Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Mick' by Suzanne Falkiner

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Mick' by Suzanne Falkiner

Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow

by Suzanne Falkiner

UWA Publishing, $50 hb, 896 pp, 9781742586601

Late in 1998, the Times Literary Supplement, as was its wont, sent Randolph 'Mick' Stow a book for review. It was Xavier Herbert: A Biography (1998) by Francis de Groen, and Stow accepted the commission with enthusiasm. 'What a ghastly, embarrassing old pillock,' he wrote to his lifelong friend Bill Grono. 'Well, you'll soon read my opinion of him.' Stow's review tells a personal story of an encounter with Herbert at a 1963 supper party in Perth, and concludes that he liked Herbert even less by the end of the book than he did when he began it.

This story, recounted with a biographer's relish by Suzanne Falkiner near the end of her massive and admirable book, brings up questions about the reviewing of a literary biography. This task should be relatively straightforward: it should consider what research the biographer has done, what truths she or he has uncovered, what quality of analysis is brought to the assembled facts, how good the writing is, what contribution the book makes to literary scholarship, and whether it is, as we say in the reviewing trade, a Good Read.

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Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy won the 2013 Pascall Prize for cultural criticism, and the 2017 Horne Prize for her essay ‘The Limit of the World’. A former Editor of ABR (1986–87), she is one of Australia’s most prolific and respected literary critics. Her publications include several anthologies, a critical study of Helen Garner, and her book Adelaide, which was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. In November 2012 she was named as the inaugural ABR Ian Potter Foundation Fellow. Her Fellowship article on reviewing, ‘Everyone’s a Critic’, appeared in the May 2013 issue of ABR.

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Published in March 2016, no. 379

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