The American novelist Richard Yates once remarked to an interviewer that he had the misfortune of having written his best book first. He might have found an ally in Donald Horne, whose first book, The Lucky Country, is perhaps the most widely read piece of social criticism ever written by an Australian. Published in 1964, its famous and often misinterpreted title entered the Australian lexicon and outlived its creator. Its central argument – that Australia’s prosperity was the result of luck rather than good leadership – is a curse that continues to plague the nation’s unimaginative political class. The book’s success haunted the public career and legacy of its author. Though he was, among other things, a journalist, editor, social critic, novelist, academic, polemicist, and self-styled ‘public waffler’, in public memory, he remains Donald Horne, author of The Lucky Country.
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