• This is one of a few articles which I published elsewhere before Green Path was conceived but is still relevant enough to deserve a place on the blog. The date-stamp will say 2010, the date of first publication, although the review was only added to GP in 2016.
Journeys to the Interior
Black Inc, 2010, $32.00
Nicolas Rothwell has been reporting from the North for many years now, covering the vast territory from Cairns, Cape York and the Pilbara down into the Centre. His articles and the journeys behind them are the source of four books which probably belong on the ‘travel’ shelf – Another Country, Wings of the Kite-Hawk, The Red Highway, and now Journeys to the Interior. They are not simply travel books, however, but poetic ruminations on people and places, his own inner voyage, and ways of understanding an environment which is profoundly strange to anyone brought up with a European sensibility.
Journeys seems closer to its journalistic origins than its predecessors. A trio of long essays sets the scene, but the bulk of the book consists of individual portraits of indigenous artists and community leaders, white explorers and naturalists, and significant locations. Each reads well but they don’t cohere into a single story. Then again, that is one of Rothwell’s themes: he has come to believe that this landscape resists our Western attempts to impose narrative upon it and can only be known through scattered fragments.
Another recurrent theme is a resonance between this ancient, worn-down country and a Western civilisation he feels is in terminal decay; it gives his work a pervasively melancholic cast which is the opposite of the typical bright, breezy travel book. For all that, he makes a valuable contribution to our knowledge of a region that is foreign to most Australians – even to most Townsvilleans, although we live on the edge of it.
Reviewed March 2010
The Greatest Show On Earth
Bantam, September 2009, $35.00
The Greatest Show on Earth fills a gap in Richard Dawkins’ impressive sequence of books about evolution, from The Selfish Gene thirty years ago to The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor’s Tale. The new book is primarily a clear, thorough explanation of the evidence for evolution and of its inner workings. Dawkins’ enthusiasm for his subject is obvious and contagious: the explanations are constantly enriched by humorous asides and lively anecdotes about oddities of the natural world. Continue reading “The Greatest Show on Earth”
Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles
Jacana, June 2008, $29.95
Wilderness has been a bigger community issue in Tasmania than in any other Australian state, so a history of the fight to preserve it has a lot of ground to cover. Buckman organises it chronologically within four strands – hydro-electric power, forestry, mining and national parks – and traces them from the 1850s to the beginning of this year.
‘The Hydro’ created the biggest issues: Lake Pedder and the Franklin River made national headlines and political history from the 1960s to the 1980s. The conservationists’ focus then shifted to forestry, confronting the rise of woodchipping and the (stalled, as of October 2008) Tamar Valley pulp mill. Continue reading “Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles”
• This review was published in the Townsville Bulletin and then, in a longer form, in LiNQ before Green Path was conceived but is relevant enough to the blog to deserve a place on it. The date-stamp will say 2008, the date of first publication, although the review was only added to this site in 2017.
Landscape of Farewell
Allen & Unwin (2007), 275pp, $35.00.
Eight novels in twenty years have established Alex Miller as one of Australia’s most respected authors. He received the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 1993 for The Ancestor Game and another a decade later for Journey to the Stone Country, and has been shortlisted for it on three more occasions, most recently for the present book.
Landscape of Farewell revisits themes of Journey to the Stone Country (2002) but with quite different emphasis and treatment. Continue reading “Landscape of Farewell: reflections on reconciliation”
• This is one of a few articles I published elsewhere long before Green Path was begun or even conceived but is still relevant enough to deserve a place on the blog. The date-stamp will say 2005, the date of first publication, although the article was only added to GP in 2016.
I was lucky enough to be able to visit Tasmania for a mixture of business and social reasons at the end of March 2005. The Tuesday after Easter was a perfect Autumn day in Hobart and my host suggested a trip to Hartz Mountains National Park, just over an hour’s drive South-West of Hobart (more info here). By the time we arrived it was nearly lunchtime, but we set off towards Hartz Peak anyway.
We walked as far as Lake Esperance and stopped for a sandwich. While we were there, another hiker pointed out to us a small cloud of smoke rising from a valley over to our East, between us and the Huon Valley. Continue reading “Forestry in Tasmania – a photographic souvenir”