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Reading Across the Pacific

One of the greatest benefits of working in publishing is the exposure to new ideas, often beyond one’s immediate circle of interest. Would I pick up a book on prostate cancer screening? Highly unlikely. And yet, since I have read the book, I have talked about it to my family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. In fact, to everyone, male or female, who has asked the innocuous question “What book are you working on?” Or even if they didn’t …

Let sleeping dogs lie? is not just about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening. The authors, Simon Chapman, Alexandra Barrat and Martin Stockler, question the unswerving faith that we all put in science, medical tests and authorities. Despite the claims of objectivity, logic and exactness, the science is accurate only until a new discovery or theory comes along. Medical research is further complicated by the many variables that need to be taken into consideration when studying human subjects. Things get worse when the inexact science gets manipulated for commercial gains in the name of saving people’s lives. The results are chilling.

The book also posits the question: are we always better off knowing? Is it better to gamble and let sleeping dogs lie? As the authors say, the risks are high, and it is important to know the full picture in order to make an informed decision. And it may be a decision not to get tested.

I am happy to report that since the book was published, I have moved on and my new obsessions include topics such as violence in France and Australia (e.g. Paris and Cronulla riots in 2005), Australian-American literary connections and Australian multicultural writing. Each book that we publish brings more fodder for my dilettantish proclivities.

In our recent new release Reading across the Pacific I’ve discovered, for example, that Elvis Presley “lives on” in Australia. As no fan of Elvis, I wasn’t aware of the Parkes Elvis Festival, which takes place every January. And I wasn’t aware that Elvis’ “second life” goes far beyond the enduring attraction of various conspiracy theories surrounding his death and the phenomenon of Elvis impersonators. “Elvis Presley” also proliferates across many genres of fiction joining the ranks of recurring literary heroes such as James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan. The website ‘Elvis Presley: a life in books’ lists over 2000 titles!

What’s next? I expect I am on the way to become a short-term sport fan. Nothing to do with the Ashes or the Australian Open – a new manuscript has just landed on my desk on youth sport in Australia.


There's some interesting differences between prostate cancer screening in the U.S. versus others countries in Europe or East Asia.

Sweden for example has more of a "watch and wait" approach to PC screening based on the statistics on hand.

As I recall their general policy is to not perform PSA tests due to the perceived lack of advantages.

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Discussion about publishing and new books from Sydney University Press and University of Sydney authors

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