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SnakPatrick White 100th Anniversary Challenge

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dec 9, 2011, 7:38 am

For any comments or questions.

Redigeret: dec 9, 2011, 8:06 am

I've been looking at The Eye of the Storm for the last couple of months thinking I should read that.
Having said that I'm equally tempted by The Vivisector and Riders in the Chariot.

Perhaps I can convince my book group to read Voss as well. That could be more difficult - I couldn't get them to read Golding's The Spire for his anniversary.

dec 9, 2011, 10:29 am

Good idea for the group, Amanda. I've been intending to read Voss for a couple years now.

dec 9, 2011, 7:37 pm

I haven't finished inviting people yet. I have shoulder strain from pressing "Invite" too many times last night.

Redigeret: dec 10, 2011, 11:03 am

Thanks for inviting me to the group, Amanda. You've given me a good excuse to read the book you sent me (The Twyborn Affair). I admit to knowing nothing whatsoever about Patrick White, but it's always wonderful to learn about authors that are new to me.

dec 10, 2011, 11:19 am

Thanks for the invitation, Amanda. I'll start with The Vivisector, which I already own.

dec 10, 2011, 12:13 pm

Excellent idea, Amanda, and thanks for inviting me! I have Voss and A Fringe of Leaves on my TBR shelf.

dec 10, 2011, 11:02 pm

Thanks for the invite Amanda. I appear to have two of White's books on my shelves The Aunt's Story and The Cockatoos. I will be choosing one of those to read.

dec 10, 2011, 11:13 pm

I've just ordered Voss. Barny Noble tells me he'll ship it Tuesday along with Moby Dick to be read promptly for a discussion in Le Salon. I'll let Voss lead me into or away from Patrick White.


dec 11, 2011, 11:47 am

Amanda - thank you for inviting me to this group. Having to admit that I know nothing of this author so I am looking forward to getting to know him along with you.

dec 11, 2011, 2:58 pm

Just ordered Riders in the Chariot, because I figured I couldn't go wrong with an NYRB edition.

Redigeret: dec 11, 2011, 7:52 pm

I'm so pleased that people have joined this group. Patrick White is a great writer and deserves to be read. I don't understand why he isn't better known. Is it because he's Australian? Is it because some of his writing is "difficult"?
Even in Australia it has become popular, among certain media figures, to say that White is unreadable. All I can say to that is: they haven't tried Finnegans's Wake!

Lois (avaland) suggested I change the group picture because White looks like a "cranky old bastard". I told Lois that he actually was a cranky old bastard. In his later years known around Sydney for being outspoken about political matters. In those years he always wore that cap and had a walking stick and that's why I chose the picture. He was wearing that cap the one time I saw him in the flesh. (!!!)

An anecdote about White's crankiness. I've forgotten his exact words so forgive me. Someone I know was invited to dinner at the great man's house in Sydney - he was very excited. When he arrived he was introduced as "(Name), who has that radio programme." White said, "You're a fool" and didn't speak to him again. That was Patrick White.

dec 12, 2011, 8:20 am

Thank you for the invitation. Haven't decided on a book yet.

dec 12, 2011, 8:48 am

Thanks, Amanda- still thinking about which book to read.

dec 14, 2011, 9:35 pm

>12 amandameale: LOL!

I'm here in spirit. Will dig around for the White books, if Dukedom doesn't find them first.

dec 23, 2011, 7:31 am

An excerpt from Patrick White: Letters edited by David Marr.

