Frank Hardy and the Literature of Commitment
Vulgar Press, $39.95 pb, 296 pp
The title, cover and blurb of this collection of essays, articles and interviews promote it as a sequel to editor Paul Adams’s literary biography of Frank Hardy, The Stranger from Melbourne (2000). The invocation of the iconic writer, communist and media personality’s formidable reputation should ensure reasonable sales, but it is to the detriment of the book’s internal logic and thrust that Adams and his co-editor, Christopher Lee, underplay the contribution of other communist writers of his era. Several chapters in the book do focus on the work of Jean Devanny, Dorothy Hewett, Katharine Susannah Prichard and Ruth Park, but (in a manner similar to how their works were dismissed in their own time) the prioritisation of Hardy as the definitive communist writer ensures that they play second fiddle.
Beginning with a transcript of Tony Morphett’s interview with Hardy in a 1967 edition of ABC’s Spectrum, this bias is clearly evident. Interesting though this interview is, it does little to prepare the reader for the sudden swing into the more demanding arena of politico-literary theory with Allan Gardiner’s dense chapter, ‘Frank Hardy and Communist Cultural Institutions’. The contrast is extreme and almost seems calculated to put off the mildly interested reader.