Intelligent digs at urban neuroses

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I am Moderately Fond of Australia
Cartoons by Phil Somerville
Hardie Grant Books
$24.95

REVIEW BY BARRY HEALY

Phil Somerville has contributed cartoons to the Bulletin, the Australian and is a semi-regular humourist at the Sydney Morning Herald. I would not be surprised if economic rationalist editors decide that Somerville's slightly surreal, gently subversive style just isn't rationalist enough for their liking — a good enough reason to buy this book.

Those who relish intelligent digs at urban neuroses and attacks on the violent intrusion of modern technology into our lives will find much to enjoy in Somerville's first published collection.

Somerville is a social commentator rather than a political satirist. He surveys much of the same territory as Michael Leunig with a similar cynicism but without the same religious conviction.

There is wit aplenty along with insight, passion and the ability to succinctly summarise vast issues into small snippets. Interestingly, underneath there is a discernable thread of despair. Somerville sees no political road out of the impasse of our increasingly downsized, reengineered, globalised and alienating world.

Without a spiritually satisfying answer, either through religion or politics, he finds some comfort in a psychoanalytical stance. Street-smart activists might find that frustrating but it accurately reflects much of our society at the nervous beginning of the Twenty-first Century.

This book would be a good conversation starter for those difficult relatives this Christmas. While not strident about capitalism, it is nonetheless biting because the pugnacious humourist, with his telling attacks on consumerism has, ahem, released it just in time for the gift-giving season!

From Green Left Weekly, November 7, 2001.

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