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Review: Making Trouble: Essays Against the New Australian Complacency, by Robert Manne

May 08, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 168

Robert Manne is one of Australia's foremost public intellectuals, belonging more to the progressive or small 'l' liberal side of politics. He's been a well-known critic of many of the key policies of the Howard era (1996-2007), such as mandatory detention for asylum seekers and the war in Iraq.

From Left, Right, Left to Making Trouble

Making Trouble is a follow up to Manne's previous collection Left, Right, Left: Political Essay 1977-2005. Most of the essays making up this hefty volume are taken from the Monthly magazine, which is published by Manne's friend Morry Schwartz. The essays cover the period 2005 to 2011, the most recent piece being an in depth 15,000 word essay on Julian Assange, "The Cypherpunk Revolutionary".

Where you stand on the work of Robert Manne will much depend on your political and cultural worldview. Rusted on climate sceptics, immigration hard-liners and Murdoch press devotees will have formed an antipathy to Robert Manne's work. Yet despite this, it's impossible to deny his impeccable skills as a writer and communicator.

The most marvellous thing about Robert Manne is his lucid, plain style that is free of histrionics and over dramatisations. Any budding polemicist, from whatever side of politics, can surely study the writings found in Making Trouble to hone an engaging and serious literary style.

Corneila Rau, Aboriginal Australia and Julian Assange

For those who stand somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, or who do not find themselves completely rusted on to one particular ideology or the other, then Making Trouble offers a broad range of essays on politics, media, culture, history and the Holocaust. All the pieces in the collection are of considerable length and go into impressive detail, giving them an overall high-quality polish. None of the pieces in this collection have dated one iota, either. You'd think that reading about the Cornelia Rau saga some six years on that there'd be nothing new to learn, but Manne's attention to detail and clarity make clear what a scandal the whole episode was, and raises serious questions about the indifferent immigration department culture that the Howard government helped to foster.

Other highlights in this collection are the essays on Aboriginal Australia, the section dealing with the strange rise and fall of Kevin Rudd and arguably the book's tour de force, the long essay on Julian Assange.

Making Trouble makes for an informative and enjoyable refresher course on the last six years of Australian political and cultural life, allowing the reader to see the nation through one of its most eminent contemporary intellectuals.

Making Trouble: Essays against the New Australian Complacency, by Robert Manne. Published by Black Inc. ISBN-13: 9780977594979

Chris Saliba is an Australian book reviewer, living in Melbourne.

His other book reviews can be read at: http://chrissalibabookreviews.blogspot.com/

Source: EzineArticles
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