news & views
CONTRARY to the statement of Malcolm Forbes (‘‘Casement’s spirit reawakened in journey to the heart of darkness’’, June 9-10), Roger Casement was not hanged for treason but for homosexuality. He had indeed been convicted of treason, but the death sentence would almost certainly have been commuted to a term of imprisonment had it not been for his diaries. These recorded a life of exuberant sexual activity with other males, mostly taking the form of cruising, casual sex with willing partners encountered anywhere. Given Casement’s status and record of humanitarian concern, there was a strong push for clemency, nipped in the bud when the hawks in the Home Office circulated some of the more salacious entries. Establishment figures such as the archbishop of Canterbury, who refused to sign a petition for mercy after being shown the diaries, seem to have been more shocked by Casement’s guilt-free indulgence in unnatural vice than by his gun-running. Mario Vargas Llosa handles his subject’s sexual adventures with sensitivity and a degree of scepticism, which is more than can be said for the prison doctor. He subjected Casement’s corpse to a macabre violation, reporting that he found ‘‘unmistakable evidence of the practices to which it is alleged [he had] been addicted. The anus was at a glance seen to be dilated, and on making a digital examination (rubber gloves) I found that the lower part of the bowel was dilated as far as the fingers could reach.’’ The whole shabby affair shines an oddly revealing light into the values and obsessions of the Edwardian elite: vindictiveness, prudery, prurience and guilty memories of boarding school. Robert Darby Canberra HAVING just enjoyed a recent Q& A again on the ABC’s iView, I felt the need to express my amazement and shame that there was such a negative reaction to the program with Barry Humphries, David Marr, Miriam Margolyes, John Hewson and Jacki Weaver. I am horrified that so many readers could not laugh at themselves when such a delightful cross-section of Australians (one would-be, admittedly) brought out such a perceptive and wide-ranging observation of us. Surely we are not such a racist, ignorant society that we cannot have a bit of fun at our own expense! As for attacking Tony Jones for allowing the badinage to continue, surely he is allowed to enjoy a lighter-hearted gathering of such a talented group of speakers? I add that Dickens was on the syllabus at my high school (back in the 60s, admittedly) and our class loved it. Please, please, may we have more guests like this on Q& A? Julie Gill Largs Bay, South Australia WITHIN minutes of reading a reference to Patrick White’s Flaws in
the Glass I came to the phrase ‘‘flaw in the glass’’ in ploughing — about four pages daily — through James Joyce’s Ulysses. What pushes me on with Ulysses is the snobbish notion that with each page turned I join a more exclusive minority of readers. In mitigation, I once read that true snobs are never for an instant aware of their affliction. Ron Willis Mount Lawley, Western Australia To be considered for publication, letters must contain an address and telephone number for verification. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.