Just released this month is a biography of the neglected Western Australian writer, Gerald Glaskin; it’s called Dare Me!, written by John Burbidge and published by Monash. Glaskin wrote one of Australia’s first openly gay novels; he died in 2000 in his seventies.
I’ve just read the opening chapter ahead of hearing Burbidge speak at the Perth Writers Festival. It’s very good. Instead of more typical openings, Burbidge calls the chapter “My Beautiful Beach” and relates several incidents from Glaskin’s life relating to his beloved Perth beaches. He would see the pine trees of Cottesloe coming home from abroad; he would body surf there, only to suffer an accident which would mar the rest of his years; he was to be charged with exposing himself on a Scarborough Beach, an incident which revealed much about his forceful character and the Perth of the 1960s; his grandmother was to let him live in her Safety Bay cottage for six months, where he wrote his first novel, which went on to considerable success. It’s a bold move; in the opening chapter, we already have the contours of his entire life laid out; we know that he will not be able to match his early successes, we know of his bitterness and his charms, we know something of his death in March 2000. It works, and it is all the more remarkable that it’s the biographer’s first biography.
I looked after him when he was ill, I found him somewhat prickly!
Nathan Hobby said:
Jen, that’s amazing! I suspect you might be connected to every WA novelist of the past. I’m not surprised you say he was prickly – the biography is quite open about his failings.
Interestingly, at the panel on him and his work, David Marr and Dennis Altman both pushed the idea that some writers are justifiably forgotten, and that he basically belongs in that category, although being of some historical interest. The biographer didn’t get a good chance to respond to these two heavyweights.