The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - TONY MANIATY

Planet Chicken: The Shame­ful Story of the Bird on Your Plate By Hat­tie El­lis Scep­tre, 308pp, $ 32.95 THE av­er­age con­sumer eats 550 chick­ens in a life­time. In the US, 24 mil­lion chick­ens are slaugh­tered for hu­man con­sump­tion ev­ery 24 hours. ‘‘ They be­come part of us, flesh of our flesh,’’ Hat­tie El­lis writes, seem­ing more lib­er­a­tionist than jour­nal­ist. Huff­ing aside, her find­ings are dis­turb­ing: com­puter- run sheds hold 40,000 birds in a state of ‘‘ learned help­less­ness’’, with dis­com­fort, fear and dis­tress rul­ing their short lives. ‘‘ Stick that on the la­bel of a su­per­mar­ket chicken and see how it sells,’’ one critic sug­gests. Echoes of Vi­o­lence: Let­ters from a War Re­porter By Carolin Em­cke Prince­ton Univer­sity Press, 322pp, $ 43.95 ‘‘ JOUR­NAL­ISM is an al­most im­pos­si­ble pro­fes­sion,’’ Der Spiegel correspondent Carolin Em­cke ad­mits. Re­turn­ing from the hor­rors of too many wars, she writes to friends, purg­ing the un­think­able. Even so, af­ter Kosovo, ‘‘ one does not digest: the sight of corpses with­out heads, of cut- off body parts, con­torted bod­ies that had been pulled be­hind a truck for miles’’. Yet good re­port­ing mat­ters, Em­cke warns in this har­row­ing vol­ume, if only to avoid an endgame where ‘‘ no­body trusts us, the mes­sen­gers, any more’’. PHILADEL­PHIA mil­lion­aire’s daugh­ter, Broad­way ac­tor, Hol­ly­wood star, Euro­pean princess: Grace Kelly might have had a fifth ex­is­tence, as Amer­ica’s first lady. She knew ev­ery­one, from Josephine Baker to King Farouk to Andy Warhol, but most in­trigu­ing in Wendy Leigh’s gush­ing bi­og­ra­phy is the fling with John Kennedy, who is cited as fall­ing in love ‘‘ the mo­ment I saw her’’, while Jackie hated her from the 1961 mo­ment when Jack blurted, ‘‘ I could have mar­ried her!’’ So much pas­sion, so much beauty, so long ago. A Year on the Punt: One City Punter, Twenty Coun­try Meet­ings and a Motza of Rac­ing Gems By John El­li­cott, ABC Books, 227pp, $ 29.95 FOR­GET the nags: coun­try rac­ing is a bil­lion- dol­lar in­dus­try, a core com­po­nent of re­gional tourism, with 390 pro­fes­sional and ama­teur clubs around Aus­tralia. John El­li­cott heads for the Birdsville Cup, where $ 1000 bets are ‘‘ not un­known’’ and exjockey Ted Mon­aghan sums up the race tac­tics: ‘‘ You just go like the shit from the start.’’ Clearly lit­er­a­ture is not the win­ner here, but El­li­cott takes the lead with droll quotes. Run­ning would- be win­ners across pre­cip­i­tous bush slopes, says one tough trainer, ‘‘ soon sorts out their at­ti­tude to life’’. True Grace: The Life and Times of an Amer­i­can Princess By Wendy Leigh Thomas Dunne Books, 307pp, $ 44.95

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