"Carr’s newly published diaries, additionally, incorporate a querulous world-tour of complaint." Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The pattern is worryingly familiar. A man of considerable self-regard and oddball personal habits finds himself – thanks to a stroke of luck – privy to a dazzling trove of diplomatic megadata.
Quickly, he fills his boots, using any means at his disposal. Perhaps he covertly evacuates unthinkable amounts of data on a Lady Gaga CD. Perhaps he establishes a global no-questions-asked whistleblower site. Perhaps he packs a costly calf-skin-bound blank notebook and quill pen when he goes man-camping with Henry Kissinger.
Finally, he has the data. And then, when the time is right, and the newspapers have been fully briefed, and the columnists – having been given a discreet sniff of the quality of the material – are trembling and moaning at that maddening, seemingly endless apex of desire … He hits "PUBLISH". And the world is soaked in a dizzying, exhilarating, substantially pointless flood of Too Much Information.
The TMI never seems to stop there, though. Somehow, it is impossible to experience this kind of grand-scale diplo-dump without also finding out much more than you ever really wanted to know about the personal life of the man who made it happen.
Whether it’s Bradley – sorry, Chelsea – Manning’s adventures in self-discovery, or Julian Assange’s heavily-litigated frolics with various female supporters in Sweden, or Bob Carr’s longing for "a concave abdomen defined by deep-cut obliques" (his own, it seems prudent to clarify), obsessive over-sharing seems to be part of the package.
Carr’s newly published diaries, additionally, incorporate a querulous world-tour of complaint. Business class is not as nice as first class. Americans are fat. There's too much bread. The boring, Spartan meals he demanded turn out to be boring and Spartan.
So what are the consequences, exactly, of PickyLeaks?
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop did her very best to convince us the book’s publication would "damage Australia’s ties", though whether she meant Hermes or Bulgari (Carr's shortlist for acceptable neckwear) was not clear.
And certainly, one could imagine some awkward moments in the Canberra-Bucharest relationship arising from Carr’s disclosure that his favourite exercise is "the wonderful one-legged Romanian deadlift".
His war on sugar is even more worrying.
Does the former foreign minister realise that Australia is the second-biggest exporter of sugar in the world? Did he consider that every time he openly freaks out at a dusting of caster sugar on an oat flapjack, or coldly declines his croquembouche at a state dinner, he is depriving actual working families in Bundaberg of a chance to do sweet, sweet business in Seoul, Jakarta, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur?
Let us not even mention the economic destruction that would afflict this proud continent should Carr'sambition to free the world of baked goods ever be fulfilled.
The former foreign minister’s view that Julia Gillard should have given up her carbon tax is extensively canvassed but one suspects throughout that he really would have preferred a carbohydrates tax.
Obviously, there is the short-term embarrassment of Carr’s published suspicions that US Secretary of State John Kerry has had plastic surgery (rather a bold subject for the author to visit, given his own cover photograph almost entirely eliminates the famously beaky Carr nose and chin, and seems to have borrowed Dame Maggie Smith’s mouth for the purposes of the shoot).
In geopolitical terms, Carr’s remarks about the Israel lobby are by far the most actively inflammatory; the Jewry’s out on that one, understandably, and will likely remain so for some time.
Trends in international diplomacy change with the characters on stage. The past week has demonstrated this rather clearly; Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s idea of a useful visit to China, for example, is one in which 600 delegates go along. His predecessor always thought you only really needed one.
But in the end, this is a political diary, and political diaries really only ever work brilliantly when the writer allows plenty of room for the reader to think them mad or foolish.
This explains the crack-like addictiveness of the Alan Clark Diaries, or the scabrously readable Latham memoir. An asymmetry of perception between writer and reader is the indispensable ingredient in this chemical formula.
Such an asymmetry allows Carr to have fun writing this sentence, for example, on page 65 – "I love the contact with the people, like the airport security guard who told me I explain foreign affairs so people like him can understand it" – and for us to have fun reading it, only for entirely different reasons.
"I think self-parody and irony is the stuff of life and I wanted the book to have that flavour," the author told 7.30 host Sarah Ferguson. "Life’s too short to be taken seriously."
Reading Carr’s diaries with a large glazed doughnut in one hand and a glass of something fizzy in the other, I cannot help but agree.
Annabel Crabb is the host of ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet. @annabelcrabb