Biography and Memoirs

The LRB of life writing

Ann-Marie Priest
26 May 2014
Anne-Marie Priest finds much to enjoy in LRB's new anthology of life writing (Hilary Mantel, Andrew O'Hagan et al.), but wonders about the elastic definition of what constitutes a memoir. More

Neal Blewett reviews 'Diary of A Foreign Minister' by Bob Carr

Neal Blewett
26 May 2014

‘Dear Dr Blewett, I am writing to you ... concerning your intention to publish the diary you kept during the first Keating Government ... Whether any legal action, criminal or civil, is More

The new biography of Jonathan Swift

Robert Phiddian
30 April 2014

Twelve years after Swift’s death, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu showed a visitor to her house in Venice a commode lined with books by Pope, Bolingbroke, and Swift. This, she explained, ‘gave her the satisfaction of shitting on them every day’. We still don’t know exactly what it was that caused her to fall out with Swift, Pope, and their friends in the 1720s, bu ... More

The love song of Henry and Olga

Ann-Marie Priest
28 April 2014

On an early spring evening in 1919, in a nearly empty cinema in the English seaside town of Lyme Regis, a slight, dark-haired figure slipped into a seat at the farthest edge of a row. From here, she would have a clear view of the profile of the youthful pianist who, sheltered behind a screen, accompanied the silent film. In white tie and tails, with her fair hair sl ... More

Shannon Burns reviews a new biography of Kafka

Shannon Burns
28 March 2014

Franz Kafka lived in Prague in the early part of the twentieth century, during a period of considerable turmoil. Before succumbing to laryngeal tuberculosis aged forty, he witnessed the disintegration of an empire and the subsequent formation of a republic. Kafka also endured the administrative and domestic realities of a world war and was among millions of European ... More

Doris Brett's memoir 'The Twelfth Raven'

Rachel Robertson
28 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. But what is it about illness in particular that invit ... More

Paul Vallely on Pope Francis

Michael McGirr
27 March 2014

I have never met a pope, but I have sometimes felt their shadow. In 1981, at the tender age of nineteen, I was a novice in the Jesuit order. We lived in a vast establishment in Sydney: the community included naïve youngsters such as myself, wily old retired Jesuits, as well as representatives of every age group in between. It was quite a fun place to live. One day, ... More

Edmund White revisits Paris in his new memoir

Dennis Altman
26 March 2014

All writers mine their lives, some most clearly through combining the autobiographical and the fictional, so that, as with Christopher Isherwood, their works become a mixture of the self-revelatory and observations of the worlds in which they have lived. In more recent times, no one has more closely followed Isherwood than Edmund White, now the author of more than t ... More

Rachel Robertson reviews 'The Twelfth Raven' by Doris Brett

Rachel Robertson
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 More

Penelope Fitzgerald’s Secret River of Creativity

Brenda Niall
26 February 2014

Award-winning biographer Brenda Niall welcomes the first biography of Penelope Fitzgerald by superlative British biographer Hermione Lee, and is fascinated by the great novelist’s secret river of creativity.

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