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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 1. 28 February 1972

Book Reviews

page 12

Book Reviews

Confrontation '51

Mike Bassett is a serious and gloomy man. I met him once at Wellington airport and that was how he seemed to me then. It's an — impression which the publication of this book on the '51 lockout has done nothing to dispel. All the facts are there, in serried ranks, one after the other; the whole thing is carefully spelled out. But a spelling lesson, a catalogue of facts, is no excuse for a failure to write these facts in uncrabbed prose. The book is simply dreary. A character in a short story by Noel Hilliard says to a friend after being dragged along to a Communist Party meeting: "Christ, do you want to put roe off the revolution?" The same might be said of this book by a weary reader.

Dr. Bassett might well argue, of course, that his task is not to encourage the revolution. Indeed, as he has been a Labour Party candidate several times 1 would say that his intention is anything but that. In the words of the old IWW song: 'I am a good strong Labour man/ I want a revolution/ And the quickest way to bring one on Is talking constitution.' He would probably say that he is an historian and it is his task to simply say what happened. If so then he has failed more seriously. A good historian almost approaches the role of the novelist in that it is his task not only to say what happened. But to express the feeling of how it was when these events took place. Someone who does that very well is Dr. W.B. Sutch -who suffers a natty remark at the hands of Dr. Bassett on p214 Ten tch Dr. Bassett, jealousy will get you nowhere — one of our few historians who manages to capture the spirit of the times with which he is dealing. If one fails to do that one ceases to be an his-torian and becomes a maker of almanacs, or at best an archivist.

The great lockout of 51 was a stirring event and no adult who lived through it will forget the tension and foreboding Which it engendered. Dr. Bassett has managed to capture very little of this feeling Why he should have failed in this way I'm not really sure, but his failure seems to be based on the limitation he has placed upon himself in the nature of his sources. Although there is a big literature of illegal pamphlets available he rarely quotes from them. He is concerned far more with the doings and statements of politicians and union leaders, who no, matter how important their actions may have been on consecutive days, were largely puppets in the hands of events which made nonsense of their efforts to control them. The lockout is not a tale of the doings of official personages but is far more the record of men and women who felt and thought in certain ways on both sides — the union members and the police, women and children and farmers and journalists and soldiers who the events affected directly and who had the whole fabric of their daily life shattered by these events. How did a journalist feel knowing that he could not publish a record of something which he had seen? What was is like for a women to know that there was no money coming in and the children still had to be fed and clothed? How does a child feel at school when his classmates sneer at him because his father is one of the hated 'wharfies'? What do soldiers think about when they have to hump butter to the taunts of locked out men only a few hundred yards away? Dr. Bassett sometimes poses these questions but he does not tell us the answers. Of course, the difficulty of trying to answer them is that the answers aren't written down anywhere. You have to come out of your library to find them Dr. Bassett should, as a member of the labour movement, be close to the very live and colourful oral tradition, surrounding the '51. It is a great working class event like 1890 or 1913, and one needs only to go into any pub frequented by wharfies" to hear innumerable anecdotes and tales about it. Such stories are the yeast of history Without them Dr. Bassetts book is a sorry lump of unleavened dough.



If one wants the facts on the '51 lockout they are here; if one wants the feeling of the time it is absent — and this gap makes Confrontation '51 a flawed book.

The Age Of Paranoia How the 60s ended

Rolling Stone have put out — to put on — to inform to put on after so long telling exactly where it's at: now, how it really was in their own gold plated words — to tell us and take our money?

Just how come everything does seem so screwed up? — One possible answer saith the Stone lies in the global media network telescoping time between events and the synthesis, finds the present youth generation beating its brains out over irreconcilable, and impossible problems which only exist because the media defines them. One of the great faults in the alternative — seeking generation lies in its hopeless belief that the human creature is intelligent enough to take in hand his own destiny — and on logical grounds. The presumption that humanity appreciates the essence of the social organism — enough to conduct surgery on it using the rusty tools of a language built around concrete realities and linear definitions is at least laughable — at most — catastrophic.

And believe it or not — this incredibly human cock-up is what this frightfully (yes frightfully) depressing book is all about. Indictments of the human condition are easy, however this is a document of confusion and of a frustrated baited generations, exhausted and so far failed attempts to stay the hand that holds the power — and is using it to burn our bridges before us as well as behind. In a selection of articles and essays from Rolling Stone its editors do an efficient job of reissuing "perspectives from above and beyond", a series of erratic and sometime boring images detailing what turns out actually a cohesive thesis on how the seventies see the end of the sixties — at least some of the seventies. For those who groove on continuing tales of injustice from the Land of the free (or was there anyone so stupid?) — whilst you'll surely groove here, the Playboy Forum is easier understood for all it lacks in journalistic polish compared with the Stone.

