Biography and Memoirs

Arthur Augustus Calwell is hardly the most celebrated or mythologised politician in the history of the Australian Labor Party. His achievements as the first minister for immigration have been overshadowed by his very public advocacy of the White Australia policy ...

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The fortunes of HHR’s father

John Arnold
Monday, 25 March 2013

Helen Garner, speaking about Nora, the main character in her iconic novel Monkey Grip (1977), once said that, although she had seen and experienced many of the things that had happened to Nora, she was not Nora. In a similar vein, Bruce Steele argues in this short biography of Walter Lindesay Richardson that although there are many similarities b ...

Jay Daniel Thompson reviews 'Ghost Wife' by Michelle Dicinoski

Jay Daniel Thompson
Wednesday, 06 March 2013

Ghost Wife is a timely text, given the recent debates about same-sex marriage. Michelle Dicinoski writes about travelling to Canada in 2005 to marry her girlfriend, Heather.

The pair met while undertaking postgraduate studies in Queensland. By marrying, they wanted to make a ‘permanent record’ of their relationship. ...

According to D.T. Max, ‘At the time of his tragic death by suicide in September 2008, David Foster Wallace was the foremost writer of his generation, the one who had forged the newest path and from whom the others, directly or indirectly, took their cues.’ Indeed, for someone desperate to escape the confines of self and wary of literary celebrity, Wallace endure ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews a new biography of Ryszard Kapuściński

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A famous Polish communist foreign correspondent? It sounds like a contradiction in terms, but actually Ryszard Kapuściński did achieve international fame towards the end of the Cold War, after a highly successful career covering the Third World for leading media in the People’s Republic of Poland from the 1950s. Africa and, later, Latin America were his s ...

Norman Haire was born in Sydney’s Paddington in 1892, the year in which the word ‘homosexual’ is said to have entered the English language in the translation of Krafft-Ebing’sPsychopathia Sexualis. It was a coincidence Haire might have enjoyed, though for a man given to speaking his mind he was always discreet about his homosexuality.

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Bronwyn Lea reviews 'Walking Home' by Simon Armitage

Bronwyn Lea
Monday, 28 January 2013

W ordsworth – poet–walker par excellence – had the best legs in the business. As his friend Thomas de Quincy noted: ‘Undoubtedly they had been serviceable legs beyond the average standard of requisition. For I calculate, upon good data, that with these identical legs Wordsworth must have traversed a distance of 185,000 English miles.’ In contrast, Simon Ar ...

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

Gillian Dooley
Monday, 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 ...

William Christie on the new biography of John Keats

William Christie
Wednesday, 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 ...

Alison Broinowski reviews 'The Waterlow Killings' by Pamela Burton

Alison Broinowski
Wednesday, 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 ...