Patricia Anderson

The opening chapter of Robert Hughes’s memoir, Things I Didn’t Know (2006), may have persuaded readers that Australians are a mercenary, uncouth and ungrateful lot who love nothing more than a glistening athlete on a podium. Hughes had reason to be sensitive at this time, having eluded the ‘feather-foot’ on that desolate Western Australian highway in May 1999 and endured the trials that followed. He names two writers, Peter Craven and Catharine Lumby, who have stood by him, whereas others, he says, have sought to further their careers by denouncing him. To the former small but faithful posse can be added Patricia Anderson, who defies that great Australian tradition of ‘cutting down the tall poppy’ to celebrate Hughes’s achievements in this biography of his ‘Australian years’: from Hughes’s birth in 1938 until 1970, when Time magazine afforded him the opportunity at last to leave our shores.

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We’ve been hectored by Miss Greer and savaged by Mr Hughes, but, like Goldilocks with the three bears’ bowls of porridge, Mr Conrad loves us just right. His book At Home in Australia is a collaboration between the National Gallery of Australia and Thames & Hudson, and more particularly between himself and Gael Newton, the gallery’s Senior Curator of Photography, who rang him in London with an invitation to write a book about the gallery’s photography collection.

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