Nearly seven years ago, David Lodge had the bad luck to collide with Colm Tóibín when both writers produced a novel about Henry James. Tóibín was the first to publish; his work The Master (2004) won high praise and a Booker Prize nomination. Lodge’s Author, Author (2004), trailing six months behind, suffered in the inevitable comparisons. There had been plenty of excitement about the idea of using the novel form to tell the story of this famous life, but little was left for Lodge’s enterprise. Tóibín had used up most of the oxygen. If the order of publication had been reversed, it might have been different.
Brenda Niall’s writing career began during her time as an academic at Monash University, where she was Reader in the Department of English. Since 1995 she has been writing full time. Her books include award-winning biographies Martin Boyd: A Life (1988), Georgiana (1995), The Boyds (2002), Judy Cassab (2005), and a memoir, Life Class (2007). Her book The Riddle of Father Hackett was shortlisted for the 2010 Magarey Medal for Biography. She is a frequent reviewer for The Age and ABR, and has been a guest at the Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Byron Bay literary festivals. In 2004 she was awarded an AO for services to Australian Literature. Her most recent books are Can You Hear the Sea? My grandmother's story (2018) and Friends and Rivals: Ethel Turner, Barbara Baynton, Henry Handel Richardson and Nettie Palmer (2020).
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November 2001, no. 236
A Steady Storm of Correspondence: Selected Letters of Gwen Harwood 1943–1995 by Gregory Kratzmann