Biography

Neal Blewett reviews 'A Thinking Reed' by Barry Jones

Neal Blewett
Thursday, 08 August 2019

Gough Whitlam is idolised, Bob Hawke respected, and Paul Keating admired, but Barry Jones is undoubtedly the most loved by the Labor party rank and file, a lovability which puzzled many of his colleagues in the Hawke government (1983–91). Insofar as they recognised it, they qualified it – labelling him ‘a loveable eccentric’ – a characterisation of ...

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I came to this book after reading Don Watson’s biography of Paul Keating. On the cover of Recollections of a Bleeding Heart, Keating is seen through a window frame, head bent, reading engrossedly, shirt sleeves rolled up – a remote and distant figure. He is seemingly careless of the attention of his photographer, and biographer; a recalcitrant subject ...

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Richard Freadman reviews 'Rose Boys' by Peter Rose

Richard Freadman
Wednesday, 07 August 2019

In February 1974, Robert Rose, a twenty-two-year-old Australian Rules footballer and Victorian state cricketer, was involved in a car accident that left him quadriplegic for the remaining twenty-five years of his life. The tragedy received extensive press coverage and struck a chord with many in and beyond the Melbourne sporting community ...

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Peter Steele reviews 'East of Time' by Jacob G. Rosenberg

Peter Steele
Tuesday, 06 August 2019

Most of a lifetime ago, I read of an exhibit at the Bell Telephone headquarters. It consisted of a box from which, at the turning of a switch, a hand emerged. The hand turned off the switch and returned to its box. If this struck me as sinister, it was because the gambit seemed emblematic of human perversity – of a proneness to self-annulment ...

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One of the risks in writing about the history of Australia in world affairs is the ease with which ideas and visions can be flattened.  If you start from the premise of Australia’s small-to-middle-power standing and diminished agency among other nations, you might conclude that ideas mattered less than adroit lobbying and alliances ...

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Though he had already produced two volumes of poetry, Roger McDonald first came to popular attention with his spectacular début novel, 1915, published in 1979. A recreation of the Gallipoli Campaign from the points of view of two ...

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Rupert Murdoch certainly attracts a good class of biographer. There was George Munster, who contributed so much to Australian politics and culture by helping to establish and edit Nation, and William Shawcross, one of Britain’s most prominent journalists. There were other biographies, too, before the efforts of Bruce Page ...

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Biography can be difficult to achieve. There is the balance between too much detail, where one can’t see the wood for the family trees, or not enough, which can be disappointing all round. One also bears in mind possible antipathy: Sigmund Freud, who famously began burning his personal papers at twenty-nine, was dismissive of future chroniclers: ‘As for biographers, I am already looking forward to seeing them go astray.’

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People spent a lot of time looking for the pioneering aviator Charles Kingsford Smith. When he disappeared for the final time in 1935 just south of Myanmar, then known as Burma, he was just thirty-eight but felt ancient. Hopeful rescuers came from far and wide, but their efforts were not rewarded ...

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My favourite image from Stanley Corngold’s Walter Kaufmann: Philosopher, humanist, heretic is set in Berlin as World War II concludes. Young Walter Kaufmann, a German Jew forced to flee the National Socialist regime to the United States, has returned to his native land as part of the occupying forces ...

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