Opinions and Reflections is an edited selection of the work of a public intellectual with a distinctive independence of mind and a wide-ranging erudition.
Covering a generation of writing, it begins with reflections, in 1990, on the collapse of the Soviet bloc and concludes with observations, in 2015, on cosmology and intelligent design. In between, in over 120 pieces, there are incisive pieces on everything from North Korea to cancer and from Charles de Gaulle to J. R. R. Tolkien.
The book embodies the unique range of interests of a writer whom former Foreign Minister Bob Carr described, last year, as Australia’s best intellectual. It features a portrait of the author by renowned Fairfax cartoonist John Spooner.
Like a conversation with its writer, this book is first of all breathtaking in the variety of its spheres of interest. Few writers today can so effortlessly glide between, for instance, Oliver Stone's conspiracy theories, Charles de Gaulle's grandeur, Wittgenstein's pessimism regarding the opacity of language, and Noam Chomsky's critique of America's moneyed elite. Even fewer can discuss with authority, originality, and clarity issues ranging from euthanasia, genocide, and the substance of science to geopolitics, economics, Catholic dogma, Chinese politics, and the marriage of gays. Monk can, and does.
Amotz Asa-El, Editor, The Jerusalem Post
I’m not sure Monk has an equal in contemporary Australia in his capacity to address serious issues through the mobilisation of such a wealth of learning, genuine understanding and, importantly, with so little humbug. The nearest comparison is probably the great Clive James, with whom he shares a similar sense of fun, one thinks particularly of James’ superb collection of essays, Cultural Amnesia. There are the essay collections of the estimable and greatly missed Pierre Ryckmans (The Angel and the Octopus and The Hall of Uselessness), so thoughtful and so elegantly written, with whom Monk had so much in common, not least their mutual passion for human rights in China.
Tony McAdam, The Spectator, January 2016.