Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

Phillip Adams, ABC Books

Phillip Adams is Australia’s #1 autodidact/ public intellectual. To that add premier raconteur, acquaintance of more-interesting-people than anyone, kingmaker (for example, during the Bob Hawke/Bill Hayden saga), most-listened-to radio interviewer by people who love ideas, rather than wallowing in the superficialities of those who are “famous for being famous” and so on.

There are many things I love about this man: his progressive thinking of course (Phillip’s happy that “around the world women, gays and lesbians, and other groupings previously regarded as unworthy of full citizenship are now gaining ground”). The fact that he’s been a life-long atheist is okay provided he’s well-thought-through his issues with deity. (Which he has: I hope I’ve done that too, but ended up a follower of the Galilean carpenter. And we agree on lots of religious things. Including this: “Not many in the Vatican follow the pristine principles of Christ.”)

Phillip loved the “consummate contrarian” Christopher Hitchens (“died the most famous journalist on earth”) and so did/do I.

Phillip Adams is often labelled as Rupert Murdoch’s and the ABC’s “token leftie” (Prime Minister John Howard campaigned — unsuccessfully — for the broadcasting network to find a counter-balance from right-of-centre).

I love his conversational speaking and writing style — “chatty” — lots of sentences without finite verbs. And his self-deprecation (“this little wireless program”, “this little book” — even though it has 274 well-written pages). And he’s been everywhere, man.

The book’s riveting. I went to the launch and then read it in three otherwise-busy days. I have no idea how you do a radio interview with someone — actually two separate people — who don’t talk back to you: one of them a Buddhist monk who couldn’t understand English (did the producer get the sack?).

Because Phillip’s by-passed formal academia there’s a cornucopia of creative novelties in his thinking. Everywhere there are little gems of both useful and useless information and turns-of-phrase, and stuff that’s close to being libellous I’ve filed away to ponder.

Like these: * “No matter how old you are you’ve a 90 per cent chance of being alive in two and a half years”; * “as rare as rocking horse manure”; * “Billy McMahon looked like a Volkswagen with both doors open”; * “the Duke of Edinburgh had an affair with a friend of mine”;  * “better to have continuous teeth — one upper and one lower … to eliminate the need for flossing or 90 per cent of dentistry”;  * “aside from criticisms of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and John Howard’s resemblance to Mr Magoo, no other topic has proved too hot to handle.”

Rowland Croucher


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