Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Reviewing "The Costello Memoirs"


This was a Christmas gift, so I felt obliged to review it. It's a good read, but reveals nothing new about the Howard era, and its demise.

Its release was so comprehensively covered in the media that there are no surprises. What it does is to give Costello's interpretation of the significant events. Essentially, it's a well-written rationalization.

As I read it, I could hear Peter Costello talking, and most of it reminded me of the series of sketches that John Clarke and Bryan Dawe presented on the 7.30 Report (ABC TV). They often returned to the theme of conversations with private schoolboys (Alexander Downer was always head prefect). The tone and language is very much that of middle class Melbourne. Peter Costello inhabits a very different Australia from the one I'm familiar with.

It is certainly not written with detachment, after the event, as a genuine memoir would be. I get the feeling that Costello is not finished with politics, if the text of this book is any indication. He toes the party line with consistency and passion.

It is peppered with slightly amusing anecdotes, but each of them serves to put Costello in a good light. He doesn't seem to be able to write with detachment when he writes about himself and his motives. There are no jokes on Peter. There's a fair degree of shameless name-dropping –

It did not affect my relationship with Alan Greenspan, who is an extraordinary intellect and a charming and lively conversationalist. We met many times. I always enjoyed these occasions. He apparently enjoyed them too, judging from the reference he made to our meetings in his memoirs. (p 109).

Reading this, I couldn't help thinking about the criticism of Kevin Rudd's name-dropping. Throughout, he promotes his own economic credentials and over and over again paints Labor as completely incompetent when it comes to economic management. It is difficult to tell whether this is a personal conviction, or political spin.

If there had been much less polemic, and much more narrative, the book would have worked better as a piece of literature. I found it an interesting (if not engaging read), and worth a look.

It's expensive, but if you look around, particularly in the large chain stores, you can buy it for 2/3 of the listed price.

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