The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints -

JOHN Updike has been duly hon­oured (‘‘ The mas­terly blas­phe­mer’’, Fe­bru­ary 14-15). Ian McEwan’s piece cel­e­brated a lit­er­ary lion whose fic­tional char­ac­ters stalked their prey in the wilder­ness of mod­ern Amer­ica. With bell-ring­ing clar­ity, Updike gave us a voice that de­fined man’s es­tate: that the male species never fully re­cov­ered af­ter be­ing ex­pelled from the Gar­den of Eden. Their fright­en­ing con­fu­sion is ap­par­ent in all his nov­els; his Eve has a lot to an­swer for. But far from a misog­y­nist nov­el­ist, Updike priv­i­leges women, find­ing beauty and won­der in their still un­solved mys­tery. He was of a rare kind. With an au­tho­rial tone both self-dep­re­cat­ing and sly, he re-in­vented him­self in ev­ery work. Few read­ers were ever jaded by his lit­er­ary vir­tu­os­ity. His ‘‘ Rab­bit’’ was a fallen man, not un­like the gorm­less me­dieval knight, Par­si­fal. Both sought re­demp­tion through suf­fer­ing. Updike also vi­car­i­ously shared their spir­i­tual quest for grace. Mike Fog­a­rty We­ston, ACT

John Updike JOHN Kin­sella’s claim that po­etry is alive and well in the pop­u­lar cul­ture of song lyrics, ad­ver­tis­ing jin­gles and spo­ken word per­for­mance (‘‘ On thriv­ing po­etry,’’ Fe­bru­ary 7-8) is disin­gen­u­ous. He knows full well that most po­etry pub­lished to­day cel­e­brates its dis­cor­dant in­ac­ces­si­b­lity while in­sight­ful lyri­cism ( surely the essence of true po­etry?) is usu­ally dis­missed as be­ing ar­tis­ti­cally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally in­fe­rior. Ian McFar­lane Ber­magui, NSW IN her ar­ti­cle about our con­vict legacy (‘‘ Safe har­bour’’, Jan­uary 24-25), Ba­bette Smith writes: ‘‘ Racism can be found to­wards the Abo­rig­ines, as mod­ern re­search has demon­strated con­clu­sively. How­ever, racism is no­table by its ab­sence to­wards oth­ers who were not white-skinned. The proof that tol­er­ance has deep Aus­tralian roots can be found in the num­ber of mi­grants who have been ab­sorbed peace­fully in the years since the con­vict era.’’ Un­for­tu­nately, racism sim­mers not far from the sur­face of Aus­tralia and has a long his­tory, par­tic­u­larly for Chi­nese and other Asians. In 1855 Vic­to­ria took mea­sures to re­duce the num­ber of Chi­nese arriving in the colony; NSW fol­lowed with sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion in 1861 af­ter the erup­tion of vi­o­lence against the Chi­nese at Lamb­ing Flat in 1860-61. The White Aus­tralia Pol­icy re­stricted im­mi­gra­tion from 1901-73. More re­cently, racism has con­tin­ued to rear its ugly head, with one re­sult the Cronulla ri­ots in 2005. As well as a con­vict or two in our an­ces­try, many of us will also have set­tlers of An­glo-Celtic, Euro­pean and Asian her­itage. It is this mix­ing of blood, and ex­ten­sion across bound­aries, that lays the foun­da­tion for tol­er­ance and re­spect. Un­der­stand­ing our con­vict her­itage is ad­mirable, but it is only one strand of his­tory, and as such does not re­sult in a full un­der­stand­ing of who we re­ally are. Fleur Fal­lon Fresh­wa­ter, NSW

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