Had an epic conversation about Katharine Prichard with Riley Buchanan on Radio Fremantle yesterday. (May never again encounter such an astute, well-prepared interviewer!) You can listen here until Friday; talking starts at 14 min: http://184.108.40.206:8001/shows_this_week/fri-11_00.mp3
Katharine Susannah Prichard and Hugo Throssell were engaged one hundred years ago at the end of World War One. I wrote about their whirlwind courtship in a column for the KSP Writers’ Centre here. Also, December’s column features a piece of my biography I’ve cut – Katharine’s obsession with lavender in London; you can read it here.
I’m going to be on the wireless tomorrow! I’ll be talking about Katharine Susannah Prichard on the program Out of the Woodwork with Riley Buchanan, Radio Fremantle (107.9 FM in Perth metro area), Friday 30 November, from 11am AWST, between songs. It’s streamed online and I’ll post a link to the MP3 when it’s available. Continue reading
Next October will be the fiftieth anniversary of Katharine Susannah Prichard’s death. To mark the occasion, KSP Writers Centre (which meets in her house) is holding a literary competition. Entries are open to all Australian residents and citizens until 22 February in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. The best entries will appear in an anthology to be launched in October. It is a themed competition, with entries needing a connection to Katharine, her work, or her house. I will be judging the non-fiction and fiction sections. I encourage you to enter!
I started my Katharine Susannah Prichard biography four years ago. Measuring progress by her life (1883 to 1969), this time last year, I was in 1919, just finishing part one; I’m now in 1933 – the most important one of her life – near the end of part two of the book. Continue reading
Saturday 10am #9
This is a paper I presented at the Limina Conference at the University of Western Australia on 27 July 2018. The conference theme was “Home: Belonging and Displacement”.
In her memoir, Perth journalist Justina Williams describes seeing Katharine Susannah Prichard’s house for the first time in the 1930s:
[My uncle] Harry… gave up Sundays to drive us all in the A-model Ford… on an excursion to the hills… Ascending Greenmount’s steep stretch, the radiator fulfilled all [Grandma’s] fears by boiling over.
The car stopped at the junction of Old York Road—the original route to the Eastern Goldfields—and the Great Eastern Highway, almost at the gate of a small wooden cottage half hidden by pale blue plumbago and tangled grape vines. A red witch lived there, Grandma said, named Mrs Throssell… ‘She’s quite a famous writer… An awful scandal about her book…’
My desire to meet her stirred…. [But] [t]he house was empty. Harry got some water somewhere else and we moved on.
Saturday 10am #4
I’ve decided to write a conventional biography for my first one, ‘cradle to grave’ as it’s called. Because of that, I feel the need to start with an introduction that grips readers and gives them a taste of Katharine’s life, why it matters, and some of what lies ahead in the narrative. Perhaps this is misguided; I just picked up Jill Roe’s Stella Miles Franklin: A Biography off my shelf and she starts in 1879 with Franklin’s birth. Yet as acclaimed as Roe’s biography has been, it didn’t grip me. And Miles Franklin has a name recognition today which Katharine doesn’t have. Continue reading
It’s always a beautiful shock to see Katharine Susannah Prichard in colour. This photo comes from my KSP Writers’ Centre column in May. I’ve written four columns about the heritage of the house itself, with more to come later when I’ve done further research. Katharine lived at the house in Greenmount for nearly fifty years, and the centre hopes to install a series of heritage plaques. The columns are available to read on the KSPWC website:
This month I’m writing the circus chapter of my Katharine Susannah Prichard biography, chapter 24 in the current structure. It’s focused on the writing and reception of her novel Haxby’s Circus (1930). The novel was written at the end of her five year creative peak from 1924 to 1929 and is usually regarded as one of her better novels but less accomplished than the other two novels of this period, Working Bullocks (1926) and Coonardoo (1929). Whatever its flaws it’s an engaging and moving novel. I reviewed it in July 2014, writing that it ‘has the most powerful scenes I’ve yet encountered in KSP’s work, scenes of beauty, darkness and insight’. More recently, Lisa has reviewed it on ANZ Litlovers.
It’s a pity that the edition reprinted several times has always been the British one. The American edition, Fay’s Circus (Katharine’s original title) – published a year later – contains an extra section of 9700 words which scholar Carol Hetherington believes resolves the structural flaw late in the novel. Katharine was writing for a competition deadline and her sick child meant she didn’t write this section as planned in the first version. (Carol Hetherington, ‘Authors, Editors, Publishers: Katharine Susannah Prichard and W.W. Norton’, Australian Literary Studies 22, no. 4 (October 2006): 417–31.) Continue reading