Monthly Archives: October 2015

Now digitised: Sandra Burchill’s thesis on Katharine Susannah Prichard

Imagine the thousands of years of work put into theses in the pre-digital era, only a copy or two ever printed. Last year, one university library told me they do not copy or lend theses, not even to other university libraries. Thankfully, most new PhD theses are now digitised and available online, and there’s even some digitising of older theses going on. Indeed, the thesis most important to my own work has just been digitised – Sandra Burchill’s “Katharine Susannah Prichard: Romance, Romanticism and Politics” (ADFA, 1988). It’s now available from UNSW’s institutional repository. Continue reading

Deep Water

Deep Water (2006) is one of the finest documentaries I’ve seen. It narrates the story of Donald Crowhurst, the unlikely competitor in the 1968-1969 UK Sunday Times Golden Globe Race to circumnavigate the world solo and non-stop. It’s a bizarre and tragic story, told with exactly the right tone. The interviewers expertly bring out insights from many of the key players. The intercutting of these interviews with archival footage and graphics is amazing. I felt I was with Crowhurst on that vast ocean in his terrible existential predicament. It’s inspiring to see such great biographical storytelling. The film can be seen on ABC Iview for another couple of weeks.

“Lips of My Love”: Katharine’s not-so-lost poem of passion from 1914

1915-12-03 Petersburg Times SA p1

Today I thought I’d discovered a lost poem of Katharine Susannah Prichard’s, a sensual, slightly shocking poem which could be one of the great scoops of my biography. It’s called “Lips of My Love,” and it was mentioned in a 1914 Australian newspaper as having being published in English Review. This is the year before she won the Hodder and Stoughton Novel Competition and met her future husband, Hugo. It’s a sensual and frank poem about sexual enthrallment from a time Katharine was, by the vague account in her autobiography, still involved with the “Preux Chevalier,” a much-older journalist with three daughters who’d romanced her in Paris in 1908 and became increasingly possessive, threatening to kill himself if she ever married. Continue reading

One Life by Kate Grenville


One Life is Kate Grenville’s account of the life of Nance Gee, her mother. The project began when she found the fragments of her mother’s own attempts at autobiography and put them alongside the hours of interviews she recorded with her before she died in 2002. She ended up going far beyond these primary sources to write a book which would have wider appeal than the family. As I listened to the book, I found myself curious about the writing of it. I was grateful to find Grenville give this insight on her website:

There were several problems. One was the cautious biographical voice of the early drafts: writing full of things like “she probably thought” and “she must have felt”. In the absence of definite knowledge, a biographer is stuck with that caution, but it saps the energy of the writing and the vividness of the moments. Another problem was that in these drafts, two voices were competing to tell the story: Mum’s voice, quoted verbatim, and my own, filling in the gaps. …

The book that’s now between covers is my attempt to find a path between all these obstacles. My mother’s voice appears both nowhere and everywhere: the verbatim voice has gone but phrases and often whole sentences from her memoirs appear on every page, almost in every paragraph. Where it enriches the texture of her story, I’ve added material that I found in research. …

This book, then, isn’t a biography or a memoir. It isn’t history, nor is it fiction. It has elements of all of these without being any of them. Like most of the tales we tell ourselves and each other, it’s that compendious and loose-limbed thing: a story.

From <>

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The forgotten and the remembered: brief notes on the history of the Hodder & Stoughton £1000 Novel Competition

Outlaw cover

Katharine Susannah Prichard, the subject of my biography, became famous in March 1915. She was a journalist living in London and she’d been announced as the Australasian winner of the Hodder & Stoughton £1000 Novel Competition for The Pioneers.  I’m jumping forward in my research to 1915 for a talk I’m giving later in the year, and today I’ve been “troving” this competition. Continue reading