Biography and Memoirs

Valerie Lawson reviews 'Beyond Black and White' by Roger Woodward

Valerie Lawson
26 February 2015

There are two Roger Woodwards in Beyond Black and White. One vividly brings to life his early years as an imaginative and highly talented boy whose future was determined when, at the age of seven, he first heard the music of Bach. The second presents the adult Woodward, whose memoirs relate in punctilious detail his fifty-year career as an acclaimed pianist.< ... More

Andrea Goldsmith reviews 'Susan Sontag' by Daniel Schreiber and 'Susan Sontag' by Jerome Boyd Maunsell

Andrea Goldsmith
26 February 2015
At the age of eight I wanted to be a novelist. By the age of eighteen, having fallen in love with an intellectual, I aspired to be a novelist with sturdy intellectual credentials. More

2007 Calibre Prize (Winner): 'An die Nachgeborenen: For those who come after' by Elisabeth Holdsworth

Elisabeth Holdsworth
07 January 2015

‘Welcome to the Netherlands!’ the sign says in Dutch and English. The Schipol customs official inspects my Australian passport. ‘Nederlands geboren,’ he sniffs. ‘Zo je komt terug.’ So you’ve come back, he adds, in a tone suggesting that I might have left something behind minutes ago, rather ... More

David Harper reviews 'Murray Gleeson' by Michael Pelly

David Harper
17 December 2014

Although a few can pull it off, most judges have the good sense not to attempt an autobiography. Judges’ personalities are not usually of such outstanding interest, andtheir lives generally do not so engage with the world, as to generate the stuff from which autobiographies worth publishing are made. The reserve which thejudicial experience inculcates, and the gen ... More

Dorothy Driver reviews 'Divided Lives' by Lyndall Gordon

Dorothy Driver
16 December 2014

Two thirds of the way into Lyndall Gordon’s part memoir, part maternal biography, there is an episode of profound risk to the self. At the age of twenty-four, having recently moved from Cape Town to New York, Gordon is being treated for post-partum depression. This is 1966. Electro-convulsive therapy seems not to have helped, and her psychiatrist is urging longer- ... More

Lyndon Megarrity reviews 'Kevin Rudd' by Patrick Weller

Lyndon Megarrity
16 December 2014

In modern Australia, politics and public policy appear to reflect a narrow range of managerial, political, and economic opinions. Even the much publicised ‘listening tours’ conducted by politicians seem designed to show that they are sensitive to community concerns, but not so sensitive as to want to change policy direction. What makes current discussion of poli ... More

Martin Thomas reviews 'Battarbee and Namatjira' by Martin Edmond

Martin Thomas
15 December 2014

There was something of the alchemist in Albert Namatjira. Using the most liquescent of media, he created impressions of the driest terrain. Painting in watercolour involves the fluid dispersal of pigment. Yet in Namatjira we find colours distilled in such a way that each landscape glows with a quiet intensity. This evocation of light reveals the influence of Rex Bat ... More

Carol Middleton reviews 'Margaret and Gough' by Susan Mitchell

Carol Middleton
25 November 2014

Susan Mitchell’s fifteenth book is a biography of the Whitlams, published shortly before Gough’s death in November. As a broadcaster, journalist, and author who has examined the lives of prominent Australian women, Mitchell tells the story mainly from Margaret’s perspective. This is not surprising: Mitchell had already amassed a huge body of research for her b ... More

Michael Shmith reviews 'Rules of Engagement' by Kim Williams

Michael Shmith
24 November 2014

What this is not, as Kim Williams is quick to tell us (introduction, paragraph two), is a dog-bites-Murdoch account of that nasty business in August 2013 that saw Williams summarily ousted as chief executive of News Corp Australia. Other disgruntled former Ruprechtian courtiers such as former editor-in-chief of The Herald Sun Bruce Guthrie, who sought and won ... More

Delia Falconer reviews 'What Days Are For' by Robert Dessaix

Delia Falconer
24 November 2014

Robert Dessaix’s authorial voice reminds me of Christina Stead’s description of a small, clear wave running up a beach at low tide, playfully ‘ringing its air-bells’. He is not a writer of direct, declarative prose. Instead, Dessaix specialises in sentences that skip over and around their subjects, sometimes darting nimbly into brackets to investigate a seco ... More

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