Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 27, 2022

Vale Frank Moorhouse (1938-2022)

I am sad to pass on news of the death on June 26th of Frank Moorhouse OAM (1938-2022).  He was 83.

Moorhouse was a novelist, essayist, scriptwriter and author of short stories and non-fiction, and his work was translated widely around the world.

As I write, Brona is hosting a readalong of the Edith trilogy, his major work.  This magnificent 3-volume series comprising Grand Days (1993); Dark Palace (2000) and Cold Light (2011, see my review) tells the story of a woman who leaves Australia to work in the League of Nations, concluding with her later years during the Cold War in Australia.   Dark Palace won the Miles Franklin  Award in 2001.

Born and educated in NSW, Moorhouse trained as a cadet journalist in Sydney while studying by correspondence at the University of Queensland.  He did not complete his degree, but  moved into journalism, working in country newspapers and in a stint as editor for the Australian Workers Union. He published his first short story at 18, and went on to write seven short story collections, listed on his page at Wikipedia as

  • Futility and Other Animals (1969)
  • The Americans, Baby: A Discontinuous Narrative of Stories and Fragments (1972)
  • The Illegal Relatives  (1973)
  • The Electrical Experience : A Discontinuous Narrative (1974)
  • Tales of Mystery and Romance (1977)
  • The Everlasting Secret Family and Other Secrets (1980)
  • Lateshows (1990).

His debut novel came in 1975 with Conference-ville, followed by Forty-seventeen which won the Australian Literature Society’s gold medal in 1988..  A full-time professional writer since 1970, he published the Edith Trilogy over nearly twenty years, alongside other books and writing, including contributions to anthologies, and scriptwriting for film and TV and the docudrama The Disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain (1983).

Not listed at Wikipedia is The Drover’s Wife (2017) but I know it exists because I have it on my TBR.  It consists of essays and commentary exploring our ongoing fascination with Henry Lawson’s story of The Drover’s Wife (1892).

Moorhouse was also an active campaigner against censorship prior to the Whitlam reforms, and authors around Australia (including me) are also in his debt for his work as one of the founding members of the  Australian Copyright Agency (CAL), which collects fees from institutional users of Australian copyright (e.g. schools and universities) and distributes the proceeds to authors. To give you some idea of its value, one memorable year I received about $10,000 from teachers photocopying the educational materials I published, and I used it as a deposit on my first ever brand new car.  And though my books were published back in the 1990s, they are still in widespread use and I usually receive about $1000 each year (which just about covers the cost of getting the car serviced!) I owe this good fortune to Frank Moorhouse and his co-founders.

Moorhouse was also a president of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) (of which I have been a loyal member since my first book was published) and he was a member of the Australian Press Council too.

Image credit: By Mosman Library from Sydney, Australia – Frank Moorhouse, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=117449344


Responses

  1. The Americans Baby was famous when I was young, and I guess I read it then. More recently I’ve reviewed his The Drover’s Wife. He was always ‘around’ and there is plenty of Moorhouse in my TBR, perhaps I should get to it sooner rather than later.

    Like

    • Yes, me too.
      I’m interested in those other books too… I don’t think I’ve ever come across them.

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  2. Oh how sad. Thanks for alerting me to this Lisa. I will go back now and adjust the messaging on my scheduled post for the 1st July.

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    • I hope he knew that people have fond memories of his books, and that they are still being read.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have read ‘Cold Light’, and will now seek out his other works.

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    • I hope they’re in your library… I just checked, and they are in mine, which confirms what I thought about people still reading them.

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  4. I had one of his books in The vintage Australian Penguin library I owned. He was a very special author. I like the photo of him you chose above.

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    • Yes, so do I. He looks as if he’s smiling right at us, his readers.

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  5. Good one Lisa … I plan a little tribute on my MM tonight.

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    • I do try to keep up with these… but it’s always a matter of whether I stumble on the news about it.

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      • Yes, me too. Mostly it’s through notifications on my device but I don’t always catch them.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. […] December 1938 in Nowra, NSW. He was a journalist, writer, novelist and screenwriter. Please see Lisa @ANZ LitLovers lovely farewell here and Sue @Whispering Gums here. As you will see in both posts, Moorhouse’s influence has been […]

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  7. I have several Frank Moorhouse novels and am yet to read them. A recurring theme I know but I really must get onto them.

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    • *chuckle* I could well say the same, as you know!

      Like


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