It’s nearing the end of 2017 and I’ve only noticed three Australian literary biographies published. I counted five last year, and thought that a low number; perhaps it was actually a bumper crop. The three I’ve noticed are Bernadette Brennan’s A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work (Text); Kerrie Davies’ A Wife’s Heart: The Untold Story of Bertha and Henry Lawson (UQP); and Janelle McCulloch Beyond the Rock: the Life of Joan Lindsay and the Mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock (Echo). What have I missed?
I haven’t read any of these yet but even at only three titles, they represent a good spread of Australian literature. Lawson must be the most covered biographical subject of any Australian writer, but Davies’ focus on Bertha is a new angle and apparently an innovative approach. The biography of Joan Lindsay gives us a solidly twentieth century writer; the title suggests the challenge of approaching (and marketing) a writer remembered for one book. And then Brennan’s biography is of a contemporary writer and sounds from the reviews as a work of biographical criticism, making it more possible to write while the subject is well and truly alive.