Sur­real an­ti­dote to Twit­ter news feed

The Year It All Fell Down

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Nick Bryant

By Bob El­lis With Damian Spruce and Stephen Ram­sey Vik­ing, 264pp, $29.99

MUCH like 1956 or 1989, 2011 was a year of mega news, when each week seem­ingly pro­duced the kind of tum­ble of events that would or­di­nar­ily keep news­rooms oc­cu­pied for months.

On their own, the Arab Spring, the Ja­panese earth­quake and tsunami, the Christchurch earth­quake, the Breivik mas­sacre in Oslo, the Oc­cupy move­ment and the Queens­land floods would have made for an un­usu­ally chaotic news year. But there were also the Lon­don ri­ots, the clo­sure of the News of the World, the royal wed­ding, the strange af­fair of for­mer In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund chief Do­minique Strauss-Kahn, the at­tack on the Kabul In­ter-Con­ti­nen­tal, the loss of the US’s triple-A credit rat­ing, the deaths of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, Va­clav Havel, Amy Wine­house and Steve Jobs, and, of course, the killing of Muam­mar Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden.

Even the fi­nal weeks of De­cem­ber, when jour­nal­ists’ thoughts usu­ally turn to the news­room Christ­mas party, brought no letup. Small won­der that on De­cem­ber 17, when the news came that the North Korean dic­ta­tor had died, at least one weary an­chor re­ferred to him as Kim Jong the Sec­ond.

In his lat­est book, a news di­gest en­ti­tled The Year It All Fell Down, Bob El­lis re­vis­its th­ese world-al­ter­ing events. He writes evocatively of ma­jor episodes such as the Ja­panese tsunami, and re­minds us how ex­tra­or­di­nary it was to see them un­fold in real-time.

‘‘ It was a God’s-eye view of un­fold­ing calamity, si­mul­ta­ne­ous with the event,’’ he writes of Ja­panese broad­caster NHK’s he­li­copter-mounted high def­i­ni­tion cam­eras, ‘‘ un­like any thus far in world his­tory’’. His de­scrip­tion of ‘‘ cars tum­bling over a sea-

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