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Tony Moore

Tony Moore’s engaging account of Australian bohemians begins with Marcus Clarke and takes us through to Julian Assange. Along the way we encounter Australian bohemia in its diverse expressions, from the art of the Heidelberg School, writing of the Bulletin, high jinks of 1920s Sydney bohemia to the Sydney Push, Melbourne Drift, 1960s counterculture (in both its local and London expatriate manifestations), cultured larrikins of 1970s ‘new nationalism’, punk, post-punk, and much else. Here is the historian as impresario, assembling an extraordinary cast across 150 years of Australian cultural history. To bring them all together without producing an inedible stew is a major achievement in itself.

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On the shelves of Australia’s bookshops colonial history follows military history in popularity, though a distant second. While, say, Allen & Unwin has made brave efforts with a succession of books about the convict period – Hamish Maxwell-Stewart’s Closing Hell’s Gates (2008), Babette Smith’s Australia’s Birthstain (2008) or Grace Karskens’s The Colony (2009) – not one (not even Thomas Keneally with his Australians: Origins to Eureka, 2009) has sold as well as Robert Hughes’s The Fatal Shore (1987). Hughes spoiled the Bicentennial celebrations for a generation of scholars, piqued at such a sensational popular book, one that outsold their academic books combined.

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