assessment of the evidence available, Cancer Council Australia says there isn’t any link between HGH-promoting peptides and a relapse or onset of lymphoma.”

The Sharks Unity ticket, which swept to power during the recent elections, campaigned strongly on the platform that the decision to sack four key staff members would be reviewed. It is unclear whether recent developments have changed that stance.

Meanwhile, directions were heard for a civil defamation action in the Supreme Court on Friday launched by Dank against Cronulla-Sutherland District Rugby League Football Club Ltd. It is understood further legal proceedings will be launched by the sports scientist as a result of News Ltd’s initial report about a possible link between Dank’s administration of supplements and Mannah’s death.

Twitter @proshenks

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I’m ready for the No.7 spot: Faulkner

Ashes tourist James Faulkner believes he is capable of holding down the number seven position against England, and he won’t be a shrinking violet if he gets the chance.
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Faulkner’s main skill is his slippery brand of left-arm pace, but questions about the form of Shane Watson and matters of team balance mean he could also be called upon to play a significant role with the bat.

Faulkner, the only uncapped player in the Ashes squad, said his batting had improved enough for him to feel comfortable slotting in at seven.

Tasmania was prepared to bat him in the top six for much of the summer before last, and he is coming off a 444-run Sheffield Shield season spent at seven and eight, culminating with 89 in the final against Queensland.

“I would be definitely be comfortable to bat No.7,” said Faulkner, “Wherever you can slot into an Australian team, I think you are pretty happy to play wherever you can. It was a reasonably successful year last year for Tasmania with the bat and hopefully I can make a few more big scores, that’s my aim at the moment.”

As national selector John Inverarity intimated when he described Faulkner, who turns 23 this month, as “a very competitive cricketer who gets things done”, he will bring a forceful attitude that has sometimes been missing from recent Australian teams.

“I like to think I’m a pretty strong competitor on the field and off the field I’m a pretty relaxed sort of character,” Faulkner said from India, where he is playing for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.

“When the game is on the line, I’m pretty aggressive. I get on the front foot instead of being dictated to.”

Unlike many talented youngsters who get swept along by the Twenty20 wave, Faulkner has established a solid first-class career, averaging 22.34 with the ball and 29.11 with the bat, while earning a taste of international cricket in the shorter forms.

He is likely to continue his ODI career at the Champions Trophy in June, which precedes the Ashes.

“I’ve always tried to be as consistent as I can across T20, one-day cricket and four-day cricket and not specifically have a focus on any of the three. The IPL has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works for all the countries … but I look at it as an opportunity to progress my cricket on different wickets. You get experience pretty fast,” Faulkner said.

“It doesn’t get any higher than Test cricket. I’ve been thrilled to play a couple of T20s for Australia and a full ODI series against the West Indies, I really enjoyed it and it tested my game out. But it’s a whole new ball game now with Test cricket.”

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OPINION: The great divide

It’s either a win for the community and the environment, or a threat to the economic future of the Hunter Valley. The Australia Institute and the NSW Minerals Council go head-to-head over the implications of the recent decision to overturn the extension of the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.
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Dr Richard Denniss is executive director of The Australia Institute:

WHILE it happens in movies all the time, for once in real life David really did triumph over Goliath.

In the recent court case between the Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association, represented by the not-for-profit Environmental Defenders Office, and Warkworth Mining Limited, owned in part by Rio Tinto, the community did what the Kerrigans achieved in The Castle.

The court case revolved around what was ‘‘good for the community’’.

The miners wanted to massively expand a mine so that it would close a local road, destroy more than 700hectares of environmentally valuable woodlands, remove the local hill and build a giant waste mound.

The main upside to this proposal would be that the owners of the mine, most of whom live outside the community or outside of the country, would make a lot more money.

As is usually the case, the mining industry made exaggerated claims about the economic benefits to both the local and national economy, of allowing them to profit from the community’s distress. But this is where things got interesting.

Usually the claims and counterclaims about the economic consequences of mining simply fly back and forth with no resolution, but this week a judge dismissed the miners’ claims that the Warkworth mine extension was good for the community and the country.

In particular, Chief Justice Preston found that the evidence provided by the miners did not support their conclusion that the economic benefits to the owners and employees of the mine outweighed the social, environmental and economic costs to others in the community.

Further, he found that the modelling relied on by the miners was a “limited form of economic analysis” that “does not assist in weighting the economic factors relative to the various environmental and social factors, or in balancing the economic, social and environmental factors”.

Such a finding will no doubt send shivers down the spines of big developers and economic consultants around the country.

The judge also found that the claims made by the mining industry about the increase in employment that would accompany the mine were exaggerated.

In reality, big new mines

cannibalise the most highly skilled staff of other industries.

The miners are always quick to claim credit for the jobs they create in the broader economy but this week’s judgment accepted the argument that they should also take responsibility for the jobs they destroy in other industries.

I doubt it is a coincidence that a day after Chief Justice Preston’s landmark decision that the NSW Minerals Council was depicting anyone who questions the conduct of the big mining companies or speaks up for community concerns as unpatriotic.

How ironic that the Australian spokesperson for an industry that is 83per cent foreign-owned should make such a claim.

Like the minerals council, The Australia Institute believes that mining has an important role to play in the Australian economy.

But unlike the minerals council, The Australia Institute is also interested in the broader health of the Australian economy and Australian communities.

The high exchange rate and the skills shortages associated with the boom have had devastating effects on some of our most important long-term industries, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

These industries employ millions of Australians, while mining, which is highly mechanised, employs around 2per cent of the Australian workforce.

When the mining industry wants to expand at the expense of the broader economy, it is important that we have open and fair decision-making processes.

While mining booms come and go, good farmers usually think in terms of protecting their land for future generations. New mines might create jobs in the short term, but when the mines go the houses in the communities that are left behind become worthless.

