Robert Gray Profile

Robert Gray, winner of the Patrick White Award in 1990 and author of an autobiography titled The Land I Came Through Last, is interviewed in "The Sydney Morning Herald" by Valerie Lawson.

Patrick White once accused Gray of writing too much about trees. But it was Gray's instinctive, early connection to the natural world that led to his eventual success as a poet. As well, that helped him survive the burden of his home life.

His father was a drunk and his mother a devout Jehovah's Witness, a religion Gray describes as "dolorous, dreary and puritanical". With those parents and an accompanying posse of eccentric aunts and uncles, "people expect me to be neurotic", Gray says, but "I think I'm very normal".

We meet at his Rose Bay apartment, which is light and white and scattered with delicate sculptures of female nudes, the work of his partner, Dee Jones. The stylish interior is hers, Gray says. If it were up to him, he would live in a spartan room, such as the philosopher, Wittgenstein, preferred - minimum furniture, card tables, shadeless light bulbs.

Wittgenstein. Now that's a name that doesn't usually bob up in an interview but Gray's conversation is a compendium of references, quotations, allusions, and similes. Within the first few minutes, he quotes Siegfried Sassoon and Wallace Simpson and goes on to Dr Johnson, Baudelaire, Sartre, Chekhov, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Hemingway, a roll-call of writers, reflecting a life spent with his nose in a book, not only at home, but during 20 years of working in bookshops.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on September 8, 2008 8:57 AM.

Poem: "Ars Longa, Lodger Brevis" by Nero was the previous entry in this blog.

Melbourne Writers' Festival Reports 2 is the next entry in this blog.

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