March 11th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL - What’s wrong with Australia’s defence?

Has Beazley got the "ticker" for a tough line on GST?

AS THE WORLD TURNS - Virtue: private and public

COVER STORY - People on the move: vexed question for government, nation

BOOKS: The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, by Richard Sennett

NATIONAL AFFAIRS - Democrat’s "genocide" bill could put almost everyone in prison

NATIONAL AFFAIRS - Borrowed money, borrowed time

ECONOMICS - WTO stumbles as Third World rebels

COMMENT - Should homosexual couples have access to IVF services?

VICTORIA - Return of the Rust Bucket state?

IRIAN JAYA - Can Indonesia head off push for Papuan independence?

MEDICINE - Medical Journal has no space for criticism of Hepatitis C report

HISTORY: When, where and why 85 million people died

Books promotion page

Virtue: private and public

by News Weekly

News Weekly, March 11, 2000
Virtue: private and public

"The way a politician behaves in his private life is a matter of vital public interest, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared.

"Dr George Carey said it was right to question whether someone who cheats in his or her private life can be trusted in public office.

"In a lecture at the University of Essex, the Archbishop said:

'The question reasonably arises in the public mind, why should we have confidence in someone in public life who cannot be trusted not to cheat in their private life?

'The idea that we can switch off concerns when we venture from hearth and home, or switch them on in public but off in private, is nonsense.'

"Dr Carey said honesty, trust and good faith are essential to civilised society.

"He added: 'If there are no shared values about the fundamentals of life, building a decent society together for the common good becomes well nigh impossible'."

- UK Mail, February 29, 2000;

Reader, take heart

"Members of the chattering classes, asked recently to nominate their 'novel of the 20th century', answered, by a large majority, Proust's A la Recherche. That made me suspicious. How many of them, I wondered, had actually read the thing through, in its entirety. My guess is: none. It is one of those masterpieces that people do not actually read from start to finish. I have digested quite large chunks of it, in both French and English, but I would never claim to have read it ... I am very suspicious about reading claims ...

"Recently I read with relish an excellent short book on James Joyce by Edna O'Brien. But can I read Ulysses? When I was a schoolboy I was shown the supposedly bawdy bit at the end and found it baffling. The rest of the enormous text swam incomprehensibly before my eyes. It is a huge bore, one of the great, shocking, overrated, classical bores of all ages, the source of more fraudulent eulogies, perhaps, than any other work of fiction. When people (excluding, of course, slave labourers in the Eng. Lit. Crit. salt mines) say they have read it, I don't believe them.

"As for Finnegans Wake, I would sooner plough through the Yellow Pages, which contain more nuggets of interest.

"Yet I do not doubt Joyce's talent, even genius of a sort. Dubliners must be one of the finest collections of short stories ever assembled - I have read some of them scores of times - and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man I find a masterpiece, not least because the youthful agonies described so brilliantly therein paralleled some of my own. Joyce was a great writer, and his disastrous decision to embark on experimental prose was one of the literary tragedies of the last century. But hush! That is treason ...

"In a lifetime of promiscuous reading, I have learnt two sensible rules. First, never be ashamed to dip and pass on. I have applied this with profit to Dante, for instance, to Thucydides, to Cervantes and to Herman Melville. One dip never prevents other dips later. A lot of 'great books' indigestible if forced on you but salutary in spoonfuls, fall into this category ...

"My second rule is: don't worry if you find great books dull. Most of them are. Tastes change, genius evaporates, talent moulders and rubs off, the dingy metal beneath the gloss begins to show. I see the chain gang of neglected writers clanking away into oblivion - Cicero and Livy, Boccaccio and Rabelais, Voltaire and Schiller, Zola, Kafka, Thomas Mann - and I am unmoved by their cries. There will never be a shortage of new writers and old favourites. So I pick up Emma for the 20th time, and read on."

- Paul Johnson, The Spectator,
February 19, 2000;

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