Oct 26, 2009

The death of Tozer and Keating’s romancing of genius

The death of pianist Geoffrey Tozer raises questions about Paul Keating and the attitudes about art and civilisation that he projected -- and continues to project -- onto this country.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


“Melbourne should have been the capital … nevertheless it’s bordello style architecture … the heritage nuts are over the top …”

Paul Keating was in fine form last week, waxing lyrical on matters now closest to his heart, design and architecture. Speaking at a book launch with Malcolm Fraser, their comments on Canberra exemplified the difference between the two men. Keating: Canberra was a mistake, aesthetically and culturally. Fraser: the new Parliament House was y’know, too expensive.

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44 thoughts on “The death of Tozer and Keating’s romancing of genius

  1. Guy Rundle

    for the record, ‘betrayal of genius’ is not what I accused Paul Keating of

  2. Jonathan Green

    … ok i tried something else. Guy?

  3. Aphra

    I don’t agree with too much of this. However, it’s one of the very finest pieces which I’ve read on Crikey.

  4. Scott

    Say what you like about Guy’s ideas and opinions, the man can “flick the switch to vaudeville” when required…

  5. Bullmore's Ghost

    A great read there Guy.

    I’ve taken to ignoring Keating on any subject other than Labor history. On other topics he reminds me of the public bar autodidact. Keep supplying him with drinks and you’ll get apparently learned opinions on anything you mention. Introduce an opinion of your own based on some knowledge based on practical experience of the topic and it’ll be quickly dismissed and the subject quickly changed.

    And we should never forget that Keating called Oz the arsehole of the world. Paris can have him.

  6. Jack Robertson

    Exhilarating, bold piece, out of such a sad, bleak episode. Jesus, you really are a shithot writer. Pr*ck.

    One of the best ways to stifle talent is to unshackle it from the imperatives of daily life. It’s impossible to know if the Keating cash did help nudge Tozer along on the introspective spiral into paralysis, but no-one who’s ever tried to make a creative buck can watch a flick like Sunset Boulevard without grasping the casual symbiosis between ordinary daily living and extraordinary eternal artistry. Bach, peeling them off weekly for church, to feed his 400 sprogs.

    How I wish Australia’s ‘artistic and cultural community’ would get this; would ditch the notion of any such thing. Every time ‘it’ claims ‘its’ own Arts&Cult barricades need manning against the philistines (or parallel imports, Hensen piccies, razor gangs, Yank accents), and does so – with ‘its’ unfailingly obnoxious mix of humorlessness, self-righteousness, narcissism, self-interest and hillbilly parochialism (always half a finger-click behind the authentic global beat, the posey tw*ts) – ‘it’ reinforces the societal exceptionialism that is ultimately far more damaging to potential great artists (like Tozer). It was almost funny to hear Henry Rosenbloom describe – with not a jot of irony – the Productivity Commission as ‘sociopaths in suits’ recently, given that the only Australians setting themselves apart from (and against) anything remotely discernible as our ‘society’ in the import debate are him and his fellow Ancient Citadelists.

    Presumably you stop a ‘genius’ from drinking himself to death in exactly the same way you stop anyone else from drinking themself to death. May have been futile – it often is – but I wonder if many in the ‘arts community’ ever seriously tried to help him in the banal, daily ways…rather than in the ‘special’ (aggrandizing and, maybe, effete) context of ‘salvaging/nurturing’ his genius?

  7. Kirk Broadhurst

    I find plenty of art in Australia, but perhaps not of the High Art variety. Isn’t this just a form of the ever-present cultural cringe?

    Many people get a look at the Archibald Prize Winner on the news once a year. They might even see some form of public art as they make their way to work every day. What more can we expect?

  8. Frank Birchall

    Jeez, thank goodness Guy has sorted out all these complex issues for us. Other than that he is bagging Keating and patronising Tozer and most of his readers, I defy most people to comprehend what he’s saying in this lengthy piece, absent a line by line parsing of it. Guy is a very good journalist but I fear he has seen this piece mainly as an opportunity to showcase his undoubted literary and cultural skills. Understandability has been a casualty.

  9. Flicka

    Guy, every time I read one of your pieces, I feel a little better about the world of the humanities and the world at large. Even when I’m crying a bucket of tears while reading. For a wannabe writer, you’re an inspiration and a mentor. Thank you.

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