Non-Fiction

December 2018

The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani

Godwin is Dead

'"It is not just that the left and right consider each other repellent," observes Jeff Sparrow in Trigger Warnings: Political Correctness and the Rise of the Right. "It’s also that they find each other almost incomprehensible." Trigger Warnings and The Death of Truth are notable contributions to what has become a deluge of books and articles trying to explain how we arrived at this point. They offer different diagnoses, but share some basic assumptions. Both propose that the peculiarity of contemporary discourse is, to a significant extent, a product of the culture wars.'

How to be an Academic by Inger Mewburn review

Life Choices:
Vocation in a Casualised Work World

'In this era where most analyses of the university and academic labour thrum with words like ‘neoliberal’, ‘corporate’, ‘precariat’ and ‘para-academic’, we might be forgiven for greeting the term ‘vocation’ with a snort or a curl of the lip. Is it really possible – or more to the point, is it really desirable or fair? – for young academics today to consider their work a vocation, calling or mission? Surely, the marketised, casualised university has turned the idea of vocation into a sick joke, the kind of self-punishing ideal that Lauren Berlant describes as ‘cruel optimism’: ‘when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing’. Or has it? Can the people that academic and blogger Inger Mewburn calls the ‘New Academics’ – those who, like her, have never known a university that was anything but precarious, who are both the product of the contemporary university and its future workforce — can they have a vocation?'

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The SRB is an initiative of The Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University

November 2018

Logic in the Ash

Hooper dug through court transcripts, documents and interviews to recreate the Black Saturday bushfires and inquest and to present a context for her account of Brendan Sokaluk’s crimes. If not handled carefully, reconstruction narratives can turn stories into unsolvable puzzles.  This is because they derive their narrative coherence from atomised sources that often conflict with each other. While Hooper does allow her multiple characters many digressions,  The Arsonist achieves its clarity through strict linear chronology.

Vegan the cookbook

Cookbooks of the Damned

While ideas don’t change all at once, they don’t just change alone, and some wave of slow change has been moving through the world, stripping the vegan of their ascetic tone and dressing them in liveliness, industriousness and fun. Like the pilot, the vegan accesses a special level of the world, an open sky of free passage and moral certainty. Like the skies, this level is attainable in theory, but in practice appears distant and inhospitable, the instruments for getting there arcane. As with gods, we find earthly ways to sample its texture.

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin

The Drowned and the Saved: Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin

The work of ‘proving a hypothesis’ could hardly be more alien to Tumarkin. Instead, she is concerned with examining difficult events and experiences: paying attention, being emotionally and intellectually active, while refusing to let the consequences of tragedy, bravery, cruelty, care, or indifference go unnoticed, unexamined or unfelt.

No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani
The Sydney Wars by Stephen Gapps

We Are All Truth-Tellers Now

'Cultural scholarship is usually contentious, let alone the kinds of scholarship that infer knowledge about the deep past from limited and fragile sources, but points of scholarly consensus around the autochthonous culture of Australia before and during the transitional phase of European ‘contact’ and then European colonisation have emerged and joined over the last 60 years or so to form extraordinary history, a history that Indigenous narrative traditions were always inviting the non-Indigenous imagination to engage with. '