Patrick White, Sidney Nolan and Me.
One evening in 1957 I tuned into the Third Programme and caught a dramatised excerpt from a book. It was a party scene in which the authorial tone was so sardonic, and the petty snobberies and pretensions of nineteenth-century Australian society so hilariously exposed, that I knew I wanted to read it. The book was "Voss", by Patrick White. Since I was a penniless undergraduate at the time, I borrowed it from the local public library and did not actually possess a copy until my mother gave me one for Christmas two years later. Thus I became a confirmed White addict. In 1960, while working at the art book publishers Thames & Hudson on the first ever book about him, written by Kenneth Clark, Colin MacInnes and Bryan Robertson, I met Sidney Nolan and a friendship soon grew, culminating some four decades later with my writing my own book about Nolan and seeing it published recently [see Jaynie Anderson’s review in ABR, April 2002]. In the early 1960s I also met the flamboyant Australian man of letters Max Harris. Man of letters is an old-fashioned description but the only one that will do for a man who was a poet, a critic, a bookseller and remainder dealer, and a founding editor and publisher of the leading Australian intellectual magazine of the 1940s and 1950s "Angry Penguins".