Biography and Memoirs

Dennis Altman reviews 'Big Blue Sky' by Peter Garrett

Dennis Altman
18 December 2015

Dressed in a suit, standing beside a prime minister, Peter Garrett never looked totally convincing as a cabinet minister. We recalled his onstage persona in Midnight Oil, stooped and balding, a towering figure struggling to contain his energy and passion.

Garrett was minister for the environment, heritage, and the arts in the first Rudd ministry; after the 2 ... More

Michael McGirr reviews 'Santamaria' by Gerard Henderson

Michael McGirr
18 December 2015

In 1980, when I first came to Melbourne from Sydney, I found myself working among homeless people in the inner city. I was guided by a fantastic nun, one of those forthright people with a fearless sense of justice. She stood up to police and clergy alike. One day we had a long wait in the casualty department of St Vincent's Hospital with a gentleman from the streets ... More

Michael Shmith reviews 'Sinatra' by James Kaplan

Michael Shmith
18 December 2015

Just in time for the Frank Sinatra centenary – 12 December should be a gazetted public holiday – comes the thumping second part of James Kaplan's monumental biography. Taken together, Volume I – Frank: The Voice (2010, 786 pages) – and its behemoth successor, Sinatra: The Chairman (979 pages), comprise a formidable and scrupulously detailed ... More

James Walter reviews 'Keating' by Kerry O'Brien

James Walter
17 December 2015

Paul Keating continues to fascinate. Influential commentators such as Paul Kelly and George Megalogenis now celebrate the golden age of policy reform in which he was central, while lamenting the policy desert of recent years. Still, it is not enough: Keating, the master storyteller, wants to control the narrative of his legacy. Yet he professes disdain for biography ... More

Michael Hofmann reviews 'Ted Hughes' by Jonathan Bate

Michael Hofmann
17 December 2015

I can readily see that I am not the intended reader for The Unauthorised Life of Ted Hughes. Born in the year his first book of poems came out (The Hawk in the Rain, 1957); made to read Hughes at school (I preferred Sylvia Plath); a graduate of the same university (Cambridge); my books published by the same publisher (Faber), and sharing (if at all ... More

Gillian Dooley reviews 'Settling Day' by Kate Howarth

Gillian Dooley
30 November 2015

Kate Howarth is the child of a single mother, father uncertain, brought up by her Aboriginal grandmother. She in turn becomes pregnant at sixteen. Determined to keep her son despite the pressure to give him up for adoption, she marries the father. The marriage doesn't go well and Kate leaves without her son, hoping to come back for him when she is settled, but thing ... More

Daniel Juckes reviews 'And You May Find Yourself' by Paul Dalgarno

Daniel Juckes
30 November 2015

Writing about masculinity is difficult. But Paul Dalgarno, a founding editor at The Conversation, accepted the challenge. In And You May Find Yourself, he expresses truths which never seem trite or indulged.

The book describes the author's relationship with his father, as well as the flaky bond he shares with his wife and sons. These anxiet ... More

Brian Matthews reviews 'Frank Lowy' by Jill Margo

Brian Matthews
30 November 2015

'Let us now praise famous men / ... men renowned for their power ... / Leaders of the people by their counsels ... wise and eloquent / ... Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations ...'

These aspirations, from Apocrypha: Sirach 44, pose some problems for a biographer. The famous, the powerful, the leaders, the wise and e ... More

Jane Grant reviews 'Modern Love' by Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan

Jane Grant
26 November 2015
In December, John decided there was nothing to lose and that he would write to Picasso asking him to view Nolan's work in storage. Sunday translated the letter into French, but even in draft form in English it read as sycophantic and sentimental ... They went to Picasso's apartment to hand deliver the letter and were met at the door by the artist's factotum. One wonders what Picasso ma ... More

Andrew Fuhrmann reviews 'Young Eliot' by Robert Crawford

Andrew Fuhrmann
26 November 2015

This long-anticipated first volume of Robert Crawford's biography of T.S. Eliot, the first with permission from the Eliot estate to quote the poet's correspondence and unpublished work, highlights the Young Eliot as – not least in the achievement of his poetry – always an Old Eliot. And yet the picture of Eliot as a child and adolescent is detailed. In Young ... More

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