Congratulations to Philip Butterss, whose biography of CJ Dennis, An Unsentimental Bloke, won the National Biography Award of Australia on Monday. A battered old copy of CJ Dennis’s Sentimental Bloke sat on my family’s shelf when I was a child, and my unsuccessful efforts to read it immunised me against him, perhaps rather unfairly.
By my quick assessment, this is only the second literary biography to have won the award since it started in 1996, the other being Jacqueline Kent’s biography of Beatrice Davis in 2002. (Some of the winners have, of course, been rather literary themselves, including the brilliant The Many Worlds of RH Mathews by Martin Thomas .) The award pits all kinds of life-writing against each other – not just different kinds of biographies, but memoirs and autobiographies, too. I feel it would make sense to create at least two categories; memoir is a very different genre to the researched biography. Can I say the memoir is easier to love and easier to impress with, and often takes less years to write? A generalisation, I realise.
Good to see a book from one of the smaller publishers win – well done to Wakefield Press, who have been praised for the quality of the production.