Does Hicks deserve literary plaudits? David Hicks’ memoir recounting his time as a detainee in US military detention centre Guantanamo Bay has been nominated for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award. Guantanamo: My Journey is a finalist in the non-fiction category, the winner of which will take home a prize of $15,000.

Scott Emerson, Queensland’s opposition arts spokesman, believes “there’ll be a lot of people out there raising concerns about someone who’s been convicted of supporting terrorism being short-listed for such a prestigious award”. But in a statement yesterday, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh asserted the awards were judged purely on literary merit. So how much literary flair does Hicks have, or is the popularity of his book based on hype surrounding the upcoming court case and Hicks’ own notoriety?

Waleed Aly gave the book three out of five stars, saying it “leaves readers with as many questions as it does answers”. He wrote “the book is probably at its weakest on the points of greatest political scrutiny”. Sally Neighbour described the book as “deceptive and disappointing”, pinpointing the main problem with the novel being “that out of the 456 pages he spends less than one page talking about his training with Al Qaeda”. Mark Davis, who was instrumental in covering Hicks’s trial, lauds the book as “a revealing account” but admits “he’s not highly educated. And he’s certainly not articulate.” And Miranda Devine believes the novel “only makes more puzzling the mystery of why Hicks became such a cause celebre, since his story is so implausible, his excuses so pathetic, his whingeing so reflexive”.

Most reviews focus purely on elements of the story line and any criticism comes from Hicks’ lack of appropriate detail about his terrorism training and analysis of the US political system. Obviously this is a plot-focused book, but being nominated for the award implies there should be an element of art to the writing, which seems to go unmentioned in most reviews. One excerpt:

“I awoke on a concrete slab with the sun in my face. I looked around and saw that I was in a cage made out of cyclone fencing, the same as the boundary fence around my old primary school. Internal fences divided the cage into ten enclosures, and I was in one of the corner-end cells. Around me, I saw five other concrete slabs with what looked like bird cages constructed on top. A fence covered in green shadecloth and topped with rolls of razor wire was wrapped around these six concrete slabs, able to house sixty unfortunate human beings. Hanging on the inside of this fence were signs saying, ”If you attempt escape, you will be shot’, complete with a featureless person with a target for a head.”

— Crikey intern Clare O’Meara

Front page of the day. Libya’s neighbour Egypt has more reason than most to celebrate Gaddafi’s downfall. Here is Egyptian daily Al Ahram today:

Headline of the day. Questionable UK tabloid The Daily Star‘s front page headline today certainly raised eyebrows at Crikey HQ:

Channel Nine admits live cross to chopper was faked

“Nine News faked a live cross from its chopper last night, when the aircraft was in reality on the helipad at its Brisbane headquarters. The 6pm bulletin in Brisbane featured a live cross between presenter Eva Milic and reporter Cameron Price on board the Nine News chopper. Viewers were told in the caption that he was “near Beerwah”, the site where murdered Daniel Morcombe’s body was believed to have been found.” — mUmBRELLA

Stalwart, colourful journalist David Nason dead at 57

“One of Australia’s most colourful and loved journalists, David Nason, died peacefully yesterday after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 57. Nason worked across print, radio and TV but he made his biggest mark at News Limited, where he worked for more than three decades, including 20 years at The Australian.” — The Australian

Spitzer and Slate face defamation lawsuit

Slate, the online magazine of politics and culture, and Eliot Spitzer, one of its columnists and the former governor of New York, have been hit with two multimillion-dollar lawsuits.” — New York Times

Irish Post closes after 40 years with loss of 10 jobs

The Irish Post, the UK’s largest newspaper for the Irish community, has been closed, resulting in the loss of 10 full-time jobs. Staff at the Post, which was first published more than 40 years ago, were told on Friday that the previous Wednesday’s edition was to be the last.” —

Reuters study calls for review of public subsidies for media

“The title of the latest report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) is hardly catchy: Public support for the media: a six-country overview of direct and indirect subsidies. But a quick scan of the contents illustrates the growing importance of the topic in the face of serious economic challenges to traditional news outlets and the rise of alternative start-ups.” — The Guardian

US anchor: TV news is dying a desperate and ugly death

“Jim Walker, a veteran television anchor with more than 25 years of experience on air, was cut loose at the beginning of August. Walker took to his Facebook page to express his distaste with the station’s decision, noting that he would not disclose the details of his confidential separation agreement.” — Mediabistro

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey