Books

Making a racket

Enthusiasm is an excellent quality to find in a non-fiction writer. So many books are either drily specialised or glib and workmanlike. It’s a real pleasure to read a book and feel that the writer is discovering facts mere minutes before you, relating them in real time with all the passion of new knowledge.

If nothing else, Australian writer Gideon Haigh is an enthusiast. His journalistic background means that he’s used to flipping from one topic to another and acquiring knowledge on the fly. If he has an area of specialisation, it’s cricket, about which he has written over a dozen works. But he also writes widely on business and social issues, working as a well-informed amateur.

Watching him speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in 2008 was a revelation. At several points in a panel discussion, he completely abandoned answering questions on his previous book (Asbestos House)to read large selections of court transcript from a forthcoming work on abortion. It was entertaining to watch someone become completely caught up in a topic. There’s only one way to describe it: Haigh was geeking out.

The book in question, The Racket: How Abortion Became Legal In Australia (Melbourne University Press), was released toward the end of last year and it’s mostly a continuation of Haigh’s festival geek-out. The list of sources and information at the end of the book is prodigious and Haigh seems determined to use every single detail he has found. Reading it, you experience the same feeling as watching Haigh speak -- a writer joyously throwing out facts to the audience.

The Racket details the web of corruption and crime connected to the underground abortion trade and how a range of activists, politicians and doctors eventually saw it dismantled and abortion legalised. Using transcripts from abortion trials, memoirs and first-hand testimony, Haigh manages to assemble a comprehensive picture of how events unfolded.

At less than 300 pages, the barrage of information and anecdote can be a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to lose track of the colourful characters that made up Melbourne’s abortion trade in the 1950s and 60s. Haigh’s sources are incredible and he is able to recreate the era and the events with remarkable complexity, if not as much clarity. He seems intoxicated by his findings and it mostly rubs off on the reader.

For such a grim and confronting topic, Haigh's light touch is welcome. While the details are often difficult to stomach, the amusing digressions and sub-plots ease the difficulty.

While imperfect and a little overstuffed, The Racket is a fascinating insight into another world -- and the highly active mind of an exceptional journalist.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.