In assembling a history of the Movement, the Stone follows the same pattern as other nouveau historians such as Mitchell Goodman whose Movement Towards a New America is locally available, unlike The Age of Paranoia — not yet released in the States — and has a wider range of source material- However those sufficiently inspired to radical zeal not to mind reading lots about the same old civil liberties shockers viz the Chicago Conspiracy Circus and Campus Pig riots will more than likely not be disappointed over pissing around ordering from the States and waiting three months.

Subjects covered range over a wide spectrum from standard sick society rhetoric to — as already mentioned- the Conspiracy song and dance, so if you don't succumb to the temptation to-let the apocalyptic ravers smother you in enigmatic pedentry (spelt meaningless shit) then you'll be the wiser for having gone through the smoke since we were spared the fine.

No Rolling Stone doesn't let you down, sing hosannas, they've been in the business too long — for lo! and The Age of Paranoia does have a unity, even though it be raised on a high pedestal of bullshit, and rationalization for its own sake. The end product distinctly reeks of another of Jan Wenner's "Rock and Roll is the only way the power of youth is structured" — pathetic temper tantrums — which means yet another sectional interest claiming to have got it all together — How else do you put out a paper as consistently good as Rolling Stone.

Yes politics are assholes; to destroy is not the thing to do goddamn, ("He not busy being born is busy dyin" there proof) and revolution comes not of rampant factionalism -but on the other hand — to quote the one Mr Wenner who seems to know it all- "it looks like a shuck". Whether it is, depends on whether you believe Bo Diddley invented the wheel.

The Age of Paranoia contains a lot of A-1 journalism which is a refreshingly new direction for underground media dealing the same old Movement rubbish — However when it turns out a massive stage for a creep like Wanner to prostelyze his own cultural perversions in the name of historic ("Rock and Roll is the only way"!) it can just about give you the shits.

About Writing a Review About the Abortion : An Historical Romance (1996)

(Soon available here.: Various (ludicrous) titles by this author already available)

I walked into the Salient office the other day to see if there wen any good books to review. "Just a load of junk" said the editor so I had a look. There was a charming book on the best of bicycling and there was a glossy book on bow to live in the wilds. There was this Richard Brautigan novel too. Which looked like junk to the editor, who had never heard of Brautigan, which is not too surprising. He was an English literature student.

Now I had heard of Brautigan, being a student of Time magazine Time raves about him. So does Playboy. Enough said? No we can't write him off because of his official back-patters. The jacket informs us that he is a cult hero, and 'literary magus to the literate young', whoever they may be.

So I set out to do this review. For a while I stayed unbiassed, com posed a review in my head without reading the book. After all, so few of the 'spokesmen of the Age of Aquarius, (that's what he's called!) are actually read. One busy day down at the wharves, however, a day I even had to stay awake, I put my prejudices to the test indulged in, and probably polluted myself with a bookful of Americana in the form of a novel. Quaint librarian meets bunny-type girl. They sleep together. She gets pregnant. They have an abortion. Boy loses job. Together, they start a new life. End of book. And that's what the book is-a sickly amusement for that sprawl of clapped out liberals written by a 36 year old adolescent. I can imagine all the token hippie parents being gently scandalised by this mindless mixture of playboy sex and playboy abortion where body sweat is sticky toffee on a rotten apple. The book is very digestible, actually, only a few years ahead of the Readers! Digest The experience is about as sensuous and as valuable as an evening watching TV from a lukewarm bath while eating popcorn.

The prose Itself is. drivel or schmaltz. From bad — "The girl was nice in the leg department but a little short in the titty line or was I spoiled. They departed the table without leaving a tip. "-to verse "I have been sitting at this desk for hours, staring into the darkened shelves of books." (Not too bad, but wait..) "I love their presence, the way they honour the wood they rest upon."

I finished the book, and admit that there was a scintilla of truth in the blurb "these books are fun to read". It may also be true that he it "one of the most authentic spokesmen for the Age of Aquarius (whatever they may be). But this can be no credit to hit disciples discernment or to their morality. Do you want to laugh along with a wizened hippie with an acid-eaten mind at be grins at the paunchy face of middle America and waves a tissue paper flag of black, red, or irrelevant polka dots?

R.W. Steele

Legal Referral Service Student Union Boardroom 12-2pm Mon. Wed. Friday.

a Phallicy?