Biography and Memoirs

Dina Ross: A media personality's battle with shyness

Dina Ross
Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Shy is a strange beast – part memoir, part journalistic investigation, part cri de coeur. Reading it, you are immersed in the interior life of an intelligent and sensitive woman. The experience is unsettling, almost voyeuristic. You wonder whether you should be sharing such an intense and honest self-scrutiny, and often feel as if you were breaching ...

Richard Toye: a major study of the literary Churchill

Richard Toye
Tuesday, 27 May 2014

On the rear jacket of this fascinating and important book is a picture of Winston Churchill at his desk at Chartwell, his house in Kent, just a few months before the outbreak of World War II. Apparently caught in the moment of literary creation, cigar in mouth and concentrating on his papers, the photo credit – to a Picture Post photographer – leads to th ...

Alison Broinowski: Malcolm Fraser on Foreign Policy

Alison Broinowski
Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Coinciding with the World War I anniversaries, Malcolm Fraser’s book will polarise Australian opinion on a fundamental issue. It has never been raised in this way, for Australian leaders have not discussed decisions to go to war in public, nor sought popular approval of Australia’s alliances. Yet successive generations of young Australians have fought in British ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick on history vs memoir

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Tuesday, 27 May 2014

In Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Sandcastle (1957), a young artist called Rain Carter is commissioned to paint a retired schoolmaster, Demoyte, an eccentric with an offbeat sense of humour. Instead of his usual attire – a shabby red velvet jacket with tobacco stains and bow tie – Demoyte turns up ...

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The LRB of life writing

Ann-Marie Priest
Monday, 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. ... (read more)

‘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 initiated would be entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government and relevant authorities ... 

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The new biography of Jonathan Swift

Robert Phiddian
Wednesday, 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 ...

The love song of Henry and Olga

Ann-Marie Priest
Monday, 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 ...

Shannon Burns reviews a new biography of Kafka

Shannon Burns
Friday, 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 ...

Doris Brett's memoir 'The Twelfth Raven'

Rachel Robertson
Friday, 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 ...