The mining industry’s TV ads suggest that what is good for mining is good for Australia but this week’s court judgment found that this is not always the case.

Who knows how many other mines have been approved on the basis of dodgy economic modelling?

David Moult is the chairman of the NSW Minerals Council:

AGRICULTURE, tourism and mining are the three crucial economic pillars upon which the Hunter was built and continues to thrive.

Despite what anti-mining activists who run The Australia Institute would have us believe, removing any one of those pillars will have deep and lasting detrimental impacts on the economic and social fabric of the Hunter Valley.

Research undertaken by the University of Newcastle highlights that the 21 largest mining members of the NSW Minerals Council directly employed 10,842 employees in their mining operations alone in the Hunter Valley during 2011-12.

A total $1.29billion was spent on wages and salaries for these workers over the same period.

In terms of direct injection into the Hunter economy, these companies spent $3.3billion in contributions and purchases of goods and services from local businesses.

Our mining employees live and raise their families in local Hunter communities like Muswellbrook, Singleton, Maitland and Cessnock. They spend their money in local shops and use local services.

That’s why NSW mining engages so closely with the Hunter community, because our workers are part of that community.

Through programs like the Upper Hunter Mining Dialogue, we regularly engage with key community stakeholders including business chambers, local environment groups and health advocates.

All this presents a clear picture of what’s at risk if responsible mining is not supported in the Hunter.

The current lack of certainty and a lack of confidence in the NSW planning system will threaten thousands of mining jobs in the Hunter and across NSW, as well as see vital investment diverted from regional communities.

The level of scrutiny applied to mining applications is intense.

The process takes between three and four years and millions of dollars in assessments that are required by the government.

Added to this are a number of independent processes designed to provide transparency and ensure that all of the benefits and impacts are properly balanced when making the final determination about the project.

This process includes independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) reviews, PAC public hearings and PAC determinations.

This independent scrutiny and oversight, which has been ramped up in recent years, significantly increases the time taken to assess projects.

The mining industry is not afraid of additional oversight, however it should lead to greater certainty. Unfortunately the industry is facing greater uncertainty through projects that have already been thoroughly assessed, analysed and independently determined subjected to a further legal appeal process.

This uncertainty hangs over all new and current mining projects in NSW.

It puts thousands of jobs at risk, and makes NSW an uninviting place to invest.

There is no doubt that extreme green groups are using the legal process with the single aim of disrupting the mining industry.

In 2012, the Australian Anti-Coal Movement produced a clandestine document, outlining its strategy to ‘‘disrupt and delay key projects and infrastructure while gradually eroding public and political support for the industry …’’

The Australia Institute, among others, was acknowledged as contributing to this document.

The NSW government must realise that these extreme green activists do not have the interests of local communities at heart, but rather are pursuing a blatant anti-mining agenda that will result in significant job losses and leave many of our workers and their families without an income.

NSW Mining does not operate in a vacuum. We compete with other mining states and internationally for mining investment dollars.

If the burden for mining becomes too great in NSW, we will see jobs and billions in revenue flow away from our state.

The real victims of this will be the workers and their families in communities across the Hunter, not just in mining, but in almost every other sector as the impacts flow on.

Rushworth woman, 71, sentenced for attack

A 71-YEAR-OLD Rushworth woman who stabbed her husband after she wasn’t invited to his birthday party has been jailed.
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Pamela Turner went to her estranged partner’s house and attacked him with a sledge hammer and a knife when he arrived home on September 13 last year.

The Bendigo County Court heard Turner had drank a “significant amount of red wine” before she stabbed her partner multiple times in the stomach on the night of his 78th birthday.

Turner pleaded guilty to intentionally causing serious injury.

She broke down in tears yesterday as she was sentenced to three months prison and placed on a Community Corrections Order for three years.

The court heard Turner had gone to her partner’s house armed with a knife, a meat cleaver, a stolen sledge hammer and a bottle of wine.

She had earlier called him on the phone and was enraged to hear he had gone out to dinner with their daughters.

She drove to the restaurant to confront him about why she was not invited, but was told to leave for “creating a scene”.

From there she drove to his home and hid in the darkness waiting for him.

In the confrontation that followed, Turner struck him from the side with a sledge hammer and used a number of weapons, including a knife and a frying pan.

Her partner suffered serious injuries from the attack, including cuts to his stomach and abdomen.

Judge Duncan Allen described the offending as an “ambush in horrific circumstances”.

He said it was clear she had “completely lost control” on the night.

The court heard Turner had been battling drinking problems since the age of 40, and her alcohol abuse “had escalated even further in the 12 months before the offending”.

In 2012 she spent five weeks in a Bendigo psychiatric ward for chronic depression and alcoholism.

At the time of the stabbing she was on anti-psychotic medication.

Turner and her partner were married for more than 40 years and had three children together.

Judge Allan said he accepted Turner was coping with ongoing problems of alcohol abuse but said it did not excuse her “extreme outburst of violence”.

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Win a Japanese study trip

NLA FELLOWSHIPS
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Applications for the 2014 National Library Fellowships close on April 30, 2013. Recipients receive travel funds and an allowance, as well as special access to research the library’s facilities and collections. Harold White Fellowships support established scholars and writers researching any discipline within the library’s collections. Japan Fellowships support established scholars to undertake research in Japanese studies, using the library’s Japanese and Western language collections. For more information, a link to the online application form and contact details, see nla.gov.au/services/awards.html.WORKSHOPS

Two workshops are coming up at the ACT Writers Centre. A creative non-fiction masterclass with Kim Mahood is on May 4 and 5 from 10am to 4pm and is directed towards people who have a non-fiction work in progress, which they want to develop. Participants should bring extracts from a work in progress. Venue: ACT Writers Centre workshop room in Gorman House Arts Centre, 55 Ainslie Avenue, Braddon. Cost: $220 members, $190 concessional members, $280 non-members (includes 12 months of membership).

