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Published August 24th 2016
Error Australis by Australian author, Ben Pobjie
Error Australis by Ben Pobjie
Confession. I hail from a family of Latin quoting, history loving, and mathematically inclined athletes. Of course, I rebelled. Lousy at all of the above and proud of it. So it came as a shock when a friend presented me with this recently published book as a gift which is based on Australian history.
Pobjie, who studied history at university, writes both comedy and political satire, as well as being a TV columnist. Error Australis is the author's recapping of Australian history, starting from the origin of the land mass, combined with pop culture. The first line in the book sets the tone: "The origins of Australia, much like the popularity of Scotty Cam, are shrouded in mystery".
Each chapter covers a period of Australian history, from the landing of the First Fleet, to Federation, covering World Wars, Rum Rebellions, the proliferation of Merino sheep, right up to the current state of affairs with Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister.
The author's comments about the landing on Gallipoli in 1915 are indicative of his irreverent humour. "And we got an award-winning and seminal moment in domestic cinema out of it, which is more than you can say for Turkey, whose technical victory at The Nek did nothing to launch Mel Gibson's career."
Although the humour does make the dry topic of history easily digestible, I had to put the book down on several occasions as it was just too much. You know, like when you are in the audience of a comedy show and the skits just keep coming at you. Did my head in.
I particularly enjoyed the Essay Questions at the end of each chapter, just like those in ghastly text books from high school days. After the chapter on Australian bushrangers the question was : " Would modern criminals be more popular if they wore buckets on their heads? Discuss with specific reference to Carl Williams, Christopher Skase and Paul from Neighbours."
There is truth in Pobjie's history, and I admit to learning more about Bligh and Macarthur in a few pages than seemingly days looking at chalk on a blackboard all those years ago.
Some of the humour grates, some tends towards the private school boy variety, and some is simply hilarious. I will forever retain this image - " (Tony) Abbott made history as not only the firmest-pectoralled prime minister Australia had ever had, but also as the one most likely at any given time to lick your face."