Book Review: My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search for Home by Michael Brendan Dougherty

Book Review: My Father Left Me Ireland: An American Son’s Search For Home by Michael Brendan Dougherty – Sound the Sirens

This book should be read widely and thoughtfully, as both an example of outstanding memoir and, more importantly, as a political intervention: perhaps our etiolated debate over the nation and its soul can be brought back to life.

Read this review at Sound the Sirens


Titania McGrath, the Wokest of the Woke

Titania McGrath, the Wokest of the Woke: A Review of Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath – The Conservative Woman

A recent episode of ABC’s Q&A boasted an all-female panel of moral delinquents, some of whom mulled, and then chirpily endorsed, a program of political violence. Mona Eltahawy, a feminist of extraordinarily limited vocabulary, banged on about white supremacy, the patriarchy, and the necessity of murdering men. When unsure of what to utter next, she added a few expletives to her misandrist waffle.

Not to be outdone, the Aboriginal activist Nayuka Gorrie favoured the approach of the smirking arsonist:

I think violence … is OK because if someone is trying to kill you, there’s no amount of, ‘Oh, but I’m really clever.’ You know, ‘I’m really articulate.’ No amount of that is going to save you. So, yeah, let’s burn stuff.

While many viewers found this confronting, my initial reaction was one of perplexity: how could anyone mistake her for an articulate or even mildly interesting person? Her Twitter profile informs the world that Ms. Gorrie, a non-binary sort of chappie, prefers the ungrammatical and nonsensical pronouns they/them. It’s rather hard to keep up nowadays. The acceptable vocabulary seems to be updated every five minutes or so, even they is able to see that (Good grief!).

How is it possible, as the kids and a number of potential leaders of the free world wonder, to stay woke? This is a very important question for Australians, too, as that Q&A episode, taken down from all ABC platforms and destined for a kind of broadcasting infamy, is a reminder that we are not exempt from the Great Awokening.

Luckily for us, Titania McGrath, the satirical Twitter creation of British comedian and writer Andrew Doyle, has written a book that Australians would greatly benefit from reading. Woke: A Guide to Social Justice serves as both a brilliantly hilarious satire of our absurd cultural moment and, in its pointed ridicule, one of the most powerful weapons we have to combat it.

Read this review at The Conservative Woman

A Wilderness of Queer Theorists? A Review of Titus Andronicus

A Wilderness of Queer Theorists? A Review of Titus Andronicus – Sound the Sirens

In Cormac McCarthy’s masterly novel Blood Meridian, the main antagonist, the Judge, has some dispiriting reflections on the human condition and its permanent and inflexible capacity for barbarism:

“It makes no difference what men think of war . . . War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner.”

This bleak vision of the American West and its new and old inhabitants invites comparison with Shakespeare’s Rome, “a wilderness of tigers” as Titus Andronicus calls it. His military victory over the Goths has left twenty-one of his sons dead, and now, as ever, another war awaits him: a family struggle of revenge against Tamora, her children, and those who would rule Rome.

There are some scenes in McCarthy’s novel that defy retelling or summary. Words like violent and terrifying come to seem pallid and banal when set against the depravity and real horror of McCarthy’s world. Similarly, the practitioners of war in Shakespeare’s first tragedy treat us to decapitation, filicide, dismemberment, and cannibalism. It’s difficult even to imagine Blood Meridian being filmed or staged, and directors taking on Titus Andronicus have often felt the same. A particularly gory 2014 production at the Globe Theatre in London left a few audience members collapsing and vomiting.

While Blood Meridian is undoubtedly McCarthy’s masterpiece, Shakespeare’s tragedy has almost always been considered a shameful aberration, undeserving of mention in the same breath as Hamlet or Macbeth. The scholar Harold Bloom went so far as to wish that this “poetic atrocity” had never been written in the first place. Interestingly, many modern viewers, occasionally wiser than verbose academics, have finally come to agree with Shakespeare’s Elizabethan audience, who bloody well loved it. Their hobbies, it must be noted, also included attending public hangings, so they weren’t exactly the squeamish types. Nor are we, I suppose, accustomed as we are to the daily brutality served up on TV, social media, and the news.

Can Titus Andronicus be rescued from neglect and disfavour? Bell Shakespeare’s production at the Sydney Opera House, in the hands of director Adena Jacobs, has made an audacious attempt to do so.

