Memoir

Hilary McPhee reviews 'Eat First, Talk Later' by Beth Yahp

Hilary McPhee
Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Beth Yahp's beautifully crafted memoir of her ancestors, her parents, and herself is shaped around journeys criss-crossing the Malay Peninsula where her Siamese-speaking Eurasian mother and her Hakka Chinese father met and married in 1961. A photograph seems to have triggered the project – perhaps the lovely sepia cover shot of her parents on their honeymoon, sitt ...

Brian Matthews reviews 'Island Home' by Tim Winton

Brian Matthews
Monday, 26 October 2015

Tim Winton's island home seethes and rings, whispers and beckons with sheer life. It tantalises through shreds of memories and phantom histories turned to stone or engraved in ocean-scored rocks and remote caves. Like William Blake's 'green and pleasant land', it is compromised but offers 'a World in a grain of sand / And a Heaven in a wild flower'. His isle, like P ...

Bernadette Brennan reviews 'Second Half First' by Drusilla Modjeska

Bernadette Brennan
Monday, 26 October 2015

Twenty-five years ago, Drusilla Modjeska's Poppy reimagined boldly the possibilities for Australian memoir. Modjeska recounts in her new memoir, Second Half First, how in her inaugural appearance at a writers' festival she was on a panel discussing autobiography with two established British writers, Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion. Poppy ...

Narrators in Gerald Murnane’s novels and stories have occasionally scorned autobiography. Near the beginning of A Million Windows (2014), for example, we find: ‘Today, I understand that so-called autobiography is only one of the least worthy varieties of ficti ...

The age of apex narcissism has opened the publishing floodgates to myopic and often unnecessary confessionals, personal tales of shame and struggle that, in the past, would more likely have been recounted to a priest or therapist. The memoir genre is at its peak, and the descent may be swift and brutal.

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Joseph Rubbo reviews 'Lion Attack!' by Oliver Mol

Joseph Rubbo
Friday, 31 July 2015

Oliver Mol’s début memoir, Lion Attack!, began as an online series titled ‘34 Memories of Growing Up in Texas’. As he relates in the foreword, he wrote these pieces of ‘sudden memoir’ on consecutive days and then uploaded them straight to Facebook. It was only when the series was completed and collated that Mol thought he might have somethin ...

Rachel Robertson reviews 'The Twelfth Raven' by Doris Brett

Rachel Robertson
Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Why does illness create such a marked need for story? Why do we want to read about other people’s illnesses and talk or write about our own? At the most basic level, it is surely because human beings always need stories. Indeed, neuroscientists believe that narrative consciousness is hard-wired into our brains ...

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Italo Calvino once observed that the ideal condition for a writer is ‘close to anonymity’, adding that ‘the more the author’s figure invades the field, the more the world he portrays empties’. These comments about anonymity were made during an interview on Swiss television, no less. Calvino must have felt his imaginary worlds slipping away as he spoke ...

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Bernadette Brennan reviews 'Wild Card' by Dorothy Hewett

Bernadette Brennan
Thursday, 30 August 2012

Dorothy Hewett’s Wild Card: An Autobiography 1923–1958 was first published by McPhee Gribble in 1990. Now, a decade after Hewett’s death, UWA Publishing has reissued this extraordinary autobiography in a beautifully packaged, reader-friendly format. Reviewing Wild Card for ABR in October 1990, Chris Wallace-Crabbe drew attention to H ...

The autobiography, that seemingly inevitable act of self-revelation, is frequently a work tricked out with very little art. For the novelist, unlike the anecdote-disposing musician or painter, the problem is doubled: they are making a home with the same tools. Rare is the autobiography that, like Nabokov’s Speak, Memory (1951) or Martin Amis’s Experience (2001), speaks in ...