Twin Towers (Image: Simon Leventhal)

Phillipa McGuinness (Vintage, 2018)

Every era imagines its own future. We always get it wrong, of course; often comically, sometimes tragically. The year 2001 was emblematic of ‘the future’ for decades, thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s visionary film of the same name. Videophones! Robots! Spaceships elegantly ascending to a Strauss waltz!

With the approach of the new millennium, we imagined The End of History, as Francis Fukuyama put it in his 1992 book. In the post-Cold War world, nuclear weapons would be dismantled and conflicts peacefully resolved. The ‘world wide web’ would dispel ignorance and distribute knowledge to all. Liberal democracy would spread inevitably as market forces created educated, progressive middle classes around the world.

How the gods must have laughed at our hubris as reality unfolded . . .

See the rest of this review in the June 2018 issue of Australia Book Review.

The war on sex

IN 1870, at the height of Victorian prudery, two young men were arrested in a London theatre. They were in women’s clothing, extravagantly made up, and flirting outrageously with anything in trousers. Their crime? ‘Incitement to sodomy.’

As their trial progressed, it became clear that their arrest was part of a plan hatched at the highest levels of the British government to crack down on’ sexual immorality.’ Unfortunately for the prosecution, ‘Fanny’ and ‘Stella’ also had connections with the rich and powerful, through the sexual underground which flourished beneath the veneer of Victorian respectability …

See my review of Fanny and Stella by Neil McKenna in the July 2013 issue of Australian Book Review.