Bookings: 6262 9191, actwriters南京夜网.au or at the office. Payment is required at time of booking. And Straighten Up and Playwright with Genevieve Kenneally, on May 25 from 9am to midday at the same venue, is a short-play writing workshop open to all writers under 30 years of age. Cost: $30. Bookings: 6262 9191 or at the centre.WOMEN & POWER

Join editor Julianne Schultz and contributors to Griffith REVIEW 40: Women & Power Christine Wallace and Mary Delahunty as they discuss the unexpected tensions that come to the surface as women exercise more power – in politics, business, social enterprise and in the home. It’s on Thursday, May 16, at 5pm in the Conference Room, National Library of Australia, and is free. Bookings: nla.gov.au/bookings or 6262 1271.WHAT’S ON

Saturday: To celebrate the release of The Invisible Thread, an anthology of 75 Canberra writers, NewActon is bringing together three leading authors – Alex Miller, Alan Gould and Sara Dowse – who have each chosen musical compositions to bookend their poem or prose readings. 7.30pm, tickets $39, available from newacton南京夜网.au/wovenwords – seating is limited.

Sunday: The Fellowship of Australian Writers’ April Meeting is in the Brindabella Room, fourth floor, National Library of Australia, 1-4pm. All welcome. The chosen topic is ”I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”. Shared afternoon tea. Gold-coin donation. Further inquiries: Adrienne Johns, 6231 2470.

Thursday, May 9: An exhibition opening and book launch for Faces of Canberra by Barbara van der Linden, 6pm. Guest speakers: Frank Arnold, Helen Musa and Sylvie Stern. M16 Gallery, 21 Blaxland Crescent, Griffith.

Litbits submissions should arrive by 9am on Wednesday to be considered for publication. [email protected]南京夜网.au

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Criminal minds

Disgraced former Queensland police commissioner Terry Lewis with wife Hazel in 1988.THREE CROOKED KINGS
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Matthew Condon. UQP. 346pp. $29.95.

The rising popularity of the true crime genre means that the current generation is much more likely to learn about the vices of earlier Australians than it otherwise would. Yet investigative journalists who write in this style know that the genre should come with a user-warning for intending authors. By wrapping a bright cover around it and slapping the words “explosive true story” on the front, the publisher of true crime promises titillation as well as the facts. The journalist who ventures into true crime continually juggles the roles of investigator and entertainer.

Inevitably, the genre adds lustre to the criminal legend, since its conventions dictate that “bad guys” are humanised while their crimes are objectified. Thus in chapter one of Matthew Condon’s Three Crooked Kings, the story of police corruption in Queensland from the 1940s to ’70s, we meet a police cadet “with the face of a hurt, vulnerable boy”. This is Terry Lewis, abandoned by his unloving mother at the age of 10, and estranged from his father, a humble storeman, by the time he joined the force at just 20. The young policeman becomes an overachiever: “Deeds, he believed, were more important than words. He proved his worth by doing.”

Terry Lewis rose to be police commissioner before revelations at the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in the late 1980s led to his trial and conviction. The charges against him included accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to protect vice and illegal gaming. He was sentenced to 14 years and served 10. His appeals failed. Some readers might think such facts warrant mention in Three Crooked Kings but they do not appear, beyond a reference in the back-cover blurb to Lewis as a “deposed and jailed former police commissioner”.

Apparently this part of the story must wait for Condon’s sequel, which the last line of the final chapter tells us is “coming in late 2013”. Delayed revelation is the stock-in-trade of crime writers, but its use in such a serious context is questionable. It highlights that Three Crooked Kings is a genre-bender rather awkwardly positioned between true crime and traditional journalistic expose.

The book came about after Condon was introduced to Lewis, who “decided, at the age of 83, that he wanted his story told”. The two men embarked on a series of interviews lasting almost three years, an author’s note tells us. Lewis also gave the writer access to diaries and other materials. Condon, a journalist as well as a talented novelist, obviously struggled conscientiously with the burden of this unlooked-for opportunity, interviewing hundreds of other people: “On several occasions, Lewis’s version of events and my own research took different paths.” Perhaps it’s as a result of his endeavour to present “a balanced story” that the playful, vivid prose of Condon’s fiction is largely absent here. Much of the narrative unfolds in the style of an extended police-rounds feature, with the hedges, clumsy segues, elisions and repetitions inherent in that type of journalism. One senses the reporter looking back over his shoulder respectfully towards the journalists who blazed the trail he pursues and who, between them, have already covered most of its territory: the Dickies, Masters and Whittons.

In its most accomplished writing, Three Crooked Kings paints a compellingly dark picture of the backwardness of Brisbane 60 years ago. The theme of recurrent police corruption in Queensland has previously been exposed by historians (and by the Fitzgerald Report itself). Here, Condon brings it to life memorably, most enjoyably in the story of corrupt police commissioner Frank Bischof’s campaign to stamp out rock’n’roll culture in the early ’60s – something that Brisbane fans of punk music in the early ’80s would relate to.

One might hope that three years of interviews with a convicted cop would yield more of his personal philosophy, and some fresh insight into how the persistent rumour got started that he was Bischof’s bagman. Instead, there is unreconstructed self-justification. Lewis was waiting outside [in the car] when his corrupt colleague went in and told the prostitute the price of police protection was going up … and so on. The most significant revelation he makes concerns Brisbane’s infamous National Hotel in the early 1960s, and scandalous extracurricular police conduct there – none of it his, of course.

Sybil Nolan covered the Fitzgerald Inquiry proceedings as a journalist. Matthew Condon will be a guest at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, May 20-26.

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Vignettes of modern despair

THE SECRET LIVES OF MEN
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By Georgia Blain. Scribe. 256pp. $27.95.

