Robert Hughes

Iron in the Blood is jazz musician Jeremy Rose's ambitious and heartfelt tribute to Robert Hughes's The Fatal Shore (1986). Although some academic historians may demur ...

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When Gore Vidal died a few weeks ago, his publisher issued a statement calling him the last survivor of a postwar crop of American literary giants. ‘It is hard to think of another … who cut as dashing and visible a figure in various public realms,’ said Vidal’s Doubleday editor, Gerald Howard. Less than a week later the obituary columns were taken over by just such another figure – except that Robert Hughes was an Australian. Malcolm Turnbull made a pronouncement on the floor of the Australian parliament: ‘This titan of arts and letters will never leave us.’

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Rome by Robert Hughes

by
September 2011, no. 334

There are two sorts of carelessness that a reviewer of history books will regularly see. The first is a minor marring of virtue: a small blot on a show of swashbuckling confidence and command over grand themes, a lack of care for what lesser men may think, arrogance even ...

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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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