At the moment I’m working on the 2018 bibliography of Australian literature for the Journal of Commonwealth Literature with my co-authors Van Ikin and Margaret Stevenson (previous year’s here – but alas it’s paywalled). It has led me to discover some Australian literary biographies I missed, including four from Australian Scholarly Publishing. Together with Monash University Publishing, they are holding up the genre! Generously defined, there were eight Australian literary biographies in 2018 by my count – up from previous years. I feel very remiss for having only read one so far.
Banjo Grantlee Kieza 582pp ABC Books (Sydney) Hb $39.99.
Each year brings at least one Banjo Paterson or Henry Lawson related biography, and mostly they are written for a popular audience, often thick, and often released just in time as a present for Dad for Christmas. (Nothing wrong with any of that, of course.)
Coasts of Dream: A Biography of E.J. Brady Sarah Mirams 190pp Australian Scholarly Publishing (Melbourne) Pb $39.95.
Here is a book I’ve put on my TBR. Katharine Susannah Prichard knew E.J. Brady; he was a true character, and I hope this book finds a wide readership. Here’s Katharine’s reminiscence of Brady, quoted in John Webb’s 1972 thesis biography of him:
“It was a glorious moment when I received a note from the editor of The Native Companion to say he liked the short story written by me, and could I call and see him about it. I did call. The magazine had just been published. Brady was the most dazzling editor I’d ever imagined. Lank gingery gold hair falling over his forehead, and a golden beard cut to a point. His eyes flashed green and blue lightnings as he talked, and his long legs sprawled under the office table. I must have looked very demure and governessy in my early twenties, wearing a full-skirted dress, all black, in mourning for my father. But Brady’s charm and his compliments about the story made me feel a genius of the first water.”
Falling Out of Love with Ivan Southall Gabrielle Carey 106pp Australian Scholarly Publishing Pb $29.95.
This work seems to be a combination memoir and biography, similar to Carey’s interesting book on Randolph Stow. Another for my TBR.
Germaine: The Life of Germaine Greer Elizabeth Kleinhenz 432pp Knopf (Sydney) Hb $39.99.
Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964 Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell 438pp Monash Univ (Melbourne) Pb $39.95.
A superb group biography of Australian writers George Johnston and Charmain Clift – my review here.
John Farrell: Poet, Journalist and Social Reformer 1851-1904 Paul Stenhouse 334pp Australian Scholarly Publishing (Melbourne) Pb $44.00.
Miles Franklin: A Short Biography Jill Roe 432pp HarperCollins (Sydney) Pb $32.99 [condensed version of 2008 edition].
I was surprised to find no preface or any other explanation of this posthumous condensation of Jill Roe’s landmark biography. Who condensed it – Roe or someone else? How did they condense it? I found Roe’s original biography too detailed and long to be a good read, so this seems the perfect solution – the shorter version for readers; the longer original for scholars.
A White Hot Flame: Mary Montgomerie Bennett – Author, Educator, Activist for Indigenous Justice Sue Taffe 432pp Monash Univ (Melbourne) Pb $34.95.
“The” Life of G. Greer is a very ambitious title. Which one are you going to read first?
Lisa Hill said:
That’s an unauthorised bio of Greer, which I think is a bit cheeky considering still alive and well able to speak for herself!
I’m hoping my library has a copy of the Ivan Southall one:)
Nathan Hobby said:
Seem to remember reading that Greer was not happy! I think I would avoid writing the bio of a living person, especially if unauthorised.
Nathan Hobby said:
It’s the second Greer bio, too. Can’t decide which first, but it’s a little academic, given the queue occupies a small shelf in the hallway!
Thanks for your list, Nathan. Will add titles to my ‘To Read’ list. Must admit, the only one I’ve read is Half the Perfect World. I liked it — an interesting approach to focus on that little group instead of just, say, George Johnston. Haven’t read Kieza’s ‘Banjo’ but reading at the moment his ‘Mrs Kelly’ which I’m enjoying, for the most part. I wasn’t keen on James Knight’s ‘Henry & Banjo’ for a number of reasons. What do you think of it? I liked Jill Roe’s original bio of Miles F so don’t think I’ll bother with the ‘short’ version, but I can quite see the point of condensing, that’s for sure!
Nathan Hobby said:
We’ve read the same one from this list so far. I’m afraid I haven’t read Henry and Banjo yet. In fact the only Lawson related bio I’ve read is Brian Matthews Louisa, which I thought was excellent.
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