Artful Histories represents that extraordinary achievement – a learned critical study, based on a thesis, which is exhilarating to read. While it covers the expected ground, with careful accounts of Australian autobiographies of various types, it also addresses a core problem of current literary debate – the relative status of different literary genres, and the interrelation between writing and life. There is no mention here of The Hand That Signed The Paper or The First Stone (they are beyond the range of the discussion) but McCooey’s elucidation of the relationship between autobiography, history, fiction, and life bears directly on the issues which have kept Australian readers arguing over the past year. At the end of his chapter on autobiography and fiction, McCooey summarises the difference in a seemingly simple statement: ‘Fictional characters die fictionally, people die in actual fact.’ The implications of this are far from simple, and McCooey argues for the maintenance of the boundary between genres on the grounds of moral responsibility.
- David McCooey
- Susan Lever
- Biography and Memoirs
- Cambridge University Press
Susan Lever is the author of David Foster: The Satirist of Australia (Cambria Press, 2008) and general editor of Cambria Press’s Australian Literature Series. She has published widely on Australian literary history and contemporary Australian fiction, and is currently conducting interviews with Australian television writers for the Australian Writers’ Foundation Oral History project. She is completing a book on Australian television dramatists. Susan Lever’s interviews with Australian screenwriters are accessible through the National Film and Sound Archive, samples can be found here.
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