Saturday, May 25, 2013

NYT on White, Frame

The New York TImes review of The Hanging Garden by the always stylish John Sutherland is now up, and this issue is a bumper crop for Antipodean literature fans as it also includes Alison McCulloch's fine review of Janet Frame's short stories. Importantly, both these reviews--unusually or material about Australian/New Zealand literature published in US outlets--go into the social background of the authors' works: McCulloch mentions the fading of the 20th century welfare state that provided the background for Frame's work, Sutherland the stolen generation issue and Julia Gillard. One also likes the sense that two writers who did all their work in the twentieth century, who,in other words, are not the latest thing, are being honored, as classics of world literature. So kudos to new editor Pamela Paul for commissioning these reviews.

I do find it odd that Sutherland did not once mention White's homosexuality, even at times where it would appear relevant--such as his discomfort as a teenager in Britain or the citation of Flaws in the Glass, where White was explicit about his sexuality. One could understand why, in the early 80s, a Times article on 'the private Patrick White' referred enigmatically to his 'male housekeeper', Manoly Lacaris, but, in this age of increasing acceptance of gay marriage. surely a retrospective discussion of White should honor one of the most admirable of writers partnerships, gay or straight of the twentieth century? 

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