Read this review at Sound the Sirens

Ramsay and the Rabble: Miseducation at the University of Queensland

Ramsay and the Rabble: Miseducation at the University of Queensland – Sound The Sirens

For good reason, controversies in higher education are usually of short-term and limited interest to the Australian public, which is undoubtedly much more intelligent than anyone at a typical humanities faculty meeting. Examples abound, but for a measure of proof, look to Dr. Dean Aszkielowicz of Murdoch University, who recently expressed a chirpy contempt for ANZAC soldiers, or, as he called them, murderers unworthy of commemoration.

Fashionable whinging about a pervasive university rape crisis also comes to mind. The idea that Australian campuses are somehow comparable to the Congo or downtown Mogadishu cannot be believed by a thinking person, which is probably why it’s so popular among feminists of the young and mulish variety.

Such examples of academic mischief dominate the headlines and then disappear. The ongoing debate over the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, however, has proven to be an interesting exception.

Read this essay at Sound the Sirens

Three Cheers for Nick Riemer, a Most Useful Idiot

Three Cheers for Nick Riemer, a Most Useful Idiot – Quadrant

In the debate over the establishment of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, no one has sniped and sneered from the opposing camp with anything quite like the ferocious energy of Dr. Nick Riemer, senior lecturer in English and Linguistics at the University of Sydney. No doubt, his noisy interventions must leave many longing for the days when the musings of academics were only available in the mercifully unreadable journals of the academic Left. Riemer, with his endless tweets, op-eds, essays, and campus protests, has been very difficult to avoid.

Not that I really mind, I have to confess. Surprisingly, whenever I come across Riemer’s latest hissy-fit in the Sydney Morning Herald, I react with wry appreciation rather than annoyance. You see, those of us who support the goals of Ramsay couldn’t have asked for a better enemy. His arguments — I’m being charitable when I use such a word — are so risible that I’m doubtful that he has persuaded anyone at all. If anything, he has powerfully made the case for the Ramsay Centre in a useful albeit unwitting manner.

Read this essay at Quadrant

Misandrist Windbaggery as Journalism

Misandrist Windbaggery as Journalism – Quadrant

Saul Bellow memorably described his experience of reading the literary magazines of the Sixties, after their takeover by the universities. He recorded feeling “first uncomfortable, then queasy, then indignant, contemptuous and finally bleak, flattened out by the bad writing.” Such a remark is depressingly relevant: it could easily apply to some of our shabbier newspapers, not to mention the national broadcaster. Bellow’s emotional response, especially the queasiness part, ought to be immediately familiar to any reader dipping into Fairfax’s Daily Life, for example, where the misandrist windbaggery of Clementine Ford continues to fill pages and pages.

Bellow noted the harmful influence of the academy, and this has echoes now, too. After all, students who imbibe the compulsory left-wing politics of the campus have to go somewhere after   graduation, and newsrooms seem happy to put out the welcome mats for Gender Studies majors and the votaries of the cult of identity politics.

The results are grim: in some quarters, the goal of objective news reporting seems to have been replaced by a kind of advocacy journalism, where the social justice issues du jour receive uncritical reverence. Take, for example, last week’s report in the Sydney Morning Herald by Jenny Noyes. She drew attention to the upcoming #FEMINIST speaking tour, where feminist heavyweight Roxane Gay will debate the decidedly more moderate Christina Hoff Sommers.

Read this essay at Quadrant

A Good Word for the Contemptible Straight White Male

A Good Word for the Contemptible Straight White Male – Quillette

I’m always on the lookout for new writing opportunities, especially with publications funded by the Australia Council for the Arts, as one can usually expect modest remuneration. I was initially pleased, then, to discover the literary magazine called, quite appropriately as you’ll see, SCUM. Its About section notes that it “has filthy feminist leanings and a disregard for propriety.”

Terrific, I thought. Perhaps I could pitch an essay or two. I have often detailed the squalid nature of contemporary feminism à la Clementine Ford and the rest of the gang. While I haven’t dipped into her new book, Fight Like A Girl, I’m keeping an open mind, should the opportunity to read it ever come up. To update the old joke, I imagine that Ford’s oeuvre, along with every copy of Fairfax’s Daily Life, will be the only reading material available for borrowing at the single library in hell.

There, how’s that for propriety?

Read this essay at Quillette

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