Bronwyn Oliver

A Grand Completeness:
Bronwyn Oliver: Strange Things

ink is as scrupulous, in her way, as her subject was. By which I mean she is able, most of the time, to avoid comment. She doesn’t editorialise. The significance of events in Oliver’s life is allowed to emerge from contemporary testimony, perhaps, or from narrative juxtaposition, or simply because of the baleful grandeur of Oliver’s commitment to her work and the sometimes alarming consequences of her dedication.

Keep up with the SRB

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter

The SRB is an initiative of The Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University

After Kathy Acker a biography by Chris Kraus

Discarding Congeniality:
lessons from the life of Kathy Acker

'Kraus’s oeuvre has been dedicated to the writing of unlikeable women; challenging congeniality as the bedrock of femininity and exploring the uncomfortable and often humorous situations generated by ambitious, creative women when they cast off congeniality and conventional sexuality. That Acker was a difficult, competitive and transient friend, peer, collaborator and lover makes her an ideal subject for Kraus to continue her work of intervening in conversations about women writers, what the avant-garde is and where it is located.' 

A Writing Life cover

Love and Rhetoric: A Writing Life

'I had the sensation of ‘growing up’ as a result of reading Brennan’s book. This statement expects no flabbergasted reaction. Many of us know that books have tracked our lives – and with Garner, it is from inner-city, communal living in Monkey Grip, to families in The Children’s Bach, to the enigma of the spiritual in Cosmo Cosmolino, to death in The Spare Room.'

Grand Hotel Abyss by Stuart Jeffries book cover

Politics Without Gasoline:
Grand Hotel Abyss

''Stuart Jeffries’ group biography, Grand Hotel Abyss tells the story of the Frankfurt School, its central figures, and their most significant affiliates. The collective accomplishment of these thinkers, it shows, was to develop a critical theory with which to apprehend what it means to live and think through an historical period during which the left would achieve fewer and fewer victories.' '

No Way But This by Jeff Sparrow book cover

What Ghosts We Might Rise: No Way But This

In writing No Way But This Sparrow seeks to reanimate not only the ghost of Paul Robeson but those of his family, friends and comrades. In other words, this book has an avowedly political goal. It revives Robeson as a model of integrity and bravery – someone who, despite the precarity of his social position, risked his life and career for the ideas of workers’ rights, black liberation, anti-colonialism and international socialism.

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf book cover

Wild Things: The Invention of Nature
by Andrea Wulf

'It doesn't matter that Wulf's The Invention of Nature is a bit breathless in keeping up with its dazzling hero, and a bit coy about his relationships, because above all the book is intelligent, an optimistic history, well researched, well written, and an ecological cri de coeur.'

Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men cover
Brett Whiteley: Art, life and the other thing

Art, Life and the Other Thing: Brett Whiteley Biography

A parallel narrative to the rise of Whiteley as an artist is the detailed account of his sexual promiscuity and his growing dependence on alcohol and drugs.

Paul Robeson The Artist as Revolutionary cover

The Artist as Revolutionary: Remembering Paul Robeson

In this excellent new book, [Horne] identifies Robeson as a neglected precursor to the modern Civil Rights movement.

Mayakovsky a biography cover

An Insatiable Thief in his Soul: Mayakovsky A Biography
by Bengt Jangfeldt

‘Mayakovsky was not, of course, the first poet or the last to desire a revolution of the spirit, a re-evaluation of all values. For all that he believed that he believed in Communism, it is not hard to imagine Mayakovsky in the clothes of one of the Romantics, or of the Fascists, or of the Beats, replacing the word Soviet with Love or Fatherland or Peace. The difficulty for Mayakovsky, however, was that his desired revolution had happened, the State for which he had cheered actually emerged.’

Randolph Stow’s Trobriand Islands

‘Embarking on a biography of Randolph Stow, an introspective author widely thought to be a recluse in his later years, had not been easy at the best of times, but writing about his time in New Guinea in 1959 was troubling on several levels: not least because during his last months there he had experienced a mental and physical breakdown that brought him close to death.’ Suzanne Falkiner travels to the Trobriand Islands in pursuit of Randolph Stow.

J.M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing by David Attwell

Face to Face with the Archive: J. M. Coetzee and the Life of Writing

‘The work is a kind of biography, or at least enters into the space normally inhabited by the biography, yet it does so more or less exclusively through David Attwell’s reading of the J.M. Coetzee archive at the Harry Ransom Center. I say more or less exclusively because, while he pushes it down in the mix, so to speak, he is one of the best informed critics of Coetzee and has comprehensive knowledge of the critical literature that has built around him, and his book is also informed by this. It is further informed by his capacity as a literary critic, because, as well as developing a focus on Coetzee’s life, Attwell offers strong and original readings of the works themselves.’

Mannix by Brenda Niall Cover

The Greatest Churchman: Mannix
by Brenda Niall

Daniel Mannix is the greatest churchman in Australian history, but he was far too much of a turbulent priest for the College of Cardinals. This was the man who opposed Billy Hughes’ referendum on conscription and won. This is the man who split the Labor Party down the middle in 1956 and did everything in his considerable power to keep it out of office.

Sidney Nolan A Life by Nancy Underhill cover

Unhatched Eggs: Sidney Nolan: A Life by Nancy Underhill

There have been many attempts to come to terms in print with the Nolan phenomenon, but only one full length biography ... Now we have a second biography by art historian and curator Nancy Underhill.

Thea Astley Inventing Her Own Weather cover

Bombast and Anxiety: Thea Astley: Inventing Her Own Weather
by Karen Lamb

At the time of her death in 2004, Thea Astley was rightly remembered as a ‘creative force until the end’ and ‘a literary trailblazer’. A decade later, as is so often the case with writers, Astley’s work has all but disappeared from the public consciousness and now needs reintroducing to the world of readers and writers.

Battarbee and Namatjira by Martin Edmond cover

Crossed Tracks: Battarbee and Namatjira by Martin Edmond

Battarbee and Namatjira remain, in their separate ways, like their beloved ghost gums, isolated in their landscapes. Their appeal is partly due to their political quietism. Their expressiveness is, in a way, like the treatment of the trees, deliberately enigmatic.

Bill The Life of William Dobell by Scott Bevan Book Cover

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Bill: The Life of William Dobell

Dobell remains an enigma. Bevan says that nobody knew who he was, not even Dobell himself, but I doubt this. I think he knew himself exactly and chose not to communicate that knowledge to others, except parsimoniously in the paintings, and sometimes in life.