Monthly Archives: August 2015

Why and how I write: a blog chain

Writer and priest, Ted Witham, has asked me to carry on a chain-blog. Ted’s post can be found here, giving interesting insight into his writing process. I think a walk along the beach first thing is a splendid idea, though would be a bit hard for me. I’m also looking forward to his feature article on Dorothea Angus.

What am I working on at the moment?

As readers of this blog know, I’m working on a biography of the early life of Katharine Susannah Prichard. I have a new title this week, taken from chapter two: “The Memory of a Storm: The Making of Katharine Susannah Prichard, 1883-1919”. It’s a phrase from her book The Wild Oats of Han, but it also refers nicely back to her autobiography, Child of the Hurricane, the foundation for my book. Continue reading

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Some notes on Who’s Been Sleeping In My House?

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With Who’s Been Sleeping In My House? showing on ABC and Who Do You Think You Are? on SBS, biographical quest television is having its moment, and I’m so glad. Each week on My House, presenter Adam Ford researches the past of an Australian house. This season has gone from a former hotel in country Victoria, to a flat in Sydney, to Adelaide, to north Queensland, and most recently to Mt Lawley, an inner-city suburb in Perth.

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One year in: the story of my biography so far

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I started my PhD one year ago today. I’m sad a whole year is gone, because I don’t want this to end; I don’t think my career is going to get any better than being paid to research a biography for three years.  Continue reading


An Unsentimental Bloke wins the National Biography Award

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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. Continue reading


Finding “critical utility” for literary biography: a summary and initial response to Philip Holden

This post, I warn you, is a response to an academic journal article. If you find it boring or incomprehensible, please do come again another time – you’re likely to encounter something of broader appeal.

Philip Holden’s “Literary Biography as a Critical Form” Biography 37.4 (Fall 2014) is a lifeline thrown out to literary biography, the “Cinderella” of literary studies. Holden takes as his point of departure Michael Benton’s monograph Literary Biography: An Introduction (2009). In my reading of Benton’s work (which I found an excellent account of the state of the genre and challenges and issues within it for the biographer and reader), he is content to retain literary biography’s estrangement – or at least distinctiveness – from literary theory and literary criticism and proceed with giving an account of the genre on its own terms. Holden, in contrast, wants to achieve a rapprochement. Continue reading


Dump Pickings

Over on her blog in another amusing and insightful post, Laura Sewell Matter’s biographical quest takes her to the rubbish dump, the one named after the wife of her subject. What a meta-moment! As she says: “The research process has been largely about sifting through dusty old stuff in search of what remains useful. There are items that stink and items whose original use I cannot decipher, amidst all the metaphorical tuna cans and banana peels** (remnants of daily life), and a few real treasures that make it all worth the effort.”


The untold story of Critchley Parker Sr

My impression is that the history of journalists and newspapers in colonial Australia, and particularly Melbourne, is largely untapped. I wish someone had tracked more closely the movements of Frank “Critchley” Parker (1862-1944), as his life intersects in some significant ways with the childhood of Katharine Susannah Prichard. This is Critchley Parker Sr I’m talking about, as in recent times there has been interest in his son and his curious death; I’ll return to that. Continue reading