Biography and Memoirs
I was halfway through A Mother's Story when my oldest daughter asked how I would review it. 'Will you talk about the writing, mum, or the content?' she said. 'You could bring personal experience into it because you are a mother too. You'll read it differently from me.'
Lily is fourteen. She is rarely interested in the same books as me and she has ne ... More
John Maynard Keynes has not lacked for biographers – about a dozen at last count. His first, his student Roy Harrod, established the framework of the public life, though providing only a sanitised version of the private Keynes. Donald Moggridge wrote the definitive account of the economic man, while Robert Skidelsky, with his three-volume work, John Maynard Ke ... More
Since deposing Tony Abbott on 14 September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull has dominated Australian politics like a colossus. Turnbull's triumph, though long expected, happened quickly. The sense of national relief that followed was profound. The preceding eight years of Australian politics – scarcely the apotheosis of democratic governance – had produced intense public ... More
The writer is a conductor, opines the 'vaguely handsome, intensely laconic' cowpoke who speaks to Patti Smith as she lingers at 'the frame of a dream'. His words shape Smith's days. 'It's not so easy writing about nothing,' this companion tells her, and she scratches these words over and over onto a wall in her home with a chunk of red chalk.
Writing about n ... More
Richard Goldstein, one of the first rock critics, has always occupied a weird place in the history of music criticism. His memoir could have sat uneasily as an attempt to justify and reconcile his position, but instead, Goldstein taps into a strangely confessional vein, tracing his history from the Bronx to the Ballroom, finding his home at the More
Orry George Kelly – the Oscar-winning costume designer professionally known as Orry-Kelly – was one of the many Australians who have made it big in Hollywood. He is lucky enough to have been rediscovered by one of our major filmmakers, Gillian Armstrong. Kelly's name and story are now well known, thanks to Armstrong's recent documentary, and so is the brilliant ... More
In March 2006, botanical illustrator Celia Rosser travelled to a remote station in Western Australia to witness and draw the first-ever recorded flowering of Banksia Rosserae. The spiky yellow spheres appear only after rain, which, in this arid part of the continent, can be years in the coming. The Australian plant had only been discovered four years earlier, ... More
The story of Graeme Clark and the cochlear implant is often seen as the exception to the research trope lauding the brilliance of Australians at basic research but lamenting their ineptness commercialising these opportunities. This book is an adulatory story of Clark’s life.
Clark’s exceptional and driven journey is breathlessly relat ... More
I vaguely knew about Fred Rose as somebody ASIO was after in the 1950s, a communist blackened in the Petrov case who went off to live in the German Democratic Republic. During the Cold War, that kind of boundary crossing was usually definitive. If you went over the wall, you stayed over.
Not Fred Rose. He went over the wall to the GDR, but after that he kept ... More
Few, if any, contemporary authors have attracted the level of critical attention that is lavished upon J.M. Coetzee. No doubt there are many reasons for this, but a good part of the fascination with his fiction is a result of the evident rigour with which it is conceived. To read a Coetzee novel is to encounter a work that seems to have ... More