Monday, May 19, 2008

David Marr on the Patrick White papers

For anyone who's not seen it yet, David Marr's lovely piece on the recently-unearthed Patrick White letters and manuscripts is now up at The Monthly's website, here. Australian Book Review editor Peter Rose interviewed Marr about these discoveries during Adelaide Writers' Week where Marr was his usual urbane and entertaining self, so I'd heard some of this material before, but it's enlightening to read it again at leisure.

One of the issues it raises for me is the question of an unfinished manuscript called The Hanging Garden, which White put aside to work on something else some time in the early 1980s and never got back to. Marr says this manuscript may in future be published but I'm not sure I want to see it; there is something quite violent about being wrenched away from a novel in the middle, especially when you know there is no end. And in these days of fanfic I bet a number of people would have a go at finishing it, which would be more than some of us could bear. If it must be done at all then I propose it be done by a committee made up of all those who have in their time presented a Patrick White parody on Parody Night at the Association for the Study of Australian Literature's annual conference. We would be each other's sternest critics.

Also for those who missed it last time (as I did), here's David Malouf's 'reappraisal' of White in the TLS at the beginning of last year.

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