Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 13, 2015

Meet an Aussie Author: Amanda Lohrey

Amanda LohreyAmanda Lohrey is an author whose career I’ve been following ever since I first discovered her writing, way back in 1997 when she co-authored Secrets with Robert Dessaix and Drusilla Modjeska.  I started with The Philosopher’s Doll (2004), which was before I started this blog (but see this perceptive review by Aviva Tuffield at The Age).  Exploring issues of work-life balance and the Generation X biological clock dilemma, The Philosopher’s Doll was long-listed for the 2005 Miles Franklin and for the IMPAC in 2006, and I promptly added Lohrey to my list of must-read authors.  Subsequent to that I read Camille’s Bread which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin in 1996 and won the Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medal in the same year.  (See a review by Troy Martin at Lit-is-Stan), and then there was her stunning novella Vertigo – which is my favourite, and you can read my enthusiastic review here.

After that there was a collection of short stories, Reading Madame Bovary in 2010. Short stories are not my thing but of course I read it because this author interests me.  Like Amanda Goldsmith, she eloquently captures the angst of middle-class life with an interesting twist, but Lohrey is also interested in spirituality, which I am not, and I find it salutary to read the intelligent insights of someone so different to me.  This was why I found her latest long-awaited novel so intriguing: as you will know if you read my reviewA Short History of Richard Kline is an exploration of a middle-aged man seeking meaning in his life and, being a sceptic, he finds himself affronted by the impact of a mystic on his psyche.  Lohrey’s skill is in keeping me engaged in something I am not interested in, but want to know about why it matters to other people.  If you too are baffled by the angst of modern middle-class life, Lohrey can explain it to you and make a beaut novel of it at the same time.

There are also two early titles I have yet to lay my hands on:  The Morality of Gentlemen (1984) (discussed by Geordie Williamson for The Australian here) and The Reading Group (1988) which was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Prize.  I found The Morality of Gentlemen in reprint and a second-hand copy of The Reading Group at Fishpond and have ordered them both, so I now have those to look forward to…

The release of a new novel is always a very busy time for any author so I was delighted when Lohrey responded to my hesitant request to feature her in Meet an Aussie Author.   Here are her answers to my questions:

1.  I was born in Hobart in 1947.

2.  When I was a child I wrote in weird Victorian prose because I read so many Victorian adventure classics like R M Ballantyne’s Coral Island. To the horror of my teachers I wrote sentences like: ‘He was affrighted not a little.’

3.  The person who encouraged/inspired/mentored me to write is/was – no-one. It was inborn.

4.  I write in my workroom, a former bedroom in my house. I’d like a superior treehouse with central heating but it’s not feasible.

5.  I write mostly between 2 and 5 in the afternoon, but it varies.

6.  Research is not applicable. I don’t like research driven novels – you can smell the library in them.

7.  I keep my published works on a shelf. I tried putting them in boxes in the garage but found I needed to refer to them a surprising number of times and in summer I worry about snakes in the garage.

8.  On the day my first book was published – I have no recollection of this whatsoever. I had a small baby at the time and was very distracted.

9.  At the moment, I’m writing another novel. The disease is incurable.

10.When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I press on and revisit the problem later.

After an academic career teaching politics at the University of Tasmania, and writing and textual studies at the University of Technology Sydney and the University of Queensland, Lohrey now lives in her birthplace, Tasmania.   She is a regular contributor to The Monthly magazine and is a former Senior Fellow of the Literature Board of the Australia Council.   In November 2012 she received the 2012 Patrick White Award for literature, celebrating her impressive body of work.

Lohrey is also a major essayist: I make a point of reading her stuff because it’s always right on the cultural pulse.  Of essays listed at Wikipedia I recall reading those written for The Monthly:Enrolment Daze’ in 2005 and ‘Green Christine’ (about Christine Green, leader of the Australian Greens) in 2008; and for Quarterly Essay she wrote ‘Groundswell, the Rise of the Greens’ (2002) and ‘Voting for Jesus, Christianity and Politics in Australia’ in 2006, a hot topic then though it’s gone somewhat under the radar nowShe also edited the 2014 edition of Best Australian Stories.

I stumbled on  Spiritual Stories, the website that Lohrey co-authors with her husband, when I was searching for a review of The Singing Cure, listed at GoodReads but not at Wikipedia.  I’d never heard of it and wondered why not, because it’s a recent publication (2013) and I pay attention to this author’s work.  From the description of the book I couldn’t tell whether The Singing Cure was fiction or NF: it turns out that it’s about the joy of singing in choirs.  I suspect it’s a republication as a single volume of her essay ‘The Clear Voice Suddenly Singing’ in Secrets.  Perhaps someone can clarify this for me.

To enjoy a taste of Lohrey’s style, visit the Stories page at Spiritual Stories where you can find a couple of recent short stories.

You can buy these titles at Fishpond:

and you can also find some of them at her Black Inc author page.

 

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Responses

  1. I read some of Amanda’s ‘Spiritual Stories’ and the they are personal and fascinating. I can now understand why she wrote Richard Kline from these experiences. Thanks for the interview.

    • She’s wonderful, isn’t she? She digs right into the hidden parts of the psyche that we all try to hide from ourselves and others. Utterly seductive.

  2. […] co written with Drusilla Modjeska and fellow Taswegian Amanda Lohrey.  I’ve been following Lohrey’s career ever since I read Camille’s Bread (1995); […]


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