peteg's blog

David Marr: My Country.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. A collection of Marr's journalism and other things since about 1975. There is not much framing and little in the way of updates, so most are about times past and often blissfully forgotten. Does anyone really want to read about John Howard these days? And for those who do, do you want Marr's take on things?

Marr is a Sydney boy, well-educated in the liberal arts. That means that political commentary takes the form of discerning character by psychoanalysis, and often shades into theatre reviews of the kind regularly derided by Andrew Elder. Sometimes we get a burst of historical context, such as for the much feted 1967 referendum that ended up having some deleterious effects on the native title holders of Hindmarsh Island, but these frustratingly fail to be complete explanations, and you won't find him anchoring the big issues in the Western canon. Marr's take on "[his] country" does not extend to music, sport, the environment (much), cars, food, the beach, economics or the 1980s. His enthusiasm for Jim McNeil shows that he was hopelessly naive about (domestic) violence and alcoholism.

Sometimes this approach is wildly off the mark. Marr claims Australians "[t]rust our politicians. We expect them to look after us." but recent data — and indeed data going back as far as I remember — show this to be patently false. It seems more likely that the majority of Australians are epically politically inert, passive beyond the imagining of this kind of writing. The whole corpus falls far short of the analytic depths of Donald Horne's classics and Hugh Mackay's empirics.

Reviews are surprisingly thin on the ground. Helen Razer on Marr's response to the marriage equality outcome. He seems to have learnt nothing about unintended consequences.