Biography and Memoirs

Josephine Taylor reviews 'The Bauhinia Tree' by Kankawa Nagarra Olive Knight

Josephine Taylor
26 February 2016

Kankawa Nagarra Olive Knight is a leader in the Wangkatjungka community, south-east of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley. For The Bauhinia Tree, her eventful seventy-year life story was recorded by Terri-ann White, then 'transcribed and refined' by White and Kankawa Knight. While the material has been edited to remove hesitations and interventions, the oral ... More

Fiona Hile reviews 'Good Night and Good Riddance' by David Cavanagh

Fiona Hile
25 February 2016

When Napoleon called England a nation of shopkeepers he claimed to have meant it as a compliment. Its grand resources were not constituted by extensive territories, natural resources, or a burgeoning population, but in the accumulation and dissemination of wares. In Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (2008), John Plotz remarks that certain obj ... More

Ian Dickson reviews 'James Merrill' by Langdon Hammer

Ian Dickson
25 February 2016

To his critics, James Merrill was at best a petit maître, a composer of exquisitely manufactured lyrics that reflected his privileged life and over-refined sensibilities. When he won Yale's Bollingen Prize for Poetry, the editorial writer for The New York Times wearily deplored the judges' preference for 'literary' poets. This prompted a sharp res ... More

Paul Giles reviews 'The Invention of Nature' by Andrea Wulf

Paul Giles
24 February 2016

Alexander von Humboldt, who died in 1859 at the age of eighty-nine, was not only the most famous scientist of his day but also one of the world's best-known figures. He met often with political leaders, from Thomas Jefferson in the new United States to King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, and he expanded outwards from his bases in Paris and Berlin to pursue variou ... More

Kerryn Goldsworthy reviews 'Mick' by Suzanne Falkiner

Kerryn Goldsworthy
24 February 2016

Late in 1998, the Times Literary Supplement, as was its wont, sent Randolph 'Mick' Stow a book for review. It was Xavier Herbert: A Biography (1998) by Francis de Groen, and Stow accepted the commission with enthusiasm. 'What a ghastly, embarrassing old pillock,' he wrote to his lifelong friend Bill Grono. 'Well, you'll soon read my opinion of him. ... More

Daniel Juckes reviews 'H is for Hawk' by Helen Macdonald

Daniel Juckes
22 December 2015

After fiddling with the bits of leather designed to curtail a newly bought goshawk, T.H. White grumbled that 'It has never been easy to learn life from books' (The Goshawk, 1963). Helen Macdonald says the same thing, twice: all the books in piles on her desk, designed to help her deal with grief, cannot 'taxonomise the process, order it, make it sensible'. ... More

Simon Caterson reviews 'Journey to Horseshoe Bend' by T.G.H. Strehlow

Simon Caterson
22 December 2015

First published in 1969 and out of print for nearly forty years, Journey to Horsehoe Bend is a literary classic that envisions an Australian epic on a grand scale. That epical potential was recognised by composer Andrew Schultz and librettist Gordon Kalton Williams, whose cantata adapted from the book had its world première in 2004.

JourneyMore

Ian Britain reviews 'Worlds Apart' by David Plante

Ian Britain
22 December 2015

How has David Plante managed to become as prolific a novelist as he has when so much of his time has been spent in flitting between gallery openings in New York, dinner parties and book launches in London, idyllic holidays in Italy and Greece, and teaching in Tulsa, Oklahoma? And those are just a few of the 'worlds apart' recounted in this so-called memoir – the b ... More

Carol Middleton reviews 'In Love and War' by Liz Byrski

Carol Middleton
22 December 2015

Western Australian novelist and academic Liz Byrski has written a memoir that explores the reality behind a World War II myth: the ground-breaking work done by plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe to repair the disfigured faces, hands, and lives of fighter pilots and crews. Byrski grew up during the war in East Grinstead, Sussex, near the hospital where McIndoe worked, ... More

Doug Wallen reviews 'Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink' by Elvis Costello

Doug Wallen
21 December 2015

'Oh, I just don't know where to begin,' opens 'Accidents Will Happen', one of the best pop songs of Elvis Costello's four-decade recording career. The English songwriter (born Declan MacManus) has no such trouble with his generously sized memoir, which details the creation of so much of his work. 'A lot of pop music has come out of people failing to copy their model ... More

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