Yarn Spinners: A Story in Letters between Dymphna Cusack, Florence James and Miles Franklin
Edited by Marilla North
"These letters tell a story of devotion: to friendship, to politics, to writing, to intellectual endeavour. The commitment of Dymphna Cusack, Florence James and Miles Franklin to a distinctively Australian literary voice is matched only by their determination to portray 'women as we know them. Thinking, working, loving, desiring ... full of longing for the wider horizons'. This may seem a tame goal now, but it was a revolutionary one then; for the whole twenty-seven year period covered by this volume, Australian literature languished in the shadow of England. Though all very different personalities, these three writers shared an intelligence, with and passion that - along with the intersection and occasional collision of their public and private lives - make these letters a compelling and moving narrative of the writing life."
First Paragraph from the Introduction:
This is a story about friendship and storytelling - about 'yarn-spinning". Dymphna Cusack, Miles Franktin and Ftorence James shared their love of Austratia and their passionate commitment to the shaping of its culture over many a pot of tea and in many letters to each other. They saw themselves - with other writers of that period from the 1930s to the 1950s - as the creators and defending champions of an 'authentic' and truly Australian literature.
Yet this was a thankless and often frustrating task, for Mother England still held the cultural reins of a waning Empire. The Oxbridge dons still decided what was worthy of being read in the Engtish language and which books were to be printed and distributed through a British publishing industry still firmly entrenched in London and the Home Counties.
Like David against Goliath, Miles, Dymphna and Florence engaged in subversive tactics: they waged literary guerilla warfare, and through the British Society of Authors and collaborative action from a few of the more ethical English publishing houses, they finally gained for Australian authors the right to a "fair go' and an equitable royalty.
This is the story of three politically active women who helped shape Australia's literary and cultural values in the mid-twentieth century. It is also the story of a significant, twenty-six-year period in their lives, when they shared their joys and sorrows, writing in sickness and in health, of love lost and love gained, of kith and kin, of journeys, separations and reunions.
It is told through their letters to each other and to a few family members and friends. It is threaded through with snippets of diary entries, photographs, press-clippings, dust-jackets, reviews and postcards.
From the University of Queensland Press paperback edition, 2001.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2002 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to Dymphna Cusack Page.
Last modified: March 6, 2002.