Macmillan, $7.95 pb, 147pp
Despite the title of the parent program, the aims of the Commonwealth Writers Series are not small. These paperback editions propose:
… a panoptic survey of a writer’s work, assessing its signiﬁcance and merits, and conveying the critic’s enjoyment of the writer concerned, within a total length of between 96 and 176 pages. Each book will have a Survey chapter, placing the major works and events in the author’s life and times.
– a formidable prescription when we are ‘concerned’ with a writer as proliﬁc and complex as Patrick White. Fortunately, the largeness of Brian Kiernan’s critical response ensures that these and the further requirements of ‘ﬂuency, cogency and an enjoyable read’ are more than adequately met. Acutely aware of the risk of a ‘baldly schematic summary’ Kiernan manages to transcend constraint by admitting a wide range of information and opinion while selecting and directing emphasis in accordance with his personal interpretation of White’s imaginative development. The study in fact ‘feels’ larger than the book and the disparity between quality of thought and poverty of paper seems incongruous.