After five novels, including Candelo and Darkwater, and a memoir, Births Deaths Marriages, which dealt in part with the consequences of the fraught and sometimes violent marriage of her parents, Ellis Blain and Anne Deveson, Georgia Blain has turned to the short story.

There are 13 in her new collection, The Secret Lives of Men. That is the title of the first story here, but the material that follows is more varied, as Blain explores the pain of an unfulfilled desire for children, the over-protectiveness by some towards the children they have, the dire and comic complications in the relationships of mothers and daughters. All this is beside the great staple of realist fiction for 200 years – adultery. By implication, a larger social portrait emerges of contemporary Australia – one marked by betrayal, narcissism, despair, valiant but often unavailing acceptance of responsibility. All this is in a secular and far from hopeful world.

Blain is skilled at brisk beginnings and the first line of the book is ”We always knew the locals hated us.” The locals belong to a seaside town that is the holiday resort of rich kids from the capital. When the latter clash, more than one life is ruined.

The ”secret” business of the story is the revelation of how one of the characters has made private and protracted attempts at amends for his guilt. This is a dense short story that gives the impression – as do several others – of being a compressed novel. There are tendrils of narrative that might have grown further had Blain opted for the longer form. Here, as elsewhere, her technical striving and struggles are admirably apparent. Sometimes they can lead her to a programmatic grimness, as in Enlarged + Heart + Child. In that story, and others, she also fails to untangle the welter of names with which we are greeted.

In the world of these stories, women – whatever their professional standing – often find themselves solitary and bereft. They may have been betrayed or deserted, as in the case of the narrator of Intelligence Quotient, who – having just lost her mother, ”the only other member of the family still alive” – confides in despair that ”the desire for a child crippled me at times, particularly now I was completely alone”.

Murramarang, told from the point-of-view of the architect Eloise, concerns broken friendships and failed marriages. As in The Other Side of the River, it is a story of adultery – so everyday from outside, so terrible and particular from within. Blain gives energy and originality to this time-worn material. Her style is most affecting when plain: ”Hamish had told [Eloise] that he was leaving and she had thought she would die.”

Often Blain challenges us to care about the characters whose lives she interweaves. The Bad Dog Park gives us the widowed teacher, Peter, and Doris – a diabetic dog foisted on him by his daughter – and Marnie, the dog walker. To a point, the damaged console one another. There is no easy resolution.

Mirrored opens with Blain’s typical brio – ”For three weeks we had been travelling through Rajasthan” – but this treatment of the travails of a mum and daughter seems done by the numbers. On the same matter, but nearer to home, Her Boredom Trick is layered and assured. In Escape (another novel that might have been), a vain and selfish father, given access to his children, takes them from Dullsville ”off to the land of pot, lissom young women, meals when you felt like it and six weeks of parental neglect”.

Bad faith and ensuing disappointments frequently set the dark tone of Blain’s skilled reckoning of the way we live now.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The numbers to the masses

The Universe Within by Neil Turok.THE UNIVERSE WITHIN
Nanjing Night Net

By Neil Turok. Allen & Unwin. 304pp. $27.99.

Our oldest creation stories try to describe the universe in the language and ideas available to our ancestors. Later ancestors developed ways of thinking more systematically, some of them developing descriptions of the universe that relied less on metaphors drawn from human society.

They wanted rules of explanation that could apply universally in the known material world, as well as providing some order to the inferred spiritual dimensions that we use to fill our gaps in understanding.

This quest has never ended, though cultures often try to defend orthodox cosmologies based on theories and methods that have been superseded. Scientific cosmologists can be almost as stubborn as religious conservatives in denying new ideas. When the shouting dies, it all comes down to physics.

How readily our eyes sparkle with awe when we look at a starry sky on a clear night, or view vivid images of near-infinite space captured by the latest space telescope. But how rapidly they glaze over when a beady-eyed enthusiast explains how every phenomenon can be described as an interaction of cosmological forces that, though barely understood, can be described in mathematical formulae. Are you still with me?

I once read Professor Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and thought I understood most of it, then fled the topic, never to return. As a young publisher’s assistant, I proofread another professor’s book on Einstein’s theories of relativity. I thought I understood that, too, but wouldn’t claim to now.

Neil Turok has taken on a much wider topic than Hawking. Turok held a chair in mathematical physics at Cambridge and published, together with Hawking, a theory on how universes come into existence. That’s universes, plural. He now heads the Perimeter Institute in Canada, which supports the study of theoretical physics and campaigns for wider community understanding of what physicists are on about, and why it matters.

His title, The Universe Within, tells us this book addresses a vast topic from a human perspective. It is about the ways that generations of scientists have revised and renewed theories and observations on what governs the past, present and future of our universe. Within, it is about how human minds grapple to understand the infinities and imponderables of all matter and energy, from smallest subatomic energy states to the possibly infinite multiplicity of universes that share time and space with everything we humans are able to observe.

There is a quick review of ancient philosophical ideas about the universe, and of the development of mathematics as a way to describe and analyse observations. Mathematics, applied to physics, then allowed philosophers and scientists over the centuries to develop and extend theories into concepts for which there was, as yet, no evidence.

Newton’s physical laws were, and remain, good enough for most earthbound mechanical purposes, but later discoveries about the nature of light, electricity, magnetism and gravity added vital dimensions to speculation about space, time and infinity. Einstein and many others could describe fixed mathematical relationships between fundamental matter and energy, seeming to explain most of what was observable in human experience. Einstein determined that energy and mass are locked in a relationship governed by the square of the speed of light, but this is far from the only foundation formula.

Turok puts forward a far longer formula that ”summarises all the known laws of physics”, in symbols only a mathematician could love. The secret is that, like the pronouncements of ancient oracles, the relationships within the formula are generally accepted, but the values represented by most of the symbols are themselves often contested or unknown.

The one principle that nobody challenges is that no theory is beyond challenge.

