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  • Biography and Memoirs

    Bernadette Brennan reviews 'One Life' by Kate Grenville

    Bernadette Brennan
    Thursday, 26 March 2015

    Kate Grenville’s mother, Nance Gee (née Russell), was an extraordinarily resourceful, resilient, and interesting woman. Born in 1912 to ill-matched, working-class parents and surviving a childhood lacking in stability and opportunity, she went on to become an inspirational mother, businesswoman, and teacher. Some years after her death in 2002, Grenville began sor ...

    Philippa Hawker reviews 'John Wayne' by Scott Eyman

    Philippa Hawker
    Thursday, 26 March 2015

    ‘I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne. I know him well. I’m one of his closest students. I have to be. I make a living out of him.’ In Scott Eyman’s biography John Wayne: The Life and Legend, these words, uttered by ‘Duke Morrison, aka John Wayne’, serve as an epigraph. They are a curious mixtur ...

    Tim Colebatch reviews 'Paul Keating' by David Day

    Tim Colebatch
    Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Paul Keating has an enduring allure. He has been out of politics since 1996, yet in the past year or so we have seen the ABC screen an unprecedented series of four one-hour interviews with him by an unusually respectful Kerry O’Brien; a book of his sayings still sells well, his speeches and pronouncements receive wide publicity, and now historian David Day has giv ...

    Ian Britain reviews 'Bill' by Scott Bevan

    Ian Britain
    Monday, 02 March 2015

    ‘He was a great bloke, a gentleman and a scholar,’ one of Scott Bevan’s interviewees says of his subject, the fêted and (at one stage) ill-fated painter, William Dobell. Like many others in the book, this interviewee got to know Dobell at Wangi Wangi, the little coastal township just south of Newcastle in New South Wales where the painter retreated for the la ...

    Patrick McCaughey reviews 'John Olsen' by Darleen Bungey

    Patrick McCaughey
    Monday, 02 March 2015

    Eight years ago Darleen Bungey published a revelatory biography of Arthur Boyd. She cast shadows across the ‘idyllic’ Open Country years where the extended Boyd family lived in suburban Murrumbeena and unflinchingly detailed his declining, alcoholic years at Bundanon. Bungey’s compelling new biography of John Olsen has its share of revelations. Olsen’s weak ...

    Chris Wallace-Crabbe reviews 'Dylan Thomas' by William Christie

    Chris Wallace-Crabbe
    Monday, 02 March 2015

    The legendary Dylan has now been dead for a century and his fumy glitter has probably faded a little. But then, how far do any poets these days really have glamour to show for themselves, no matter how hard they drink? Very few, in the Anglophone world at least: there’s nobody around like Wales’s roaring boy.

    ...

    Patrick Allington reviews 'The Writing Life' by David Malouf

    Patrick Allington
    Thursday, 26 February 2015

    In appraising the poet Peter Porter, David Malouf writes that ‘the world we inhabit is a vast museum – call it History, or Art, or the History of Art. For Porter, the exhibits were still alive and active.’ So it is with Malouf himself: his world includes Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the awful and bloody twentieth century, a Brisba ...

    Paul Brunton reviews 'A Forger's Progress' by Alasdair McGregor

    Paul Brunton
    Thursday, 26 February 2015

    The twenty or so elegant Georgian buildings designed by Francis Greenway that stand in Sydney today are a civilising presence. Yet these represent less than a quarter of his output. The destruction has been wanton and impoverishing.

    Greenway was born in November 1777, near Bristol. His ...

    Valerie Lawson reviews 'Beyond Black and White' by Roger Woodward

    Valerie Lawson
    Thursday, 26 February 2015

    There are two Roger Woodwards in Beyond Black and White. One vividly brings to life his early years as an imaginative and highly talented boy whose future was determined when, at the age of seven, he first heard the music of Bach. The second presents the adult Woodward, whose memoirs relate in punctilious detail his fifty-year career as an acclaimed pianist.< ...

    At the age of eight I wanted to be a novelist. By the age of eighteen, having fallen in love with an intellectual, I aspired to be a novelist with sturdy intellectual credentials. ... (read more)