Brian Matthews reviews 'Frank Lowy' by Jill Margo

Brian Matthews reviews 'Frank Lowy' by Jill Margo

Frank Lowy: A Second Life

by Jill Margo

HarperCollins, $49.95 hb, 526 pp, 9780732287788

'Let us now praise famous men / ... men renowned for their power ... / Leaders of the people by their counsels ... wise and eloquent / ... Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations ...'

These aspirations, from Apocrypha: Sirach 44, pose some problems for a biographer. The famous, the powerful, the leaders, the wise and eloquent, the rich and able would all seem to be among the proper and the more obvious and manageable subjects of biography. But this is, of course, a delusion. Success and wealth breed ego, and egos often crave cosseting and recognition. With the best will in the world, biographers praising 'famous men' are haunted by the spectre of hagiography.

In Frank Lowy: A Second Life, Jill Margo has certainly faced this challenge. Frank Lowy is unquestionably famous, rich, has been an outstanding leader in several spheres of endeavour, has often been a wise counsellor, and, without being egotistical, has a sturdy faith in his own abilities, influence, and presence.

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Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the author of short stories, essays, and biographies. He was a weekly columnist for the Weekend Australian Magazine (1997–2001) and has been a monthly columnist for Eureka Street since 1997. 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.

Published in December 2015, no. 377

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