Worth a second look


The Delinquents (1962)

Forget the Kylie Minogue film version, this novel is a total charmer. Nowadays we are fed stories of young love filtered through melodrama produced with conveyor belt efficiency. It may be hot and steamy, but the way I remember it was with much more pain, passion and poverty. Home and Away doesn't quite do it for me. In Criena Rohan's (1924-1963) novel, we get closer to the truth. We are talking young love here — Lola is perhaps less than 15 and her lover, Brownie, is not much older, but their love survives despite all social pressures.
Set in Brisbane and Melbourne during the late '40s, The Delinquents is the story of two working-class youths who refuse to be victims, who despite the antagonism of their parents and the moralism of the state can still pick their allies in their attempt to live as they choose. Rohan later wrote one more novel along similar lines — Down by the Dockside (1963) — while terminally ill with cancer. Today the work of Criena Rohan seems remarkably fresh and contemporary. — Denis Olsen

The Mismeasure of Man (1981)

It was indeed a happy coincidence that I purchased my second copy of Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man. Gould's work is an important counter to the hereditarian debate, which centres on a simple but dangerous thesis — that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites. The process of measuring intelligence is the thing that Gould analyses. His cogently argued case is that, not only is intelligence testing academically indefensible, but it is socially unjust.
After recalling the pseudo-sciences of craniometry and criminal anthropology (the "discipline" that sought to detect criminal tendencies on the basis of facial features) and showing how the psychological theories of Alfred Binet were perverted by his North American successors, Gould goes for the jugular in the last two sections of the book. Here the scientific skeletons tumble from the closet. Researchers whose names are familiar to any student of psychology are unmasked: results fabricated, photographs retouched, barely supportable assumptions.
Gould ends on a positive note, his debunking of mental testing means that while the edifice is in ruins, we have the building blocks to construct something that has intellectual rigour and is also socially just. — Peter Riedlinger

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