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Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews (1936–2022) was the author of short stories, essays, and biographies. His memoir A Fine and Private Place (2000) won the inaugural Queensland Premier’s Award for non-fiction and his Manning Clark: A Life (2008) won the National Biography Award in 2010.

Brian Matthews reviews 'Cutting Green Hay: Friendships, movements and cultural conflicts in Australia's great decades' by Vincent Buckley

August 1983, no. 53 01 August 1983
On his first day at St Patrick’s, East Melbourne, Vincent Buckley was ‘flogged and flogged’ by a Jesuit priest in ‘an incompetent fury’. It is an experience that many of his readers will easily recognise, though their remembered lambastings were more likely to have been incurred at the hands of the Brothers and, unlike Buckley’s, would have been a continuing feature of school life. It ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'West Island: Five twentieth-century New Zealanders in Australia' by Stephanie Johnson

December 2019, no. 417 25 November 2019
Australians and New Zealanders know it as the Tasman Sea or more familiarly The Ditch: for Māori, Te Tai o-Rēhua. Significant islands in this stretch of water are Lord Howe and Norfolk. As seen from New Zealand, the island most Australians probably don’t know offhand and, when they are told about it, might feel inclined to reject its name as, well, cheeky: it’s West Island – Australia in s ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Gould’s Book of Fish: A novel in twelve fish' by Richard Flanagan

October 2001, no. 235 01 October 2001
‘ … these days I am no longer sure what is memory and what is revelation. How faithful the story you are about to read is to the original is a bone of contention with the few people I had allowed to read the original Book of Fish … certainly, the book you will read is the same as the book I remember reading, and I have tried to be true both to the wonder of that reading and to the extraord ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Half the Perfect World: Writers, dreamers and drifters on Hydra, 1955–1964' by Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell

November 2018, no. 406 25 October 2018
In August 1964, Charmian Clift returned to Australia from the Greek island of Hydra after nearly fourteen years abroad. As Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell portray her return – a description based, as always in this book, on solid or at least reasonably persuasive evidence – she ‘was leaving her beloved Hydra forever, with the pain of her departure sharpened by the sting of humiliation and exi ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Antipodean Perspective: Selected Writings of Bernard Smith' edited by Rex Butler and Sheridan Palmer

October 2018, no. 405 26 September 2018
The editors begin their introduction to Antipodean Perspective with some ground clearing: ‘The putting together of a series of responses to an important scholar’s work is a classic academic exercise. It is undoubtedly a worthy, but also necessarily a selective undertaking. In German it is called a Festschrift …’ The Festschrift continues to be, in academic circles especially, a way of hono ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'A Stolen Season' by Rodney Hall

April 2018, no. 400 26 March 2018
‘We are the inheritors of a world we need to remake for ourselves.’Rodney Hall, The Island in the Mind (1996) Of the now twelve novels that make up Rodney Hall’s distinguished prose fiction – ranging from The Ship on the Coin (1972) to this year’s A Stolen Season – it is arguably in the latter that the task of remaking is most explicitly and adventurously undertaken, even literally in ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'A Sea-Chase' by Roger McDonald

November 2017, no. 396 25 October 2017
As Ratty observed to Mole, ‘There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’ In Roger McDonald’s A Sea-Chase, lovers Wes Bannister and Judy Compton would certainly agree, but before they achieve Ratty’s state of nautical transcendence much that does matter has to be dealt with. Having survived the last, tumultuous period on Friday aft ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'A Führer for a Father: The domestic face of colonialism' by Jim Davidson

September 2017, no. 394 30 August 2017
When some years ago I read Jim Davidson’s outstanding biography, Lyrebird Rising (1994), I was initially concerned by what seemed to be his potentially distorting fascination with the scene-stealing Louise Hanson-Dyer. But I soon discovered I needn’t have worried. Jim Davidson is not the sort of biographer whose obsession with his subject overcomes proportion. On the contrary, his sense of hum ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'The Tournament' by John Clarke

February 2003, no. 248 01 February 2003
‘Paris has gone crazy.’ There are people everywhere; ‘players and officials have been arriving like migrating birds’. The German team – including Hermann Hesse, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Gropius,Thomas Mann, Martin Heidegger – have already arrived, but their officials will permit no interviews. The Americans, amongst whom are Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Isadora ... (read more)

Brian Matthews reviews 'Dymphna' by Judith Armstrong

March 2017, no. 389 24 February 2017
In the summer of 1988 I was part of an Adelaide Writers Week symposium on biography, the stars of which were two justly famous and accomplished biographers – Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion.  I described that occasion at the time, like this: I greatly admired Motion’s panache. As we ascended the podium to begin the session in front of a huge crowd of biography buffs, he was heard to ... (read more)
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