After fiddling with the bits of leather designed to curtail a newly bought goshawk, T.H. White grumbled that 'It has never been easy to learn life from books' (The Goshawk, 1963). Helen Macdonald says the same thing, twice: all the books in piles on her desk, designed to help her deal with grief, cannot 'taxonomise the process, order it, make it sensible'. ... More
First published in 1969 and out of print for nearly forty years, Journey to Horsehoe Bend is a literary classic that envisions an Australian epic on a grand scale. That epical potential was recognised by composer Andrew Schultz and librettist Gordon Kalton Williams, whose cantata adapted from the book had its world première in 2004.
How has David Plante managed to become as prolific a novelist as he has when so much of his time has been spent in flitting between gallery openings in New York, dinner parties and book launches in London, idyllic holidays in Italy and Greece, and teaching in Tulsa, Oklahoma? And those are just a few of the 'worlds apart' recounted in this so-called memoir – the b ... More
Western Australian novelist and academic Liz Byrski has written a memoir that explores the reality behind a World War II myth: the ground-breaking work done by plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe to repair the disfigured faces, hands, and lives of fighter pilots and crews. Byrski grew up during the war in East Grinstead, Sussex, near the hospital where McIndoe worked, ... 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
Beth Yahp's beautifully crafted memoir of her ancestors, her parents, and herself is shaped around journeys criss-crossing the Malay Peninsula where her Siamese-speaking Eurasian mother and her Hakka Chinese father met and married in 1961. A photograph seems to have triggered the project – perhaps the lovely sepia cover shot of her parents on their honeymoon, sitt ... More
Tim Winton's island home seethes and rings, whispers and beckons with sheer life. It tantalises through shreds of memories and phantom histories turned to stone or engraved in ocean-scored rocks and remote caves. Like William Blake's 'green and pleasant land', it is compromised but offers 'a World in a grain of sand / And a Heaven in a wild flower'. His isle, like P ... More
Twenty-five years ago, Drusilla Modjeska's Poppy reimagined boldly the possibilities for Australian memoir. Modjeska recounts in her new memoir, Second Half First, how in her inaugural appearance at a writers' festival she was on a panel discussing autobiography with two established British writers, Victoria Glendinning and Andrew Motion. Poppy ... More
The age of apex narcissism has opened the publishing floodgates to myopic and often unnecessary confessionals, personal tales of shame and struggle that, in the past, would more likely have been recounted to a priest or therapist. The memoir genre is at its peak, and the descent may be swift and brutal.... More