Phil Shannon

A Spy in the Archives
By Sheila Fitzpatrick
Melbourne University Press, 2013
346 pages, $32.99 (pb)

When Sydney University Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick was doing some crafty archival sleuthing as a British PhD student in the late 1960s in Moscow, it was not unexpected that any state guardians might suspect a female spy at work.

Fitzpatrick could see some justification. “Any suspicious archives director who thought I was trying to find out the secrets of Narkompros was dead right”, she notes in Spy in the Archives.

Oil & Honey: The Education Of An Unlikely Activist
Bill McKibben
Black Inc., 2013
255 pages, $29.95(pb)

When the United States environmental writer Bill McKibben became a climate change activist, he discovered the delights of internet abuse and public meeting crazies, as he entertainingly describes in Oil and Honey.

Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability
Peter Dauvergne & Jane Lister
MIT Press, 2013, 194 pages

Every big retail brand name you can think of — McDonalds and Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Nestle, Nike and Adidas, Disney and Google — are leading an apparent corporate charge towards ecological sustainability. Or so they would have us believe, say Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister in Eco-Business.

The Prince: Faith, Abuse & George Pell
David Marr
Quarterly Essay, Issue 51
Black Inc., $19.99 (pb)

The police had, writes David Marr in his September 2013 Quarterly Essay on paedophile priests in the Catholic Church in Australia, “vigorously, for a very long time, protected the church”. This, says Marr, left the clergy’s sex crimes to be looked after in-house.

This entirely suited the clerical child abusers, until the global tide of Catholic sexual abuse revelations engulfed Australia and sparked police of conscience into action.

Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies
Bruce Lourie & Rick Smith
University of Queensland Press, 2013
289 pages

The intrepid, and possibly just a little mad, environmental advocates Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith, are up to their old chemical tricks again in Toxin Toxout.

Beloved Land: Stories, Struggles & Secrets From Timor-Leste
Gordon Peake
Scribe, 2013
250 pages, $29.95 (pb)

East Timor is a tale of two statistics, says Gordon Peake in Beloved Land, his engaging blend of history, memoir and travelogue about the former Portuguese and Indonesian colony.

One of the world's poorest nations, East Timor ranks a lowly 120th of 169 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, but scores high on corruption at 15th on the World Bank’s business transparency report.

Undesirable: Captain Zuzenko & the Workers of Australia & the World
By Kevin Windle
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2013
274 pages, $39.95 (pb)

On November 7, 1917, when the Winter Palace was stormed in Petrograd, sealing the victory of the Russian Revolution, Alexander Mikhailovich Zuzenko, one of the revolution’s most loyal servants, faced a local court in Ingham in northern Queensland. He was working on the canefields and was fined 10 shillings for losing his “aliens registration certificate”.

Big Coal: Australia’s Dirtiest Habit
Guy Pearse, David Mcknight, Bob Burton
Newsouth Publishing, 2013, 257 pages, $34.99 (pb)

You don’t have to look far to see why Australians are locked in an absurd and vicious circle of climate change, burning more coal to, for example, run more air conditioners to cope with the more severe heat waves from the global warming resulting from burning more coal.

Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield
Jeremy Scahill
Serpent’s Tail, 2013
642 pages

With his first drone strike in Pakistan just a few days after settling into the White House in 2009, the freshly minted Democratic President, Barak Obama, not only authorised the assassination of a handful of probable terrorists but killed up to two dozen innocent civilians.

Left Hand Drive
Craig McGregor
Affirm Press, 2013
334 pages $24.95 (pb)

Two experiences of institutional conformity — as a boarder at an elite private school and as an Australian army conscript — bequeathed a lifelong “fear and hatred of authoritarian systems” to Craig “Rob-Roy” McGregor, a blues-playing guitarist, would-be rebel, fringe Bohemian, journalist, novelist, cultural studies professor and fierce believer in equality.

Pages

Subscribe to Phil Shannon