The latest and best observations support the theory that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, having started as a microscopic dot of unbelievably compressed energy some 4 billion to 5 billion years ago. The expansion, and therefore the entire universe, is probably powered by the dark matter and ”vacuum energy” that was validated by our local Nobel hero Professor Brian Schmidt and his colleagues, perhaps prompted by the very Higgs boson particles that have recently been validated by the Large Hadron Collider experiments in Switzerland. It is not the job of physicists to ask why this happened, but they are increasingly confident that they know how it happened. There are still strenuous arguments among physicists, but Turok inclines to the view that our current expanding universe is just one instance of an infinite number of expansions, followed after a few billion years by contraction, and then another Big Bang to start the expansion again.

A lot of this seems disconnected from human experience because mathematical reasoning is not the same thing as common sense. Indeed, Turok explains that much of the essential theorising depends on the use of special numbers and terms that are themselves ”irrational” or ”unreal”: for example the letter i, representing the square root of -1, is essential to the resolution of many critical formulae, though you could never find such a value in daily life. Similarly, the theory of infinite bangs and busts depends on a concept called ”imaginary time”.

The greatest conceptual leap takes us from classical physics to the realm of quantum mechanics. In this framework the world, indeed the universe, is in constant flux and the state of everything is in constant change. There is no truth, only probability. There can be no absolute measurement, only observation. The job of physicists is to provide, from their observations, theories with reasonable probability. In some such theories, the existence of our own universe is almost at the lowest level of probability. However, because the number of possibilities is infinite, sooner or later our universe would be bound to pop up. After some moments of horror, I received this with relief. Probability makes more sense than certainty to the human brain.

Turok suggests that the application of quantum principles to computing will multiply the subtlety and speed with which future machines can make calculations on our behalf. They really will be more like human (analogue) brains than those relatively moronic binary computers we now use, that must build every step of their logic from choices of absolute yes or no. For quantum computers, every value will always be ”somewhat”. I think I can relate to that.

The bravest thing about this book is that it comprises the scripts of five orations originally broadcast as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship Massey Lectures for 2012. Neil Turok has done his best to leaven it with anecdotes and metaphors. I was baffled by an explanation of gravity using an image of two people standing on ice hockey pucks – in space. How such dense and often challenging material can be absorbed via hour-long radio lectures must be a matter of quantum uncertainty. For a lay reader like myself, the material is hard work but definitely rewarding.

Richard Thwaites has maintained a cautious interest in scientific cosmology since reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost as a teenager.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Rich humour in life and weather

NEW AND SELECTED POEMS
Nanjing Night Net

By Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Carcanet. $39.95.

In Time magazine a couple of years back, the American poet John Ashbery claimed that when it came to finding things to write poetry about ”there’s love and there’s death and time passing and the weather outside”. He could have been talking about Melbourne’s Chris Wallace-Crabbe, whose own poems (less opaque than Ashbery’s, but no less energetic) are characteristically concerned with those four elemental things.

The weather is, of course, not only elemental but also profoundly quotidian, the most ”everyday” of everyday things. The everyday occupies Wallace-Crabbe’s poems like a form of weather itself.

The Bits and Pieces, for instance, is an A-Z catalogue of ordinary objects – such as the artichoke, the yam and the tin opener – made remarkable through the poet’s estranging eye. The artichoke, for example, is ”a green knight’s club / or else an absolute rose”.

In Afternoon in the Central Nervous System, which begins ”Eating raw cabbage at a paper- / littered table at autumn’s end”, Wallace-Crabbe also uses the everyday to rehearse another favourite, and cognate, theme: identity. Despite a marked poetic identity (Wallace-Crabbe has an instantly recognisable style that mixes ”high” and ”low” linguistic registers), his poems are fascinated with the contingencies of identity.

In The Idea of Memory at 33 Celsius he asks: ”Who then is it speaking through me / in shorts and T-shirt, padding at ease / over the faintly dusty floorboards.”

Interrogatives – such as ”who?” – litter Wallace-Crabbe’s poetry, while agnosticism and bemusement is that poetry’s characteristic stance.

As he writes in Afternoon in the Central Nervous System, ”I am bemused by how / the musing of the world thus chose me here / out of, say, Scottish tribes and the plaited rush / of history from Plato down to NATO”. As the rhyming of ”Plato” and ”NATO” suggests, there is a great deal of comedy in Wallace-Crabbe’s ode-like poetry (just as there was in the work of his late contemporaries, Peter Porter and John Forbes).

Much of this comedy is verbal play. He asks, for instance, of the telephone ”Why does it drive me up the pole?”.

In The Thing Itself such verbal play is seen as the raison d’etre of poetry, the poet wishing to devise a sentence of utter originality, ”like nothing on the planet: / a structure of brackets and cornices, / twigs, pediments, dadoes and haloes and bells, / full of nuts, butter and flowers!”.

As well as a source of such aesthetic (or political or philosophical) play, Wallace-Crabbe’s distinctive comedy is always shadowed by an equally distinctive elegiac sensibility. As New and Selected Poems shows, Wallace-Crabbe has become simultaneously grimmer and lighter during the course of his career.

One might ascribe a biographical source to the grimness (the death of his adult son), but even in his first elegy for his son – called, without adornment, An Elegy – there is a hint of the comic in the poem’s final, tragic (and weather-filled) lines: ”So that I wish again / it were possible to pluck my son / out of dawn’s moist air / by the pylon-legs / in that dewy-green slurred valley / before he ever hit the ground, / to sweep under his plunge / like a pink-tinged angel /and gather him gasping back into his life.

The comic image of the poet as a pink-tinged angel of life returns us to a pre-modern sense of comedy, in which restoration and redemption are at the heart of the genre, as the title of Dante’s The Divine Comedy suggests.