December 1918:
"Dear Father Xmas.
Will yoy* please bring me
a pistol, a mouth organ
a violin
a butterfly net
Robinson Cruso*
History of Australia
Some marbles.
a little mouse what runs
across the room
I hope you do not
think that I am too greedy
but I want the
things badly
your loving

*As spelled by 6 year-old White

dec 27, 2011, 9:51 am

That is priceless, Amanda. I love those letters to Santa.

dec 29, 2011, 12:39 am

Wonderful letter to Santa! Thanks for inviting me Amanda, you must have known I couldn't resist such a wonderful challenge! I only have 3 of his works, but I must find a copy of Voss and Finnegans's Wake.
The hardest part will be deciding where to start!

dec 29, 2011, 9:10 am

Kim, if you're going to try Finnegan's Wake I want a running commentary! And how wonderful to see you around, by the way.

dec 30, 2011, 7:49 am

A copy of The Vivisector arrived at my door this very morning. I shall begin!

dec 30, 2011, 11:32 am

I just bumped into this group and I have been meaning to pick up one of his books for a couple of years now. I think I have four on the shelf. The Tree of Man or Voss is mostly likely what I will read. I have to say I am a little worries about comparisons to Finnegan's Wake!

Redigeret: dec 30, 2011, 7:40 pm

#21 No, No! Nothing like Finnegan's Wake!!

Duplicating from The Novels thread:
I've just read in the paper this morning that The Hanging Garden, which was found after White's death and kept by his agent for several years, will be published in April 2012. The newspaper says that the novel has been "transcribed" so I don't know if that includes additional writing or what.

jan 1, 2012, 8:15 pm

I have started The Aunt's Story and the writing is beautiful. It's only 287 pages so it might be a good one for those who are feeling intimidated.

jan 1, 2012, 8:20 pm

Setting my sights on The Aunt's Story to be first! I'll be finishing off Lilian's story before that and I've got a few to read for Orange January, sounds like it's my first read in Feb ;)

jan 6, 2012, 5:50 am

I've bought a copy of Voss, so will be starting soon.

I went to four bookshops before I found one. White is popular in Melbourne right now.

jan 10, 2012, 12:05 pm

>>12 amandameale: - curmudgeon is a word that might fit Mr White!

jan 13, 2012, 7:35 pm

This morning I picked up a copy of The Aunt's Story at the organic fruit and vegetable market. More beneficial than bananas, more sustaining than silver beet.

Kim, have you started it?

jan 13, 2012, 8:43 pm

Pam, I've finished it. Will post some thoughts soon. Can't wait to compare opinions.

jan 13, 2012, 10:39 pm

Amanda, I'll start it this weekend.

jan 14, 2012, 7:02 am

Just arrived in the post today The Aunt's story and The Living and the dead along with Patrick White; A Life by David Marr. I think I will start the novels in the order in which they were written and so next week I will go with The Living and the Dead

Looking forward to everyone's thoughts on The Aunts Story}

In my penguin book's version of The Aunt's story which was published in 1963 there was a postcard dated 24 August 1953. The picture on the front is a view of Cockington Village, Torquay, England. The correspondence is fairly dull just a couple of lines about the weather, which was "really good".

jan 15, 2012, 1:32 am

Tempted to start The Aunt's Story soon Pam but I'll finish off Orange January first, with reading, at least, The Great Fire and then I need to polish off another Aussie novel A Fraction of the whole to pass it on to someone else. :)

Redigeret: jan 31, 2012, 7:42 am

Re #26:

'Threnody for Patrick White', a poem by Barry Humphries

''In a Federation bungalow beside Centennial Park,
With its joggers in the daytime, perves and muggers after dark,
Lived a famous author hostesses pretend that they have read,
A querulous curmudgeon with a tea-cosy on his head''

jan 31, 2012, 8:32 am

Love it! Especially the tea-cosy.

feb 6, 2012, 12:59 pm

Like the Poem Paul. And the idea of the tea-cosy.

feb 14, 2012, 11:20 pm

It has been very fashionable to denegrate PW in the spitoon that is modern Australian cultural review (a certain book show and media "figure" comes to mind here). People feel the need to criticise without actually addressing perceived inadequacies in a logical manner, attacking the man instead. Maybe there is professional envy driving these people.

Pity that no reprint of Happy Valley is on the cards for the anniversary as this is his first novel and deserves wider distribution (regardless of whether PW considered it inferior). Plus $2,500+ is too much to pay for this very rare book (I think it only every came out in a single first edition?).

Jult finished the The Burnt Ones (short stories) and considering making a trip to see the 50th anniversary of the production of his play The Ham Funeral in Adelaide next month.

