Review of Christina Stead: A Biography, by Hazel Rowley
Hazel Rowley's biography of Christina Stead has generated very divergent responses in its early reviews. Michael Wilding in the Australian Book Review (152, July 1993) complains that Rowley 'utterly fails to see the significance of Stead's aesthetic. She is limited to tracing the "originals" of the characters. Then, having identified an "original", she quotes from the fiction as if it were fact' (8). Further, part of 'the intellectual vacuum of this biography is .. . the missing exchange of radical thought' (9). Amirah Inglis in Voices (3.4 ) comments: 'in Rowley I also suspect a lack of interest in politics and a tendency to repeat Christina's views and judgements without enough scrutiny' (115). Clement Semmler's Quadrant review (37 .1 2, December 1993), by contrast, finds it 'perceptive' that Rowley writes: 'from today's perspective, the communist rhetoric of the thirties may seem extraordinary naive. But as it was the prevailing discourse among Stead's friends and associates, she found it almost impossible to stand aside from it' (82). For Semmler, it is grounds for praise that Rowley has supposedly demonstrated that 'with few exceptions [the novels'] themes were autobiographical' (83).
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