In New and Selected Poems, Wallace-Crabbe evokes Dante, as well as the poet-priests Gerard Manley Hopkins and Peter Steele (the latter a close friend of Wallace-Crabbe’s), but his interest in religious matters generally concerns God’s absence.

As Wallace-Crabbe writes in Squibs in the Nick of Time, ”Approving mystery / with all my heart / I practise disenchantment.”

God or gods are therefore present in Wallace-Crabbe’s poetry only as remnants: the ”murmuring” of the first gods heard in Timber, or the assertion that ”God allegedly knows” at the end of More Loss.

In God, Wallace-Crabbe voices the divine father himself: ”I gave a big party / and the name of the party / kept slipping clean away / from my wooden tongue / but I reckon it was / called history.”

This selection, part of Carcanet’s Oxford Poets series, is Wallace-Crabbe’s third ”selected poems”. Having to jam in so many years – his first collection appeared in 1959 – gives the work an impressively Tardis-like appearance: it seems bigger on the inside than it does on the outside.

Wallace-Crabbe’s early years are, perhaps not surprisingly, dealt with efficiently, though poems like Citizen and The Wife’s Story show how early he was attracted to the strangeness of the everyday and comedy.

The poems from the 1980s and ’90s show what important decades these were for Wallace-Crabbe, but as the generous selection of his penultimate collection, Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw (2008) suggests, some of his most impressive work comes from this fecund ”late period”of his.

The many new poems presented in New and Selected Poems are characteristically catholic in tone and style, including The Poem of One Line; the surrealist statements of The Dream Injunctions (presumably gleaned from that eponymous state); verse essays on salt, skin, insects, torture and air; and a long elegiac sequence on politics, The Troubled Weather of Humanity.

As New and Selected Poems illustrates, Wallace-Crabbe has long been aware of how humanity’s weather is ”troubled” by the body’s frailty, the bloodiness of history and mortality itself.

But in his valuing of both the aesthetic and the ordinary as the realms of humanity, he always reminds us – despite what the end has to offer us all – of a different kind of weather, one where, even as darkness is falling, ”the lit clouds yet / sail sweetly over us / inhabiting a daylight of their own”.

David McCooey’s latest collection of poems, Outside, was short-listed for the Queensland Literary Awards as well as the Melbourne Prize for Literature’s best writing award.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Colour and movement

GAYSIA: ADVENTURES IN THE QUEER EAST
Nanjing Night Net

By Benjamin Law. Black Inc. 288pp. $29.99.

Just when you might think books by ingenues-in-Asia were a thing of the past, a sub-species arrives: books by gay-ingenues-in-Asia. Gaysia is the second of Law’s cutely titled books, following The Family Law (2010), which made his reputation as a self-satirist. That led to media columns, TV and an Asialink fellowship that took him to seven Asian countries in search of what he calls ”breathtaking examples of exotic faggotry”. Law is trawling among LGBTT people, he explains, for his fellow Gaysians: ”the Homolaysians, Bi-Mese, Laosbians and Shangdykes”. (If you need to ask, this may not be the book for you.)

Of course he finds them, behind every bush and exposed on every beat in the ”queer East”. Naked profiteers and muscled go-go dancers accost him in Bali, where he’s told everyone is a slut, and where men from the rest of Indonesia come for a gay time. Transsexual beauty queens reveal all to him in Bangkok. Squeals of mirth greet lewd jokes in tiny Tokyo bars that selectively specialise in thin, fat, old, female, or foreign gay clients. In Beijing, gay Chinese, conflicted between filial duty and sexual preference, tell Law how they negotiate sham marriages with the help of the internet. He listens to exhortations about curing ”sexual perversion” from a Christian in Malaysia and a Hindu in India, gurus who not only profit from their anxious followers, but covertly share their lusts. Straight Indian activists tell him of their struggle in 2007 to overturn a British statute of 1860 that outlawed ”carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. Gay Indians now parade annually in Mumbai, making up in colour and decibels for the frisson of risk they have lost becoming legal.

What starts out for Law as a light-hearted romp from one fleshpot to another in countries where anything goes, turns dark in China and Malaysia, where the pressure of ideology on one hand and religion on the other is constant. A way of life he regards as ordinary is a torment for gays there. But Law’s mood is darkest in Myanmar, where the three most fatal diseases are malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. In 2008, he says, quoting UNAIDS, nearly a third of transgender people and men who have sex with men in Myanmar had HIV. Of people needing antiretroviral drugs, one in five may get them. The rest will die, including some of Law’s interviewees who, with no alternative, go on working in a sex industry in which condoms are rarely used. He is puzzled that they laugh.

All ingenues-in-Asia report their emotional highs and physical lows as a life-changing experience. To make sense of it, the temptation is often to bring Western judgments to bear, and urge Western solutions – some only recent. Law’s empathy with his gay interlocutors is evident. But trying to get an appointment, cold, using Google translation, with a Japanese TV talent is naive, and the result is a massive fob-off. Mixing up given names and surnames isn’t a good look either. Failing to understand why Burmese say appalling things and laugh suggests that Law’s Asian sensibility may have been lost in one generation. Law is shocked when the Indian guru tells him homosexuality can lead to sex with animals, yet this prospect has recently been raised in the same-sex marriage debate in Australia. Hypocritical behaviour of supposedly celibate clergy in the West was well known, and Law doesn’t mention it once.

Law dangles the promise that on his journey he will get ”very, very naked”. If he does, he doesn’t say so, and instead keeps virtuously telling people he has a partner in Australia. If readers are hoping for a no-holds-barred sex tour, Law’s book is not it. What it more importantly lacks is historical research: the West didn’t invent LGBTT. Law understands there are various performance traditions, providing a paragraph or two on some, but surprisingly says nothing of crossdressing in the Takarazuka review or the Chinese opera, not even M.Butterfly. These traditions were diluted or repressed in the name of Western morality, and have been further reduced to the crass transactions that Westerners expect in ”the world’s gayest continent”.