Riders in the Chariot is next having read Twyborn Affair, The Solid Mandala, The Tree of Man and The Eye of the Storm over the past 6 months.

My favourite for many years now has been The Vivisector.

Thank you for setting up this group... much appreciated and happy reading folks!

Redigeret: feb 15, 2012, 8:09 am

#35 I like your spitoon metaphor - very apt. And it's not just those you mentioned. I have heard similar from media figures with no literary credentials whatsoever, except for perhaps once having read a book.

Happy reading to you too!

feb 15, 2012, 10:07 pm

>35 Paulgeer: - I agree it is unfortunate that Happy Valley is not available at a reasonable price. According to David Marr's biography, Patrick White refused to allow the novel to be reprinted because he thought the style was too deriviative of Lawrence and Joyce but Marr argues the underlying reason was fear of litigation in Australia as some of the characters in the book were easily recognisable as real families from the region in which the novel was set. He did allow it to republished in French and Italian after he won the Nobel prize in 1974 but refused to reconsider its republication in Australia. (Marr p546)

feb 25, 2012, 9:03 am

I know reading the entire book is apparently too difficult for some spittooners. Thanks for your reply to my post !!!

feb 25, 2012, 9:08 am

37 - thanks for the reply. I didn't consult my copy of marr prior to posting. I think republishing the first novel is a national priority in this centenary year. This should be more important than publishing the unfinished novel!

feb 26, 2012, 7:11 am


feb 27, 2012, 5:47 pm

> 39/40 - Agreed also.

feb 27, 2012, 8:17 pm

Inspired by Pam (and Barry??) I have started A Fringe of Leaves.

mar 10, 2012, 4:26 am

Which institute owns the rights to Happy Valley? Is this the Library of NSW or the NLA?

mar 10, 2012, 7:51 am

#43 Interesting. I wonder who he left the rights to. Manoly? Then what? The NLA has a huge Patrick White archive so they probably have a copy of Happy Valley, which you would have to drive to Canberra to read.

Redigeret: mar 28, 2012, 3:17 am

> 43-44 - I have just received a copy of Happy Valley through an interlibrary loan via my local library. I requested it about three months ago and I am very surprised there is a copy in circulation and even more surprised that its home library has let it out for loan. It is a first edition and in very good condition. Perhaps you could request a copy through your library.

mar 28, 2012, 8:19 am

#45 VERY interesting. I'm really looking forward to your thoughts about Happy Valley since I might never get to read it myself.

mar 28, 2012, 4:13 pm

You got me curious about Happy Valley, so I looked it up on WorldCat. Surprisingly, more copies of the French edition, Eden-Ville, are available than those in English.

mar 29, 2012, 3:30 am

White's unfinished novel, The Hanging Garden, has been published. From the link below I was most interested in the last few paragraphs where the reviewer discuss the novel as "a fragment" and not intended for publication.

I don't think I want to read it. Anyone else??

mar 29, 2012, 6:23 am

>48 amandameale: I definitely don't want to read it. I agree with the reviewer regarding a re-issue of Happy Valley. For me, publishing this unfinished book equates with reading his mail - a trespass into the writer’s privacy. We should celebrate the corpus of work already published and leave his manuscript where he obviously intended it to be - unpublished.

>47 Cariola: According to White's biographer, Happy Valley was never re-issued in Australia was because of the author's concern that he may have been sued for for libel. Some of the characters in Happy Valley were identifiable with living people he knew. After he won the Nobel prize, he gave permission for it to be reprinted in France and Italy. David Marr's biography is very entertaining if you have an opportunity to read it. Marr is a fine writer.

mar 29, 2012, 8:23 am

#49 Patricia, I agree. My big concern is that this is not a final draft and not sanctioned for publication by White. Ergo not his best version. Ergo I don't want to spoil my impression of his great writing. As you said: "celebrate the corpus of work already published."

