There's only one man who could really do justice to a Bob Ellis obituary, and he has just died. Ellis -- screenwriter, diarist, critic, raconteur blah blah blah -- was always a dab hand at them, and the last decade or so of his life appears to have been taken up with them: obituaries of Labor as was, Australia as was, the world as it might have been, the tone always finely judged -- a melancholia about lost possibilities that did not preclude the pleasure of taking joy in life, in the next movie, the weather at Palm Beach, the doings of the children. In fact each depended on the other. What was the mere foreground to what had never been, could never be.

Sometimes that worked exactly, as in the screenplay for Paul Cox's Man Of Flowers, or some of the tighter essays collected in Letters To the Future, or in any randomly chosen 30 pages of his elephantine late-stage political chronicles; and sometimes it just fell over, as in the overly overworked The Nostradamus Kid, or the columns for Encore magazine, which were not so much name-dropping as names and verbs, or the 31st to 60th page of any dipping into the election chronicles.