Dr Alison Broinowski reviews and researches Asian Australian writing.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Something lasting

In the driver’s seat of his well-worn Volvo, James Salter spreads a map of Long Island across his knees. His voice fragile but deliberate, he offers tales of the region’s natives and of European settlement; also of the artists who lived and worked nearby – among them Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. ”Walt Whitman called it by its native American name,” Salter says. ”Paumanok: ‘the island that pays tribute’.” Then, pointing to the map’s eastern edge, his fingers fan out. ”See how it fishtails.” It’s an observation of someone who is used to looking down on things. Salter flew F-86 Sabre jets in the Korean War, an experience he chronicles in The Hunters.
Nanjing Night Net

That debut novel, published in 1956, reads like Top Gun written by a fighter pilot with the soul of a poet. Now, on the day of the American publication of All That Is, his first novel in 34 years, Salter, 87, moves with cool confidence. He is unrushed, his words measured. Here is someone who has survived dogfights with Russian MiGs. In another life, he worked on film projects with Roman Polanski, Sidney Lumet and Robert Redford. He is also one of the most revered American writers of his generation, author of eight works of fiction, including A Sport and a Pastime and Light Years, novels long considered contemporary classics.

For the past 35 years, Salter and his wife, Kay, have divided their time between Bridgehampton, Long Island (population 1756), and Aspen, Colorado.

Evidence of their Rocky Mountain life, from which they recently returned, greets the visitor at the door in the form of Salter’s vintage hiking boots. They’re a reminder that this is the man who decided, in his 50s, to become a proficient alpinist in order to write Solo Faces, a novel many critics and climbers cite as the best ever written on the subject. About 1979, the year Solo Faces appeared in bookstores, Salter began making notes for a new novel. His readers have been waiting ever since.

An unfortunate trend in the media has been to claim All That Is as Salter’s first book in 34 years. Since Solo Faces, however, he has published two story collections – one of them, Dusk, recipient of a PEN/Faulkner Award. Other recent publications include a book of travel essays, the unforgettable letters collected in Memorable Days and the memoirs Gods of Tin and Burning the Days, the latter as generous in its offerings as any novelist’s autobiographical writings. The gap between novels and the cultish allegiance of Salter’s readers – some of whom cling to the work as though it constitutes a secret order – have made All That Is one of the most highly anticipated books of the decade.

”I was making notes for a book like this 35 years ago,” says Salter, dressed casually in jeans and a sweater and now seated, after our return from the Bridgehampton train station, at his book-strewn dining room table. ”This,” he leans in to whisper, ”is one of the hazards of being an author.” Those notes from decades past have long since disappeared.

”I remembered what they were like in a ghost-story sense,” Salter says. ”They were like that line that you write down once and you can’t remember and that cannot be paraphrased. This novel is what resulted because of that loss. But the book is not a substitution for something lost. That’s just how it came about. I didn’t postpone it.

”I didn’t say, ‘I’m going to start writing novels again.’ It was something I had been thinking of and was delayed.” As Salter writes in the epigraph of All That Is, ”There comes a time when you realise that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.” It’s the sentiment of a man who, after publishing The Hunters, left a venerable military career to assume the uncertain existence of a novelist. They are also the words of someone with firm convictions about the role of literature. In his 1993 Paris Review interview, Salter responds to a question about the urge to write: ”Because all this is going to vanish. The only thing left will be the prose and poems, the books, what is written down. Man was very fortunate to have invented the book. Without it the past would completely vanish, and we would be left with nothing, we would be naked on earth.”

It’s unsurprising that Salter’s Bridgehampton home is filled with books and other objects of the literary life. More surprising, yet entirely appropriate, are the dozens of die-cast airplane models, positioned as though on the flight line, which crowd a low shelf. (”That’s from my son,” Salter says. ”I thought they were yours,” Kay says.) In the next room, to the right of a bookshelf beside the dining table, hangs a black-and-white portrait of Isaac Babel and his young daughter, Nathalie.

”Babel was always my favourite,” Salter says of the Soviet writer. ”There are books that are different kinds of books,” he continues, looking at the photograph.

”Like things that are done by hand, they have another quality to them. This is a quality difficult to describe exactly, but any reader, anybody who likes books and reading, recognises the difference. It’s handmade. It’s created rather than just written down.” Salter could, of course, be referring to his own work. Long praised by fellow writers and critics, mass readership has eluded him. That deserves to change with All That Is. An ambitious, page-turning novel, it follows the life of Philip Bowman, a naval officer-turned-book editor, and progresses with vigour and intensity through the final days of World War II and into the postwar era. It’s at once classic Salter and an unexpected addition, in style and content, to his esteemed body of work.

”I suspected that my age was going to be a factor in people’s learning about the book,” Salter says. ”I didn’t want to be doddering along and sentimentally and nostalgically petering out, so the idea of pace was on my mind when I was writing.” He has also grown tired of the ”writer’s writer” label. ”I wanted to write in a somewhat leaner style than I had in, for instance, Light Years, which is abundant in its metaphors and its recognition of the beauty or the singularity of certain things,” he says. ”With this new book, I wanted to let the story and the instances give you the sense that it’s moving along.” All That Is stems from Salter’s long fascination with the lives of editors. ”I thought it was a rather perfect life,” he says. ”Editors are involved in reading, in books, and doing something that might have some real importance. The editors that I knew had friends in other countries who were also editors. It was a kind of family, a possibility of friendships that were long-lasting and put you in contact with other cultures, other countries. The editors I came to know were all mature men. I didn’t know them before I had written a few books. Only then did I come to know them both professionally but also socially, personally. That’s how the book came about.” There were three editors whom Salter particularly admired.

”And there were two other men who impressed me and who I wanted to write about,” he says. ”So I took a shot at doing a cubistic kind of method of putting them together.” About Philip Bowman, the character amalgamated from these lives, Salter writes in the novel: ”What the joys of music were to others, words on a page were to him.” An alert sounds, signalling a new message on Salter’s computer, and he excuses himself, saying, ”That may be from my publisher.” Seated at his living-room desk, he breaks out into laughter. Richard Ford has written to discuss the pair’s coming on-stage event at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. ”He doesn’t want introductions,” Salter says. ”He just wants the two of us to go out and do it.” Returning through the kitchen, Salter passes two boxes filled with the Knopf hardcovers of All That Is. He holds up a copy, proud to show it off. ”Suddenly what you have written has an authority that it didn’t have before,” he says.

Back inside the car, Salter turns right out of the driveway and almost immediately pulls over to examine the construction, a mansion with an attached guesthouse. ”These are Wall Street executives,” he says, going on to talk about the many changes Bridgehampton has undergone since he moved here. The conversation soon returns to literature, complete with the appropriately timed detail: ”Here is Peter Matthiessen’s house,” he says. ”You can’t see it from the road, but trust me. It’s back there.” At Bobby Van’s, a restaurant on Bridgehampton’s picturesque storefront block, Salter says, ”I want to show you something.” Perhaps the lunchtime patrons recognise him as the greatest American prose stylist of his generation, but it’s unlikely that this detail makes them turn to watch Salter pass. Handsome and elegant, he moves with gravitas and grace down the long bar and stops beneath a black-and-white photograph of four men standing outside the restaurant, circa 1975.

”That’s James Jones, [Truman] Capote, Willie Morris and John Knowles,” he says. In one photograph, a generation of elite American writers, Salter’s age or younger, each long dead. He pauses, as though offering respect, and it’s easy to imagine that Salter’s ambitions have changed little since his school years, when the idea, as he writes in Burning the Days, had been inside of him ”like a pathogen – the idea of being a writer and from the great heap of days making something lasting.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Rise of an anti-hero

Dabney Coleman as power broker we hate to love, Commodore Louis Kaestner, in Boardwalk Empire.THE REVOLUTION WAS TELEVISED
Nanjing Night Net

By Alan Sepinwall. Black Inc. 400pp. $27.99.

You know who you are. Addicted to the unravelling dramas of Tony Soprano or Don Draper or Walter White.

Can’t wait to get home to see the next episode. Analysing plots with friends and family: “I’m up to season five, episode eight.” “Can you believe the way Tony whacked that guy?” “What about that severed head on the back of the tortoise!”

Pretty soon your nearest and dearest cave in and follow your obsession or make a dash for the door as you approach. They’ve had it. No more, please, enough about The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad.

But once hooked, nothing is enough for the fans of the wave of television shows that began on the cusp of the millennium and continues with Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, Girls and House of Cards.

The addicts are experts on their favourite series but few know more about them than the American critic, Alan Sepinwall, whose new book, The Revolution Was Televised, is a phenomenon in itself.

Subtitled The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, it is one of the very few self-published books ever reviewed by The New York Times, whose chief literary critic, Michiko Kakutani, named it as one of her 10 favourite books of 2012. More praise followed in The New Yorker, Time and elsewhere.

Sepinwall’s career began at the Newark Star-Ledger but two years ago he took his blog – What’s Alan Watching? – to the website of HitFix, the American company that streams movies and TV shows on demand on the internet.

The Revolution Was Televised is more than a critical analysis of the 12 shows that Sepinwall chose to represent the golden age of television. He also interviews the creators and expands on his theme of revolution as he explains how the dramas allowed television “to step out of the shadows of the cinema”.

“If you wanted thoughtful drama for adults, you didn’t go the multiplex; you went to your living room couch.”

Despite their differences in settings and narratives, many of these television shows had something in common in the way they represented the state of America in the early 21st century.

Dissecting The Wire, Sepinwall writes that there were always cops and criminals, but this series “used them to make various points about the rotting state of the American city – and by extension, the broken condition of America itself”. In the London Review of Books last January, the novelist James Meek compared the anti-heroes of the dramas with the squeezed middle-class discussed in another recently published book, Who Stole the American Dream?

The author, Hedrick Smith, explores how global capitalism undermined the middle-class dream of “a steady job with decent pay and health benefits, rising living standards, a home of your own, secure retirement, and the hope that your children would enjoy a better future”.

Aspects of the middle-class dream and its failure play out in the fictional home of Tony Soprano, a sociopath, yes, but also a husband and father hoping that his children just might escape the deadly path set for him by his own crime boss father.

Tony has money, and plenty of it, but Walter White, the chemistry teacher of Breaking Bad, is diagnosed with lung cancer and struggling to make ends meet to pay his medical bills and support his family after his death. His answer: make crystal meth that will eventually earn him a fortune.

Such shows are built around middle-aged anti-heroes who win our sympathy despite their ruthlessness – the likeable murderer Tony Soprano, the selfish yet charming detective Jimmy McNulty of The Wire, the good citizen Walter White, who soon relishes his status as a drug kingpin, and the urbane Don Draper of Mad Men whose corporate success hides a fake identity.

Last year, Sepinwall pitched his book, based on his blog, to many traditional publishers but failed to win a contract. Instead he self-published and his sales skyrocketed.

He won’t give exact figures but they are, he said, beyond his wildest dreams.

Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, had earlier rejected the book but came back to Sepinwall with an offer to publish a new paperback edition that will go on sale next May.

The revolution may have been televised but it’s not over yet. House of Cards, a remake of the 1990 BBC political thriller, represents another revolution in that NetFlix made all 13 episodes instantly available to their US subscribers last month.

Viewers can bypass network and cable television altogether and watch their new anti-heroes on the internet at any time they choose and all in one sitting for the truly addicted.

For them, Kevin Spacey in the role of the US Representative, Frank Underwood, will be the next villain that they are only a little ashamed to love.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.