Pleasant rumblings from below


Get Another Grip
By Kaz Cooke
Melbourne: Text Publishing, 1998. 258 pp., $17.95 (pb)

Review by Phil Shannon

Earth scientists' monitoring instruments have been reporting a sudden increase in rumblings and disturbances in the Australian political substratum. The cause has been identified as the release of Get Another Grip by Kaz Cooke, the reading of which registers about 158 on the guffaw scale and a good hundred on the progressive politics meter.

Socialist fans of Kaz's earlier Get a Grip can now put back on their faces the smile that John Winston Menzies Howard has tried, with far too much success, to wipe off.

With outrage and humour, Kaz lets rip at Howard, sexism, fashion, Pauline, fashion, racism, the gun lobby, fashion, Tim Fischer, TV evangelists, fashion, Senator Harradine, fashion, New Age credulity, Gareth Downer and Alexander Evans and East Timor, fashion, real estate agents and fashion, amongst other social and political toxins.

Ruminating on the increased incidence of new colds ("the Summer Cold is when the sun is shining, the world is skipping about and you're standing there wondering what happens if you don't wash for three days, dressed in waffle-weave long johns, Explorer socks and an old wheat bag and yelling at visitors from the verandah: 'Don't come any closer! I'm a snot-gurgling Troll!'"), she ponders a new illness, "The New Feeling A Bit Out Of Sorts" virus, whose symptoms are "an overwhelming sense of morbid fear and moral dread, seizing the afflicted with a terrible sense of doom".

The virus is believed to breed in the Cabinets and under the Back Benches in the Big House on the Hill, and its carriers spread it far and wide amongst the suburbs, shouting "I've got a mandate, I've got a mandate!" to cover their tracks.

The only known antidote is half a dozen pages of Kaz Cooke a day with meals, if you can still afford food, or books after the GST (a mutant virus that promises to have the same effect on people's living standards as calici had on Brer Rabbit and Cottontail).

Reporting on a study that found that people in the social contact business tell 200 lies a day, Kaz is underwhelmed — "tell us something we don't know".

Take politicians: "'I wasn't there at the time, and anyway, there is a strange pixie living in the top drawer of my office desk who claims travel allowances when I'm asleep and he eats all the paperwork in little tiny munches, and everything. Um. Look! Over there!' (Sound of running feet)".

Where politicians lead, other parts of the establishment follow. Australia's racist past can be written out of existence if only we take care with the proper choice of non-inflammatory, non-black-armband words.

Kaz visits Tasmania, and finds that her tourist boat has a diorama that says, "Sadly the languages of the Tasmanian Aborigines are 'lost'". "Damned careless blackfellas", elucidates Kaz. "Not only did they all commit auto-genocide by throwing themselves on guns and insist on being locked up in a disease-ridden concentration camp, they've misplaced their languages."

Everything a self-respecting leftie hates is treated to a laugh or three. In Kaz's "A-Z of Christmas", for example, the entry under pudding is "part of our proud English heritage when servants were rewarded for a lifetime of slavery by finding a sixpence in the Christmas pudding. An early form of enterprise bargaining."

Reviewing a range of get-rich-quick schemes, marrying James Packer is briefly considered, until she is informed that "if I were married to James Packer I'd probably have to sleep with him. Good Lord. And furthermore, I'd probably have to meet him at some point. So much for that cunning plan."

If you like your laughs hearty and your politics leftish, Kaz Cooke's Get Another Grip, wildly funny and gently subversive, is the book for you.

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