Biography and Memoirs

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.

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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)

'An die Nachgeborenen: For those who come after'

Elisabeth Holdsworth
Wednesday, 07 January 2015

‘Welcome to the Netherlands!’ the sign says in Dutch and English. The Schipol customs official inspects my Australian passport. ‘Nederlands geboren,’ he sniffs. ‘Zo je komt terug.’ So you’ve come back, he adds, in a tone suggesting that I might have left something behind minutes ago, rather ...

David Harper reviews 'Murray Gleeson' by Michael Pelly

David Harper
Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Although a few can pull it off, most judges have the good sense not to attempt an autobiography. Judges’ personalities are not usually of such outstanding interest, andtheir lives generally do not so engage with the world, as to generate the stuff from which autobiographies worth publishing are made. The reserve which thejudicial experience inculcates, and the gen ...

Dorothy Driver reviews 'Divided Lives' by Lyndall Gordon

Dorothy Driver
Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Two thirds of the way into Lyndall Gordon’s part memoir, part maternal biography, there is an episode of profound risk to the self. At the age of twenty-four, having recently moved from Cape Town to New York, Gordon is being treated for post-partum depression. This is 1966. Electro-convulsive therapy seems not to have helped, and her psychiatrist is urging longer- ...

Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'Kevin Rudd' by Patrick Weller

Lyndon Megarrity
Tuesday, 16 December 2014

In modern Australia, politics and public policy appear to reflect a narrow range of managerial, political, and economic opinions. Even the much publicised ‘listening tours’ conducted by politicians seem designed to show that they are sensitive to community concerns, but not so sensitive as to want to change policy direction. What makes current discussion of poli ...