Celebrating Elizabeth Jolley

When Elizabeth Jolley died in February 2007, the world lost one of the most distinctive literary voices of the late twentieth century. Jolley left a wide-ranging body of work - novels, short stories, radio plays, essays, poetry- unified by her persistent concern with social and sexual outsiders, with predators and victims. Her writing renders the pain of loneliness and loss with her characteristic wildly dark humour. Angela Carter described Jolley's comic method as juxtaposing 'profound feeling with low farce, high camp with agonized lyricism', and she wrote of Jolley's fiction that it 'shines and shines and shines, like a good deed in a naughty world' (36, 37), a phrase which captures well that particular purity of heart that Jolley's work conveys, and that is especially evident in the autobiographical trilogy of the early 1990s. And her last novels reveal yet other emotional and linguistic registers. As well as these literary gifts, Jolley also bequeaths to us the example of her courage and persistence, when for years her work was rejected and yet she continued to write and to innovate, and never gave up. It is well known that she did not publish a book until 1976, when she was in her fifties.

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Published 1 May 2009 in Volume 24 No. 1. Subjects: Writer's works, Elizabeth Jolley.

Cite as: Sheridan, Susan. ‘Celebrating Elizabeth Jolley.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 24, no. 1, 2009, doi: 10.20314/als.2f4aee16d3.