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.