Oct 2, 2009

Unethical! Disgrace! Gillard wars turn nasty at The Monthly

The editorial board of The Monthly is standing by its editor Ben Naparstek, despite a growing row over his October cover story.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

The editorial board of The Monthly is standing by editor Ben Naparstek this morning after he splashed the October edition with a review of The Making of Julia Gillard by an author writing her own biography on the same subject.

Under the front-page tagline “biography wars”, Christine Wallace, the author of an as-yet unpublished biography of Gillard (Allen & Unwin), slams her competitor Jacqueline Kent’s recent release The Making of Julia Gillard (Penguin) as “curiously flat”, “thin” and “plain-vanilla”, before dismissing the 323-page tome as a “friendly political quickie”.

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27 thoughts on “Unethical! Disgrace! Gillard wars turn nasty at The Monthly

  1. Guy Rundle

    Hang on just a minute there. The Jolliffe-Maniaty thing is different to the Kent-Wallace thang. Jolliffe is an expert on the 1975 east timor invasion, and the Balibo Five. Maniaty’s book is a memoir-investigation. There’s no-one more qualified than Jolliffe to assess the accuracy and quality of Maniaty’s book, and they’re complementary, not literally identical projects.

    As a general rule, people will often review books that overlap books they have written. to not do that is to miss out on a chance to assess their accuracy. the wallace-kent thing is two identical projects, both by generalists, and quite a different issue.

  2. deccles

    F-ck I wish I could get a refund on my Monthy 2 year subscription, I’d funnel it towards my Crikey! renewal. Sally Warhaft and Gideon Haigh were the best things about it. I’ll turf this months ‘The Monthly’ in the recycle bin just like every other edition under wunderkind Naperstek.

    Robert Manne and Gerard Henderson are now nearly indistinguisable from each other.

  3. paddy

    Oh FFS Crikey. The No1 story???
    It’s probably worth a spin for the culture warriors out there.
    (There are no doubt plenty who subscribe and even some who write for Crikey)

    But it’s hardly the lead. Bung it on the blog where it belongs.

  4. Brian Byrnes

    When has a biography ever provided real insights and name a biography which has never been disputed or derided by somebody. they are largely useless works, telling us nothing important or worthwhile.

    So, people, who cares ?

  5. Jack Robertson

    Hold your ground, Ben Naparstek. In the internet era all the old Tweedy witewawy wules are out the window. Posh book and magazine writers who can’t or won’t get dirty in the word-pit on their own behalf can vacate their paid gigs for someone who is; willing to use words to tell us stuff we don’t know, not deliver motherhood platitudes and careerist dreck.

    Someone gave someone else’s book an ordinary review. Boo-hoo. Naparstek’s offered the insultee return space. Bitch-slap the insulter back. Or not.

    Just stop appealing to some literary ethics umpire. There ain’t one. Never was; certainly not now.

  6. Andrew Crook

    Guy, I can see what you mean, but there was still significant resentment in publishing circles over the ABR Balibo thing — of precisely the same kind inherent in the Gillard stoush.

  7. Guy Rundle


    In any given situation where an author reviews a book by another author within their area of expertise, there will be all sorts of points of view. But I dont think it’s a new trend – it’s a necessary one. Sometimes accusations of bad faith may be just, sometimes not.

    It’s often the case that new biogs of subject X will be reviewed by an old biographer of X – or that a one volume biog of X will be reviewed by the author of the 4 volume biog. after all who else is going to know whether its any good.

    The problem here is that these biogs are competing on identical turf – first major biogs by political journalists, neither of them substantially different (if a very left wing figure were writing a Gillard biog you might get a centre or right figure to review it) in approach. That looks too close to be anything other than a bit of a staged stoush. but havent read the piece.

  8. Rowan

    Only one author has published a book on this topic so far, the other author isn’t going to publish for another year. Wallace probably has high hopes for her book — she’s going to show us the real Julia, behind the mask, etc, blah blah blah — but by the time it’s actually published it’ll probably be as bland as Kevin Rudd’s voice. And then Kent can write her own biting review.


  9. tony

    I don’t know what the fuss is about. Surely you expect people who have expertise in a subject to review books rather than generalists whose insights might be interesting but are mostly worthless. It doesn’t seem to phase readers of the NYRB or the LRB to see Greek scholars reviewing books by Greek scholars or whatever. As they say, get a life.

  10. respect your elders

    Guy, you’re right – there’s nothing wrong with David Marr reviewing a new biog of Patrick White, for example. But getting an author of a newly or soon-to-be released book to review a concurrently released book on the same subject is dangerous. And lazy. And completely misses the point of reviewing the book in the first place.

    Robert Manne seems to have nothing better to do than peek over Ben Naparstek’s shoulder and create ‘drama’ at the Monthly. Surely it’s time for him to retire to an island somewhere and leave us all alone? There are days when Gerard Henderson seems less of a crazy; this is one of those.

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