Biography and Memoirs

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biography of T.S. Eliot, the first with permission from the Eliot estate to quote the poet's correspondence and unpublished work, highlights the Young Eliot as – not least in the achievement of his poetry – always an Old Eliot.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

Rachel Buchanan reviews 'A Mother's Story' by Rosie Batty with Bryce Corbett

Rachel Buchanan
25 November 2015

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

Neal Blewett reviews 'Universal Man' by Richard Davenport-Hines

Neal Blewett
25 November 2015

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

Varun Ghosh reviews 'Born to Rule' by Paddy Manning

Varun Ghosh
25 November 2015

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

Felicity Plunkett reviews 'M Train' by Patti Smith

Felicity Plunkett
25 November 2015

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

Jon Dale reviews 'Another Little Piece of My Heart' by Richard Goldstein

Jon Dale
30 October 2015

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

Desley Deacon reviews 'Women I've Undressed' by Orry-Kelly

Desley Deacon
29 October 2015

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

Fiona Gruber reviews 'Banksia Lady' by Carolyn Landon

Fiona Gruber
30 September 2015

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

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