Menippean Sensibility in Patrick White’s Memoirs of Many in One by Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray

Abstract

Although Memoirs of Many in One is not Patrick White’s last published work, it is surely to be classified, along with The Twyborn Affair, as one of his late works. When it was published on April Fool’s Day 1986 White was seventy-three, his health was deteriorating and he had already announced several years before that The Twyborn Affair was to be his last novel. The full title page credits the work as ‘edited by Patrick White’, and while White’s voice as editor appears in interspersed remarks throughout, the rest purports to be in the voice of Gray. Its reception was mixed: in Veronica Brady’s opinion it contains ‘perhaps the most memorable of his creations’, the character of Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray, whereas David Tacey remarks that ‘it is sad to see genius in decay’ (Brady 60; Tacey 63). It is worth reconsidering Memoirs and The Twyborn Affair together as late works, or examples of White’s late style, with all of the issues that attend such an identification. Elizabeth McMahon’s study of the lateness and queerness of The Twyborn Affair opens up ‘at least one profound dilemma’ (90) in terms of reading White: the apparent contradiction of universalist readings of his work, understood as a function of White’s status as a ‘national literary representative’ (79), as opposed to readings which ‘foreground the issues of difference, which undermine the terms by which universal meanings and a “common reader” can be presumed’ (89–90). In this essay I will use the frameworks of lateness and queerness established in McMahon’s study as a departure point to examine intertexuality in Memoirs, while also re-examining The Twyborn Affair in this light.

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Published 1 November 2015 in Volume 30 No. 4. Subjects: Patrick White.

Cite as: Musgrave, David. ‘Menippean Sensibility in Patrick White’s Memoirs of Many in One by Alex Xenophon Demirjian Gray.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 30, no. 4, 2015. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.3a029c1d66.