What we know and how we think and feel are socially and thus historically conditioned. But it can also be geographically conditioned. ‘Australia’, as Mrs Golson remarks in The Twyborn Affair, ‘may not be for everyone ... For some it is their fate, however.’ Our subject is Patrick White and criticism of his work in Australia and my argument is that ours is a culture in general, and a literary culture in particular, with an indifference to and perhaps fear of hermeneutics, which George Steiner glosses as some ‘essential answerability’ implicit in the act of reading over and above understanding or – Leavis preserve us! – evaluation.... (read more)
In the early 1970s, Patrick White began to achieve a new public identity. His support for the fight to save Centennial Park from Olympic developers, his endorsement of the Whitlam government, and, of course, his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973 transformed a writer aiming ‘to people the Australian emptiness in the only way I am able’ into a personality able to persuade (and irritate) merely by his presence. The outsider suddenly became an insider – in 1973 he was ‘unanimously chosen’ as Australian of the Year – and, to his mingled dismay and delight, he discovered that Australia was already peopled.... (read more)
Publishers are like invisible ink. Their imprint is in the mysterious appearance of books on shelves. This explains their obsession with crime novels.
To some authors they appear as good fairies, to others the Brothers Grimm. Publishers can be blamed for pages that fall out (Look ma, a self-exploding paperback!), for a book’s non-appearance at a country town called Ulmere. For appearing too early or too late for review. For a book being reviewed badly, and thus its non-appearance – in shops, newspapers and prized shortlistings.
As an author, it’s good therapy to blame someone and there’s nothing more cleansing than to blame a publisher. I know, because I’ve done it myself. A literary absolution feels good the whole day through.... (read more)
I met Patrick White first in 1965. Reduced to 1.9s.6d, he was lying, in an American edition of Riders in the Chariot, on a sale table at Finney Isles department store in Brisbane. So much has changed. Today, we would talk of remainders; the shop has been taken over by David Jones which has in turn been taken over by Adelaide Steamship which later bought up Grace Bros; prices are now given in dollar and cents.... (read more)
Writing to Geoffrey Dutton in 1969, Patrick White confesses: ‘All my life I have been rather bored, and I suppose in desperation I have been inclined to weave these fantasies in which I become more “involved”. Ignoble, au fond, but there have been a few results.’... (read more)
Like every one of his previous novels, Patrick White’s latest work is both utterly characteristic and completely unpredictable. With the third line, we know we are in for another of White’s dissections of human behavior. ‘“Bit rough, isn’t it?” her chauffeur ventured.’ The verb almost parodies White’s careful placing of human acts any other writer would – perhaps rightly – consider insignificant. It is also characteristic of his more recent novels that the first people we meet are peripheral, people who serve both to comment on the action and to offer a commentary just by their presence. They are the reverse of the chorus of a Greek tragedy in that they are the problem to which the central characters address themselves rather than the passive victims of this address.... (read more)
Our new Laureate. Australian Book Review is thrilled to name Robyn Archer as our new Laureate. She joins David Malouf, who became the inaugural Laureate in 2014. Robyn Archer is ...... (read more)
‘Down at the Dump’ is the final story in Patrick White’s 1964 collection, The Burnt Ones. It begins with a colloquial ‘Hi!’, marooned on the story’s first line, and ends with a short, unpunctuated paragraph, intensely poetic, that recalls James Joyce at his least opaque: ‘The warm core of certainty settled stiller as driving faster the wi ...
Andrew Fuhrmann’s acclaimed Fellowship essay on the theatre of Patrick White closely examines these brilliant, problematic plays and draws on interview material with key directors closely associated with White.... (read more)
With the centenary of Patrick White’s birth being celebrated this year, it seems appropriate to highlight the great legacy that White left Australian writers in the form of the Patrick White Literary Award. On 16 November, the 2012 Award was presented to novelist, short story writer, and essayist Amanda Lohrey, the thirty-ninth winner since the Award was first pre ...