The White Queen: One Nation and the politics of race (Quarterly Essay 65)
Black Inc., $22.99 pb, 139 pp, 9781863959070
David Marr’s interlocking identities as consummate essayist, journalist of forty-five years, ferocious biographer, and staunch cosmopolitan increasingly eclipse his subject. He wears the condition honestly and inelegantly. ‘I’m a grumpy old guy who hasn’t found in twenty years another big life worth writing’, he remarked in his 2016 Seymour Biography Lecture. Instead, ‘I write little lives these days, of priests and politicians.’ After his magnum opus, Patrick White: A life (1991), Marr adapted his biographical skill to mapping the littleness of a powerful few – each in the brevity of a Quarterly Essay. Pauline Hanson is his latest ‘little life’. In The White Queen: One Nation and the politics of race, the two themes of his oeuvre – frustrated biographer of an ex parte national life and forensic reporter of political controversy – entwine as he sets out to prove that Australia is better than our irrepressible white queen.