Biography and Memoirs

Gillian Dooley on 'J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing'

Gillian Dooley
07 January 2013

When I heard that someone was writing Coetzee’s biography, I thought he must be either brave or foolish. After all, Coetzee’s own approach to autobiography is slippery, to say the least. J.C. Kannemeyer was (he died suddenly on Christmas Day 2011) a South African professor of Afrikaans and Dutch, a veteran biographer, and a literary historian. Coetzee co-operate ... More

William Christie on the new biography of John Keats

William Christie
28 November 2012

At Rome, aged 25, Mr. John Keats, author of a volume of beautiful poetry’, recorded the Liverpool Mercury of 30 March 1821 amongst its death notices, in what is arguably the earliest and shortest of a never-ending stream of interpretative biographies, of which this excellent one from Nicholas Roe is the latest: more than 400 pages and as many – or as few ... More

Alison Broinowski reviews 'The Waterlow Killings'

Alison Broinowski
28 November 2012

To hear that Pamela Burton was writing about the deaths of Nick Waterlow, the prominent gallery director and exhibition curator, and his daughter Chloe, came as a surprise. Anthony Waterlow, Nick’s son and Chloe’s older brother, killed them both in Chloe’s Clovelly house, where he had been invited for dinner, and then, with the same knife, attacked her two-yea ... More

Chris Wallace-Crabbe on the new biography of Davis McCaughey

Chris Wallace-Crabbe
28 November 2012

State governors hold a curious role across Australia, one that will be called into question when – one of these fine days, but none too soon – our nation becomes a republic. There will be lots of fine-tuning to be done before that, from the roles of Her Majesty’s representatives here all the way down to Royal Park, Royal Melbourne Golf Club, and the RACV. But ... More

David McCooey reviews the new biography of Leonard Cohen

David McCooey
28 November 2012

One day in 1984, Leonard Cohen played his latest album to Walter Yetnikoff, the head of the music division of Cohen’s record label, Columbia. Yetnikoff listened to the album, and then said, ‘Leonard, we know you’re great, we just don’t know if you are any good.’ Columbia subsequently decided against releasing the album, Various Positions (1985), in ... More

Sally Burton on 'The Remarkable Life of Julia Child'

Sally Burton
28 November 2012

One day as I was reviewing this book in London, I happened to turn on the television, only to discover that BBC One now features three hours of cooking programs on Saturday mornings – very appropriate when one is reading a biography of the woman who changed American eating habits. When you are not watching the likes of Michel Roux demonstrating how quickly he can ... More

Brian Matthews reviews 'On Warne'

Brian Matthews
27 November 2012

In his The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling (1995), Peter Philpott remarks: ‘If there is one factor in spin bowling which all spinners should accept … it is the concept that the ball should be spun hard. Not rolled, not gently turned, but flicked, ripped, fizzed.’ Richie Benaud agrees: ‘Spin it fiercely. Spin it hard.’ The intensity of the grip that produc ... More

Kári Gíslason on the new biography of Strindberg

Kári Gíslason
27 November 2012

One way of classifying biographies is to divide them into those that apply their own interpretative framework – be it psychoanalytic, gender-based, socio-historical, and so on – to a given subject and those that aim to meet the subject, on their own terms, or at least in terms that the subject would recognise. There are good and bad things to say about both appr ... More

Joel Deane reviews James Button's 'Speechless'

Joel Deane
28 October 2012

In 2008 I was asked to write speeches for then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It was a tempting offer. The trouble was that I would be based in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), not the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and would work as a public servant, not a political staffer. Having worked as both a public servant and a political staffer, I bel ... More

Brigitta Olubas reviews 'Broomstick: Personal Reflections of Leonie Kramer'

Brigitta Olubas
25 October 2012

Broomstick: Personal Reflections of Leonie Kramer has been some years in the writing, and is published now only with the assistance of Leonie Kramer’s friends, former colleagues, and daughters, with the delay ultimately due, the Preface informs us, to the progression of the author’s dementia. As the memoir of a very public figure whose name and decisive a ... More

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