George Johnston: A biography
Nelson, $29.95 hb, 330 pp
Like those of Tom and Viv, and Scott and Zelda, the life story of George Johnston and Charmian Clift is a high drama of love, sickness, loyalty, passion, talent and suffering, with a tragic intensity not often found in Australian life. The lives of artists are now often turned into works of art themselves. Garry Kinnane’s biography and the ABC radio documentary based on it make George and Charmian more fascinating than their books, with the possible exception of My Brother Jack.
The public remembers George Johnston’s triumphal return from Greece in 1964 as the author of My Brother Jack. But behind all the publishing and media hype, we were watching (though we didn’t know it at the time) one of the final acts in a long-drawn-out tragedy: he and Charmian had been tearing each other apart on Hydra, their lives were in disarray and, as it turned out, unrecoverable. Where did it all go wrong?