Jeff: The rise and fall of a political phenomenon
Viking, $45 hb, 471 pp
Political biographies are renowned as being notoriously difficult to write. Given the peculiar role of authorisation this is not surprising. The ‘authorisation’ – the act of writing – of a political biography is diminished and crowded out by a subject who not only defines the work’s content, but can literally refuse to authorise the text. In this context, Tony Parkinson’s biography of Jeff Kennett, Jeff: The rise and fall of a political phenomenon, runs up against a subject who is particularly adept at controlling the manufacture of his personal and public self. Parkinson’s biography is unauthorised, but has survived its subject’s scrutiny.