Friday, September 16, 2005


The latest issue of The Monthly arrived yesterday. Yes, I bought a subscription. What the hell, I figured that for $39.95 for twelve issues, it could be an interesting read. Also, given that my socio-political commentary usually comes via Tim Blair and The Australian, I figured that I could use a little left-wing viewpoint in my life.

It's proving to be a funny old journal. For a start, it seems to get shorter each month. The September issue has a sprawling article about Cornelia Rau (the woman who proves that being an unmedicated schizophrenic need not be a barrier to canonisation by the Left), a blurb about the Plight of Some Aborigines Somewhere ("somewhere" being code for an amorphous area west of Lygon Street where people apparently exist, and things apparently happen, but only investigative journalists can be bothered to determine who and what) and a thoughtful treatise on the tao of moving house. Then there were a few reviews, a couple of letters, some articlettes on the pet topics of over-exposed hacks, and an ad for expensive whiskey.

Secondly, The Monthly actually makes me more egalitarian. Ordinarily you’d think that this is exactly what a left-wing journal is supposed to do, but I get the impression that it’s unintentional. The snobbery of the writers, both subtle and outrageous, makes me reflect on my own snobberies, to really see how ugly they are and strive to be a more accepting person. People who know me well might say that this is quite an achievement. The Monthly obviously has mysterious and unnatural powers.

A case in point is the moving house essay, by literary giant and film-spoiler extraordinaire Helen Garner. A few weeks after moving into her new house, Garner reflects that she knows where the library is, the opening hours of the op-shop, and where the best café is located. How lovely. Of course no mention is made of the supermarket or the petrol station, since packaged food and cars are trappings of those ghastly working class people. The folk from whom she gleans anecdotes of the obscure stress of moving home are screenwriters, musicians, journalists, and even circus performers. After all, we can’t expect someone of Garner’s stature to interact with office workers or people in trade, can we? I mean, how could someone living in Normanhurst or Brighton or Leeming possibly have anything interesting to contribute?

Best of all, she offers up this unintentionally hilarious vignette as an example of the disappointment often encountered in a new home:

“A screenwriter woke up on his first morning in a house he had bought, saw the ostentatious white and gold baubles dangling on long, marble-green rods from the bedroom ceiling, and began to weep. “What have I done?””

You know, I can see waking up in a new room and seeing an awful light fitting, and thinking, “Sweet merciful crap, that’s hideous! That’s top of the priority list to change”. But crying about it? I mean, I understand that a screenwriter might be an effete, sensitive soul, but nobody is that gay. What did he do next; encounter a woman wearing polyester in the street and have an attack of the vapours? Go into conniptions when a neighbour drove past in a Nissan Patrol?

But my central, primary, most important question to The Monthly concerns Sophie Lee. What happened to Sophie Lee? WE WERE PROMISED SOPHIE LEE! Fresh out of writing school and full of beans (or lentils, probably). What do we get instead? Helen Garner. Robert Manne. Andrew FREAKIN' Wilkie, droning on, as ever, about the manifold evils and incompetences of everyone not wearing a 'Hug an Insurgent Today!' T-shirt.

If I wanted to hear from Andrew Wilkie, I'd tune in to the ABC. It wouldn't particularly matter when or what media; Late Night Live, ABC television news, Lateline... he's probably even done a guest host on Play School by now. But I don't. I WANT SOPHIE LEE! And I'm sure that everyone else in Australia, of whatever political persuasion, would rather hear the opinions of our Soph than those of some dour dickhead who attends ridiculous "Writers Festivals".



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