Vale Inga Clendinnen

Inga Vivienne Clendinnen AO, FAHA,  author, historian, anthropologist and academic died yesterday aged 82. What a sad loss to the Australian life of the mind. Clendinnen's sharp insights and beautiful prose were (for me) best displayed in Dancing with Strangers: Europeans and Australians at First Contact (2003, Text Publishing). This small but perfectly formed exploration of the relationships and interactions between the Europeans and the first Australians in the earliest years of white settlement in NSW is a book I have returned to many times. Clendinnen illuminates without failing to [...]

2018-03-25T13:03:51+11:00September 9th, 2016|Life, Writing|8 Comments

Saying Goodbye to your Children

This week I waved my son off to camp - he'll be away for nine days.  Elizabeth Macarthur waved her young sons off too, to be educated in England, for years at a time.  I don't think I can imagine how she felt.  Or can I? Inga Clendinnen explored the problem at length in The History Question: Who owns the past? (Quarterly Essay, Issue 23) We cannot post ourselves back in time. People really did think differently then – or at least we must proceed on that assumption...It is true that [...]

Books about Biography

Sometimes it seems like I spend more time reading about writing than actually writing. More time listening to people talk about books (at festivals, on podcasts, in book reviews) than actually reading. I could beat myself up about this - and sometimes I do - but more often I just accept that I reading and writing are important to me.  I enjoy the theory as well as the practice.  As an inevitable result of my interest in words, many of the books on my shelves (Liatorp, Ikea - much admired [...]

2018-03-21T14:56:15+11:00September 11th, 2014|Writing|0 Comments

Visiting Bridgerule, Dreaming of the Past

Bridgerule Millhouse Thanks to every TV and cinema adaptation of Pride and Prejudice it isn’t hard for a modern reader to imagine the quiet corner of England that Elizabeth Macarthur left behind. Elizabeth Veale, as she was then, was born in 1766 and raised in the very English village of Bridgerule, on the border of Cornwall and Devon.   Rolling green hills, flowering hedgerows, majestic trees surrounding an ancient church, picturesque gardens beside quaint little cottages — the location ticks every English stereotype on the bonnet drama list. And [...]

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