The Book Group and The GrandMasters #Sh*tf*ckery

The Book Group had our end of year meeting last night. I wasn’t going to blog about it as there was no book to discuss, but things happened to change my mind.

We had our now-traditional ‘gentlemen’s picnic’ – which is to say, everyone brought food. We had dumplings, barbecued prawns, delicious roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic, Portuguese chicken, plus a bowl of peas so we’d have some greens, followed by a fruit platter, pastéis de nata and mince pies, all accompanied by excellent conversation and much laughter.

Then down to work. Instead of a book, in what may become a tradition, we each brought a poem and read it aloud. The poems ranged from Les Murray’s ‘An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow‘, read to us beautifully by a man to whom Les Murray had read it as a student audience of one, to a completely foul Rodney Rude limerick. Between those extremes were Janet Frame, David Malouf, Barbara Vernon (the fabulous opening stage direction to her 1957 play The Multicoloured Umbrella), Raymond Carver, Adrian Wiggins, anonymous children’s versifiers, and Naomi Shihab Nye. Readings were punctuated by wonderful anecdotes about complex intimacies, the sound of rain on an iron roof, 9th century Japanese poetics, student life in times past, father–son connections and more.

Finally, the Kris Kringle. We each brought a book from our shelves, suitably wrapped and given out at random. Once the books were unwrapped we all looked happy with what we’d got, though the one who’d scored three folded pieces of waxed cloth looked a little mystified and his happy appearance may have been a little strained. (He found out later in the evening that the giver had brought the wrong one of two identically wrapped parcels from home, and will get the book to him soon.) I’m delighted by my book, and because it’s a very quick read, I get to do this blog post:

Julie Shiels, The GrandMasters #Sh*tf*ckery (M.33 2021)

Julie Shiels is a Melbourne artist who created a series of digital collages, starting during the Great Covid–19 Lockdown of 2020. She took a number of paintings by old masters, gave some of their personages the faces of contemporary Australian political leaders, and added pointed captions. For example, the dustjacket (left) has The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder featuring Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Barnaby Joyce. The satirical point would be clear enough, but then there’s the caption, a quote from the Prime Minister: ‘When I can tell you how we get there, that’s when I’ll tell you when we’re going to get there.’

The book simmers with rage, as it covers Robodebt, the federal government’s handling of the vaccine rollout, the scandal around Christian Porter, the Britney Higgins matter, climate change, Peter Dutton deciding to smile, Karen Andrews describing herself as compassionate, the abandonment of Australia’s Afghan friends, and so on.

I laughed out loud at the title page, which has a smirking Morrison standing by the woman’s corpse in Jerome Preudhomme’s The Death of Lucretia, while Michaelia Cash and Marise Payne play other roles – the caption: ‘Blokes don’t get it right all the time.’ Other pages – including but not limited to variations on the rape of Lucretia – are too horrible to be funny, but horrible in a bracing way. Some images land only in the general vicinity of their targets, and some – such as Scott Morrison as Aeneas carrying his ailing father in Pompeo Bartoni’s Aeneas Fleeing from Troy, saying ‘We are all Melburnians now’, or Dan Tehan as Rubens’ Saturn Devouring His Son – hit the bullseye.

This is an art book. The quality of the reproductions is excellent. The face-changes are mostly convincing, and where they’re not the effect is comic rather than shambolic (Julie Shiels must have trawled through millions of photographs to get the heads at just the right angle, the faces with just the right expression).

I recommend it as a gift for a politics-junkie friend who is into art. According to the M.33 website, only 300 copies were published, so you may need to be quick if you want one. The collages, being digital creations in the first place, can be see on Julie Shiels’s website at this link.

The GrandMasters #Sh*tf*ckery is the 15th book I’ve read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2021.

14 responses to “The Book Group and The GrandMasters #Sh*tf*ckery

  1. Well, I was going to buy one, but it doesn’t seem to be possible without using PayPal. Which I won’t use since my account was hacked and they took so long to respond to my report that I ended up paying interest on the thief’s purchase of the most expensive iPhone because the purchase sent my account into overdraft.
    Never mind, the virtual exhibition is great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! That makes me worry that I’m far too trusting!


      • Oh, lots of people use it. But don’t link it to an account with any serious money in it. I deliberately had linked it to my current account which never has much in it, but it hadn’t occurred to me that there was nothing to prevent it using the overdraft which I myself never used.


      • Oh that’s the stuff of nightmares!


      • Look on the bright side. I’m old enough to remember when there were muggers and bag-snatchers in every shopping centre. Now you get your money stolen without the violence…

        Liked by 1 person

    • Did you have two-factor authentication on your PayPal account? That should stop these things happening. We use PayPal ALL the time, and prefer it to any other way of online ordering. IF they don’t take PayPal we use a card with a low credit limit, but we like PayPal because your credit card details stay with them (should stay with them) whereas otherwise you have to give you card details to every vendor you use.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t remember if I did, or didn’t. If it was available back then, I’d have had it.
        There is no failsafe protection online, and while we can all take what steps we can to protect ourselves, it remains a matter of luck. I’m ok with that, much better to be robbed online than mugged in the street. What made me angry was that whereas my bank acted super-promptly on the two occasions when there was a fraudulent transaction on my account and it didn’t cost me a cent, just the nuisance value of having to get a new card, PayPal took its own sweet time and for over a week I didn’t know if my $1450 was gone forever and on top of that I paid interest on the fraudulent transaction because of it. And no apology either.
        I find it’s much better to deal with a small Australian bank than an anonymous American company that is so big it doesn’t care.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes fair point, but for me the security offered by PayPal with two factor authentication just makes it sensible for us. We have shifted the great majority of our banking and savings though to a climate-supporting independent Australian bank. It’s all about finding a balance isn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

      • We all make our choices about these things…

        Liked by 2 people

  2. J: I meant to let you know that I put in my order at once – Order 238 – so maybe 60 copies left – yesterday! Lisa’s story a bit scary! …



  3. Great review of the BookClub Jonathan and i’ve forwarded a copy to the artist. I think there might be a few more copies produced now due to popular demand!


  4. Anyhow, I’ve ordered two copies, both as gifts though I may end up being tempted and keeping one.

    Liked by 1 person

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