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Paper lives

Adroit summaries of twenty-two writers
by
May 2010, no. 321

Creative Lives: Personal papers of Australian writers and artists by Penelope Hanley

National Library of Australia, $39.95 pb, 204 pp

Paper lives

Adroit summaries of twenty-two writers
by
May 2010, no. 321

Creative Lives presents short biographical essays on twenty-two Australian writers (two of whom are also notable artists); but it is just as much a book about the value and purpose of the National Library of Australia’s Manuscripts Collection. Ironically, the book offers little documentation of the process by which it came to be written. Hanley does tell us, however, that she ‘was asked to write a book on twenty of the writers whose papers are held in the Manuscripts Collection’ and eventually chose twenty-two.

What an interesting string of choices. The National Library’s strategy to promote its collections through publishing projects; the selection of a topic, and a number, for this particular project; the choice of Hanley as the writer; Hanley’s selection of writers to write about, and of specific incidents and documents; and behind all this, the National Library’s collection building, not least the key decisions articulated in its Manuscripts Collection Policy, which prioritises ‘documents that have definite research or exhibition value’, ‘individuals or families ... of national standing and influence’, and ‘organisations ... with broad functions, activities and influence’.

Ian Morrison reviews 'Creative Lives: Personal papers of Australian writers and artists' by Penelope Hanley

Creative Lives: Personal papers of Australian writers and artists

by Penelope Hanley

National Library of Australia, $39.95 pb, 204 pp

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