When Quadrant‘s then-editor Keith Windschuttle lamented in passing that the Australian Book Review doesn’t give space to titles published by Quadrant Books, editor Peter Rose summoned the full measure of his fury and became quite snippy. Nonsense, he wrote in his online diary, for the most part an unintentionally amusing catalogue of lunches in which names are dropped and the latest outpourings, travels and endearments of the authors his magazine does review are adoringly mentioned. As it happens, Keith was not entirely correct. Rose did manage to find two books by Quadrant authors in which his magazine had invested some attention. Mind you, he had to ferret about in two-year-old editions for mention of Peter Ryan’s memoir of a life in publishing, while it would have been surprising had Les Murray’s omnibus collection of the best Quadrant poets been overlooked. Murray has been long and widely reported as a contender for the Nobel Prize, so you would imagine his byline alone would have warranted an upward glance from the latest “superior martini” or whatever that day’s literary blue-plate special might happen to have been.
Keith’s gripe had to do with funding or, in Quadrant‘s case, the lack of it, as what was then the Literature Board of the Australia Council had just halved our stipend, not much to begin with. Meanwhile, as Keith observed, Meanjin and Overland were making out like bandits. So, too, was then-Chair Sophie Cunningham’s amusing Twitter buddy Benjamin Law, whose social-media banter about being in for a nice cheque was soon made flesh to the tune of $40,000. Keeping it in the family, Law’s sister, Michelle, who lists Cunningham as a mentor, inspiration and recipient of floral gifts, also pocketed $10,000. And Quadrant? Well, we ended up with half as much the male fruit of the Law loins — not much if you are publishing ten 112-page editions every year.
Peter Rose, who dines with all the right people, has done much better in quest of Oz Council funding. A click on the illustration atop this item will enlarge the ledger and show just how well. Indeed, with such a wealth of funds on tap you might imagine Editor Rose could afford to be magnanimous and slip a few review assignments to folks who aren’t, you know, equally keen on lunch and leftoid politics. For example, take the review of Tim Flannery’s latest bid to keep his name, face and busted prophecies on the bookstore shelves, Atmosphere of Hope. Had the book gone for review to a Quadrant writer — Tony Thomas springs immediately to mind — Rose would have had a contentious, documented appraisal to share with his readers and other members of the lit-fest circuit. It would have been an interesting piece to publish, in other words, not to mention something of a novelty, as ABR seldom confronts readers with thoughts that stray beyond the boundaries of acceptable inner-city opinion. More than that, a non-luncher’s appearance in ABR would have been in full accord with the publication’s charter which, as Keith noted in his column, is obliged by virtue of receiving government funding to cover all mainstream points of view, not merely those of mates on the left.
Alas, the latest effort from Australia’s leading wrongologist was sent for review to ANU’s Tom Griffiths, an historian and fellow warmist, and, hard though it is to imagine, every bit as prone to recite the articles of catastropharian liturgy. From an essay in Griffith Review:
In our generation, ice has become moral and political. So now we have other feelings when we contemplate the melting ice – ethical anguish about humanity’s responsibility, political passion to reduce greenhouse emissions, apocalyptic doom about your prospects and even perhaps an opportunistic zeal about what your nation might have to gain in the short term.
If you fail to see that ice is now not merely cold but “moral and political”, well let’s just say you should get out to lunch more often. Likewise, by Griffiths’ reckoning in the ABR, Flannery is no mere human but Saint Tim of the Troposphere:
Flannery maintains his focus on the big, long-term issues that face our species in its battle for adaptation and survival in a warming world. The tone of his writing is always reasonable, attuned to the evidence, and wonderfully open to new ideas, however lateral. He believes in debate, research, and education. He aims to ‘cut through the dense and complex debates about climate that leave many feeling lost and paralysed’. This intelligent, cheerful attitude itself generates hope – and so do the ideas discussed.
That, according to the ABR, is “a review”. And all it cost taxpayers to see one eco ideologue heaping praise on another is $351,819, the latest amount the ABR received from the Australia Council.
That should have covered a few lunches.
— roger franklin