I am roaring through Edmund White’s memoir of his Paris years (Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris), much better than his New York memoir (City Boy). But there is a problem: one doesn’t believe a word he writes. His is possibly the laziest approach to autobiography. Still, this one is reasonably entertaining.
Lunch at KereKere with my old friend and colleague Brian McFarlane. Indefatigable as ever, Brian will soon complete his book on Googie Withers and John MacCallum. I hadn’t realised that Brian – the kid from Lillimur in the Wimmera – went to Melbourne University aged sixteen. His first year was lamentable scholastically, perhaps because he saw 104 films.
To Government House for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. Michael Heyward likened the tawdry ballroom to a large version of the Clunes Town Hall. I stood with Lisa Gorton, who has just given me a fine long article on David Malouf’s poetry. After the five awards had been announced by the premier and his hoarse arts minister, we both went over and commiserated with Brendan Ryan (Jennifer Maiden, as is so often the case, won the poetry prize). Brendan, sensible man, was philosophical. The ballroom was suffocating; it was forty-two degrees outside. They opened the doors just as the cool change arrived and most people moved onto the terrace. I congratulated Alex Miller on his win.
Lunched with Ian Donaldson, at Blue Train. I asked him to write something about his old friend Barry Humphries, who turns eighty on February 17. I didn’t know that Humphries fell off a cliff in Cornwall in the 1970s. He and his wife Rosalind were staying in a pedigreed cottage owned by the family of Tamsin Donaldson. Barry landed fifty metres below, with a broken leg. I bet he still went on stage that night.