peteg's blog - noise - books - 2010 01 11 Ramsey AMatterOfOpinion

Alan Ramsey: A Matter of Opinion.

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I am glad I didn't buy this book. It is like digging up the old lino in an ancient kitchen, erratic brilliance and occasion littered with cockroach droppings and obscurity. At his best, Ramsey was insightful and brought context and perspective to the events of the week, perhaps even wisdom, all of which are beyond the reach of any of Fairfax's current Australian political reporters. (Not, I note, beyond their aging foreign correspondents.)

The best were the timeless articles, his specials around Anzac Day about the wars and returned soldiers, the monuments and disillusionment. Perhaps he should have turned his hand to this, something like military history, rather than crank out the rather tired prose of the last five years of his reign. And this is the key problem with the collection: nothing dates like political opinion, and so the selection does not, could not, reflect his oeuvre.

Structurally it would have been much better if someone else had selected the articles, for as it stands there is the niggling feeling that some whitewashing has occurred; for example, I recall only one or two references to Howard as "the toad" in this book, but it seemed to roll around every Saturday while the man was PM. The Latham boosterism seems much abridged, and there are no comments on Rudd's blandness. Also some glue text would have helped immensely, setting out the issues of the day. His postscripts needed prescripts.

Pete R. observed that he must have had trouble getting the copyrights on all his slab-quotations. There are only a couple in this collection.