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Bystander Press

Richard Freadman’s first work intended for a non-academic readership is, in his own words, ‘the Son’s Book of the Father’ and thus belongs to a venerable genre. Freadman, whose contribution to our understanding of autobiography has been acute, is well qualified to draw on this tradition in portraying his own father and analysing their relationship. Along the way, he discusses memoirists such as John Stuart Mill, Edmund Gosse and Henry James.

Shadow of Doubt: My Father and Myself can’t have been an easy book to write. Few family memoirs are, if their authors are honest about their families and themselves. Freadman knows that autobiography is a ‘chancy recollective escapade’. ‘My father,’ he writes, ‘was an extremely, an impressively complex man, and there is no single “key” to a life like this.’

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These stories are well written and rather depressing. That makes them, I guess, rather representative of what one might call the current state of short-story writing by urban males. One thinks immediately of recent collections by Garry Disher and Nick Earls. There seem to be a few basic starting off points, the most notable being in the delineation of defensiveness and insecurities that give the male characters, who are often the narrators, a sensitive but decidedly uptight response to, well, almost everything. Women, parents, children (their own), and particularly the drab world that has snuffed out some early spark of liveliness or vitality (which is usually rubbed for sympathetic magic in moments of nostalgic recall).

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