50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia by Guy Rundle and Dexter Rightwad

Hardie Grant have dressed 50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia as if it was a joke book, and Rundle himself says that it’s a ‘stocking filler.’ But the book is better than that.

It is funny. Andrew Bolt as ‘minger’ is funny. So is the Australian Greens as partly, or almost all, “simpering inner city SNAG-men who’ve put their balls into a blind trust run by their ‘partners.’” Now that every day in Australia brings us more of the boring-angry Right, and the boring-nice Left, we need someone to say these things.

But in among the list of top Australian fools, and throwaway jokes about, say, the 2006 Big Day Out, there’s also a fierce, serious essay about what is wrong with Australian society and culture. 50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia attacks those who want too much purity and only end up dirtying themselves (Bolt, Pearson, Windshuttle, McGuinness). And it’s also very strong on people who fight for too much freedom, or too much nice good change (David Marr, Cate Blanchett).

This book will piss on some people who you think really don’t deserve it (my list of ‘Oh no, not …’ included Les Murray, Barry Humphries, and Christos Tsiolkas - although I do now admit that the Northcote Aboriginal Muslim in The Slap probably was a mistake.) Satire always hands you a glass to peer through and see how small everything is. But satire is also the hope that dares not speak its name.

50 People Who Stuffed Up Australia is full of hope for that impossible thing, a much better Australia than has ever, ever been. An Australia less English, less suburban, less council-regulated, less second-rate, and less full of bullshit about how ‘larrikin’ we are.

Sean O'Beirne