Redigeret: apr 2, 2012, 11:59 am

#49/50 - A friend has managed to secure a bound unedited copy of Hanging Garden... even though its in an unfinished state, its better than having someone else finishing the work off (or perform the final editing). We have struggled with this question for some months since hearing of its impending release... I'm not sure I agree that this is tantamount to reading someone's private mail... interesting analogy though.

apr 5, 2012, 3:31 am

#48-51 I won't be reading Hanging Garden until I've worked my way through the completed novels, and that will take me quite a few years I think. I noticed though, that there is a quite positive review of Hanging Garden in last week's The Spectator:

although the reviewer does go on to say that:

'Readers who want to explore the difficult, uneven terrain of White’s novels should...begin with the masterpieces of his mid-career, The Vivisector and The Eye of the Storm. These are thunderingly powerful, full of emotional depth and grandeur, epigrammatic and ironic, with brilliant scrutiny of human character and motives. Their intermittent bursts of livid misanthropy come like an asthmatic’s rasping spasms.'

Oh, to be a professional reviewer!

apr 5, 2012, 9:23 am

Yes, doesn't sound much like my reviews.

apr 13, 2012, 3:33 am

#52 - Good luck on trying to get a copy of Happy Valley (1939). Thanks for the link!

apr 26, 2012, 2:02 pm

I noticed in a US catalog today, a reprint edition of:
The Eye of the Storm : A Novel
Patrick White
paperback, 9780312595326
on sale May 8th (Picador)

apr 26, 2012, 10:00 pm

#55 Ah, because of the film I suppose.

maj 25, 2012, 9:32 pm

It seems that Happy Valley will be available again later this year (unless you want to spend thousands now) The Sydney Morning Herald article today.

maj 25, 2012, 10:28 pm

I have just read the news about Happy Valley - I am reading it at the moment - one of those rare copies the library actually let out of its door but due back on monday. I am reading it slowly because the prose is like a symphony and such a joy to read. The writing in HV is much better and smoother that The Living and the Dead. I have just read an article from an ABR symposium which quotes A.D. Hope's description in 1956 of White's writing as 'pretentious and illiterate verbal sludge'. Happy Valley is definitely not that.

maj 27, 2012, 9:21 am

#57 I'll wait.

maj 27, 2012, 9:23 am

28th May 2012: 100 years since the birth of Patrick White.

Happy Birthday Mr White. May your wonderful words live forever.

maj 28, 2012, 4:12 am

There's an interesting film about White on the ABC web-site, 'Patrick White: Will They Read Me When I’m Dead?':

maj 28, 2012, 9:15 am

Ooh, thanks Paul.

maj 29, 2012, 5:42 am

Paul/Amanda/Geoff/Mrs Penny, This is fabulous news about the re-issue of Happy Valley... I cant particularly part with $7500 at the moment! (do we have a release date?).... The ABC show 'Patrick White: Will They Read Me When I’m Dead?' I found quite a trite treatment on his life and work. The guy (can't remember his name) who wrote the 1996 critique on him still finds his writing "problematic"... and dont get me started on the pompous Peter Craven (who incidentally writing his own book on White)... There will be always someone to criticise the great in this country, jealousy abounds. where are their Nobel Prize I ask!

ABC Canberra 666 did a live broadcast from the NLA where they interviewed Kate Fitzpatrick, WIlliam Yang and looked at some of his recipes (which they cooked and shared in the foyer) and a cake (a la amanda) too! It should be available on the ABC website... also last night there was the wonderful Into The Music which did an hour called 'Patrick White's Ear' his favourite music interspersed with read excerpts from the novels and commentary/reminiscences from Barry Jones and others... was a fabulous way to spend a monday night... (again, the transcript should be available on line)...

maj 29, 2012, 9:52 am

#63 Paul, I agree with you about the critics. Hate 'em.

Thanks for the info on the NLA interview. Shall seek it out.

jun 3, 2012, 6:11 am

>63 Paulgeer: - Paul - OI think the release date for Happy Valley is August. I agree 'Into the Music' was a wonderful program.
Simon During is the author of the 1996 title - I was drawn by your criticism so have ordered it via an interlibrary loan to have a quick look at.

Eye of the Storm is being screened on ABC TV this evening (Sunday 3 June) at 8.30pm.

