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Gare, Shelley

Gare, Shelley

PERSONAL:

Daughter of Nene Gare (a novelist); father was the Western Australian Commissioner for Native Welfare.

CAREER:

Editor, writer, and columnist. Has worked as deputy editor, The Australian, editor, Good Weekend and Sunday Life, baby editor, Cleo, and founding editor, The Australian's Review of Books. Also worked for Sunday Times, London. Consultant editor, Who Weekly.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Walkey Award, for Review of Books; award for best design for literary nonfiction, Australian Publishers Association, 2006.

WRITINGS:

(And editor) Legends: A Celebration of Australian Women in Sport, Berlei (Rydalmere, New South Wales, Australia), 2000.

(Editor) Ross Campbell, My Life as a Father, illustrated by Andrew Joyner, Park Street Press, (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2005.

The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense, Park Street Press and Media 21 Publishing (Double Bay, New South Wales, Australia), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Shelley Gare's The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense is based on her many years working in the news media as a feature writer, commenting on the state of modern society. The book, stated a contributor to the Notebook, "explores the dumbing-down of Western society." "We live in a world where ignorance is celebrated," the Notebook writer explained, "and photos of visiting celebrities (think Paris Hilton in Bondi) are more likely to be front page news than accounts of famines in Africa." Airheads, according to Gare, are "people for whom ‘me’ always comes first and nothing should take much effort," declared New Zealand Listener contributor Simon Wilson. In addition to the Hilton fortune heiress, the airheads who plague modern existence include Jessica Simpson, Bridget Jones (protagonist of the novels Bridget Jones's Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, by British writer Helen Fielding), president George Bush, and many others. "What Gare has done in The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense," concluded Patricia Anderson in the Australian, "is to take a scalpel to the types who have made our lives more complicated, miserable, pointless and sometimes jobless."

Behind Gare's portraits of the airheads of modern times is a serious critique of modern society. "Gare argues that the bloating of newspapers and other media with enormous lifestyle supplements and celebrity trivia," wrote James Franklin in Quadrant Magazine, "is a symptom of something that has gone seriously wrong across the board. Airheads, people without general knowledge or common sense but with an eye for hype and the main chance, have moved from the decorative fringes of society to the centre. They have taken over, in business, government, the arts and education." Past generations, according to Franklin, "had a noble vision of a future for their children and grandchildren—upstanding young people free of poverty, well-fed, making the most of their opportunities for education and personal development, generously contributing to a better society. The youth are well-fed going on obese, well-off, and airheads. The old vision of virtue has disappeared." "In this age of the free market, the pursuit and acquisition of money at all costs is now considered more important than knowledge, values and commonsense," Gare wrote in the Australian. "This is also the post-postmodern world, which apparently means there are no such things as objective knowledge, values and commonsense. How lucky is that? Short-term thinking has triumphed, so has greed, and the unstoppable driving force of our times is the belief that it's all about me. (Which so very often devolves to: it's all about me and what I can stuff into my pockets and bank accounts.)"

"Managerialism"—the culture of management lampooned by cartoonist Scott Adams and others—is, according to Gare, also part of the airhead problem. Gare suggests that the mindless pursuit of wealth, without the redeeming characteristics of public-mindedness and willingness to assume responsibility, is a key factor in the spread of airheadedness in the business community. Companies, declared Wilson, "are required to make ever-larger profits. Money has become its own morality. So they need us to keep working harder, buying more things and servicing more debt." "These days," Gare stated in the Australian, "this is what we're all up against: the irresistible lure and clout of money when it has been decided that money is all that matters." Taken to extremes, this concentration on money can lead to disasters, such as the collapse of Enron. "Airheadism is not about intelligence or gender or honest absentmindedness. It's about values—or the lack of them," concluded Sydney Morning Herald contributor Roy Williams. "It's elevating style over substance and forgetting (when convenient) that actions have consequences."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Australian, November 4, 2006, Shelley Gare, "The Sweet Smell of Excess"; November 18, 2006, Patricia Anderson, review of The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense.

Quadrant Magazine, April, 2007, "Chickens in Charge," p. 83.

Sydney Morning Herald, November 14, 2006, Roy Williams, review of The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense.

Time International, November 13, 2006, "Empire of the Frivolous," p. 64.

ONLINE

Celebrity Speakers,http://www.celebrityspeakers.com.au/ (February 26, 2008), "Shelley Gare."

New Zealand Listener,http://www.listener.co.nz/ (February 26, 2008), Simon Wilson, "I'm with Stupid."

Notebook,http://www.notebookmagazine.com/ (February 26, 2008), review of The Triumph of the Airheads and the Retreat from Commonsense.

Sydney Writers Festival 2007 Web site,http://www.swf.org.au/ (February 26, 2008), "Shelley Gare."

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