Biography and Memoirs
Simon Caterson reviews 'Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the war over cultural anthropology' by Peter Hempenstall
‘It is hard to reach the truth of these islands,’ observed Robert Louis Stevenson of Samoa in a letter written to a close friend in 1892, two years after the author had moved to an estate on Upolu. Stevenson, who died in 1894, could never have anticipated the prophetic dimension added to those words. Less than a century later ...... (read more)
Ian Donaldson reviews 'Simon Leys: Navigator between worlds' by Philippe Paquet, translated by Julie Rose
The Belgian-born scholar Pierre Ryckmans, more widely known to the world by his adopted name of Simon Leys, was widely hailed in the Australian press at his death in 2014 as ‘one of the most distinguished public intellectuals’ of his adopted country, where he had lived and taught for many years – first in Canberra, later in ...... (read more)
James McNamara reviews 'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb and 'This Is Going To Hurt: Secret diaries of a junior doctor' by Adam Kay
The literary world too often disdains comedy writing as unserious. It rarely features in our grander prizes, and is usually relegated to literature’s cheap seats. This is, of course, silly. Great comedy can make as many grave points about humanity as realist fiction. You just get to laugh along the way ...... (read more)
Every Saturday around Australia, the suburbs hum with the sound of lawnmowers. While cutting grass, the mowers simultaneously decapitate the milk thistles (also known as sow thistles) that sprout in most gardens around the country. But this rude beheading is little more than an inconvenience from which these hardy plants soon recover. Perhaps this is ...... (read more)
It’s a provocative title. Forty-two years ago, Phillip Knightley’s The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam: The war correspondent as hero, propagandist, and myth-maker (1975) kick-started a new field of media history. Knightley’s rollicking account of journalistic connivance with political and military power from the Crimean to the Gulf Wars spared ...... (read more)
Rayner Hoff, the most significant sculptor to work in Australia between the wars, is most admired for his sculptures in the Anzac war memorials in Sydney and Adelaide. His work was in the classical figurative tradition in which he had trained. While never part of the international avant-garde, he remained modern for ...... (read more)
Recently, the chief classical music critic of The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, adroitly summarised the nebulous perils of his job: ‘Music, especially purely instrumental music, resists being described in language. It’s very hard to convey sounds through words. Perhaps that’s what we most love about music: that ...... (read more)
It was the late Robert Hughes who said that ‘apart from drugs, art is the biggest unregulated market in the world’. Journalist Gabriella Coslovich quotes him in her account of the 2016 Whiteley art fraud trial, repeating the line to one of the accused, art dealer Peter Stanley Gant, as he complains to Coslovich about the ramping ...... (read more)
There has been an argument going on in the Liberal Party about the nature of the Menzies heritage – was Robert Menzies, the founder of the modern party, a liberal or a conservative? Notably absent from this discussion has been the national figure who was the first leader of a united anti-Labor party and who also happens to have been a father of Federation, Alfred ...
Simon Caterson reviews 'The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller: An Australian’s true story of adventure, danger, romance and murder' by Carol Baxter
Among the glittering generation of pioneering aviators and aviatrixes of the 1920s and 1930s, Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller stands out as remarkably adventurous. Carol Baxter’s highly readable biography provides an engaging portrait of a young suburban housewife who decided, quite literally, to make her own way in the world. As Baxter acknowledges, for a biographer ...