Veronica Brady’s Biography of Judith Wright
Literary biography has both its friends and its enemies. Readers of the genre may be fans of particular authors, or may be addicted to literary biography in general, or perhaps both. The evidence of literary festivals and public libraries is that these readers are a numerous cohort of a surviving highbrow readership. For anyone, though, with any kind of investment in the subject of a literary biography, it is a dubious genre at best, if not a positively hazardous one. It is unable to be fully controlled at any stage. As in the Coen brothers' Blood Simple, 'something can always go wrong'. Authors frequently try to pre-empt the (potentially) incorrigible perspectives of the biographer either by writing their autobiographies, or by choosing their own preferred biographer (like Judith Wright). This may mean rejecting other aspiring biographers, and 'authorising' the chosen one. This can work out to the mutual satisfaction of subject and biographer, but it can just as easily lead to endless and fraught contests over the biographical subject, or to the rarely edifying spectacle of duelling biographers, and in the work of Janet Malcolm, for example, extended meta-biographical commentary—the Plath/Hughes pile-up is the paradigmatic example of our time.
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