I have just found the volume of White's letters as part of a 2 volume set which includes Marr's biography

Would anybody like the duplicate copy of the biography by Marr?

jun 3, 2012, 9:11 am

#65 Yes Patricia! I'll swap it for a book of your choice.

jun 3, 2012, 8:04 pm

Amanda - send me your mailing details and I will get it in the post tomorrow.
Instead of a swap, I would really appreciate your opinion on a good general reference for the history of the orchestra.

jun 4, 2012, 9:49 am


aug 21, 2012, 9:23 am

This message posted by Paulgeer on another thread:

"Happy Valley (White's first novel) is out on or about the 25th through Text Publishing (in Australia) if you need a new reading challenge! First time in 70 years."

Paul, I think I will buy that one.

aug 21, 2012, 7:42 pm

>69 amandameale: - Don't hesitate Amanda - I have read 1/3 of Happy Valley and had to put it aside because of studies and also had to return the copy I had via an ILL to the library. I am looking forward to its release at the end of the month.
I did enjoy the section I have already read. The character development and the sense of place in the early chapters is excellent.

aug 22, 2012, 3:31 pm

There is an exhibition on White's life at the State Library of NSW until October 28th.

If like me you can't get to Sydney before it closes you can at least access the nicely produced exhibition guide on the State Library website.

aug 23, 2012, 9:32 am

Thanks Paul. I'm in Sydney and will definitely attend.

sep 2, 2012, 9:49 am

I've ordered my copy of Happy Valley. Should have it in a few days.

sep 7, 2012, 9:50 am

Hello All,

I purchased my copy on 25th Aug after seeing David Marr present a fabulous session called "The Man and His Face" (Melbourne Writers Festival), portraiture and photos of Patrick White some of which have been in private collections (and never seen in public and unearthed gems). Marr was great in recalling stories of photo shoots and circumstances surrounding the photos and paintings. As always he put into context the recurring annoyance of people's understanding of the "falling-outs" with Nolan, Whitely. Unfortunately Happy Valley has been sitting on the bedside table unread as of yet (never enough time..). Everyone buy a copy and enjoy!



okt 20, 2012, 6:21 am

Nicholas Shakespeare has written a perceptive foreword for a new UK edition of Voss (not very much of it is about Voss, but some interesting insights on White the author) . Its online at

okt 24, 2012, 7:42 am

Thanks Paul. I see there's a new Everyman's Library edition of Voss as well.
I'll be reading Happy Valley before the end of the year.

okt 24, 2012, 10:47 am

Ah, that must be the same edition. I finally finished The Eye of the Storm; I haven't had much time for reading the past few months and its a book that demands full concentration.

nov 10, 2012, 7:37 am

Today I started Happy Valley, which will be my last PW for the year.

nov 24, 2012, 3:54 am

Ive almost finished Happy Valley it's a fantastic first novel. His use of stream of thought prose was unexpected but not overbearing. I suspect some may not like that part of his style. His cutting perception of humanity which frames many of his novels is very much evident. Would like to hear others thoughts on this novel!

nov 30, 2012, 11:51 am

A new group, largely inspired by this one, titled Read Mo Yan has been created for those who would like to read and discuss the works of the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Mo Yan. Please join us!

dec 4, 2012, 8:04 am

#79 Paul, I agree about Happy Valley being an excellent first novel and not being "overbearing". Surely this one can find a wider audience than the others?? What I noticed most was that White was much more restrained in his perception of humanity than in his other works. He did become the master of uncovering the ugliness of people and it's one of the qualities that I admire most about his writing. I also noted some experimentation in the writing which he ditched later on. Overall I was just plain fascinated to read Happy Valley. I have known other artists who refuse to show their early work because they find it embarrassing and I understand, but they are not always the best judges. Thank goodness Happy Valley has been re-printed!

#80 Thanks Steven.

apr 1, 2013, 8:10 am

Thanks Amnda for your reply i've been out of touch somewhat recently. It's interesting to see how style evolves and where techniques get dropped off in later works. Happy easter!