Frank Moorhouse(born 21 December 1938) is an Australian writer. He has won major Australian national prizes for the short story, the novel, the essay, and for script writing. His work has been published in the United Kingdom, France and the United States and also translated into German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Serbian, and Swedish.
|Born||Frank Thomas Moorhouse|
21 December 1938
Nowra, New South Wales, Australia
|Occupation||Journalist, writer, novelist, screenwriter|
|Literary movement||Balmain writer|
|Notable works||Dark Palace (2000)|
|Spouse||Wendy Halloway (1959–1963)|
Moorhouse is perhaps best known for having won the 2001 Miles Franklin Literary Award for his novel, Dark Palace; which together with Grand Days and Cold Light, the "Edith Trilogy" is a fictional account of the League of Nations, which trace the strange, convoluted life of a young woman who enters the world of diplomacy in the 1920s through to her involvement in the newly formed International Atomic Energy Agency after World War II.
Frank Thomas Moorhouse was born in Nowra, New South Wales, Australia, to a New Zealand born father of British ethnicity and a mother who was a third-generation Australian of British convict descent. His father was an inventor of agricultural machinery who, together with his wife, established a factory in Nowra to make machinery for the dairy industry.
Moorhouse was a constant reader from an early age and decided to be a writer after reading Alice in Wonderland while bed-ridden for months from a serious accident when he was 12: "After experiencing the magic of this book, I wanted to be the magician who made the magic."
Moorhouse's infant and primary schooling was at Nowra Central and his secondary schooling at Wollongong Secondary Junior Technical (WSJT) High School to the Intermediate Certificate, and Nowra High School to Leaving Certificate. His military service includes army school cadets for two years at WSJT including signals specialist course and cadet officer course. He completed his compulsory national military service of three months basic training and three years part-time in the Reserve Army (infantry) in the University of Sydney Regiment and in the Riverina Regiment, Wagga Wagga (1957–1960). He studied units of undergraduate political science, Australian history, English and journalism – law, history and practice, at the University of Queensland as an external student while working as a cadet newspaper journalist in Sydney and as a journalist in Wagga Wagga, without completing a degree.
After leaving school, Moorhouse began his career as a copy boy and then trained as a cadet journalist on the Daily Telegraph (1955–1957). He then worked as a reporter and editor on country newspapers during the years 1958–1962; the Wagga Wagga Advertiser as a reporter, the Riverina Express as reporter, and the Lockhart Review as editor. He returned to Sydney to become an administrator and tutor in media studies for the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) and later became editor of the WEA magazine The Highway (1963–1965). He worked as a trade union organiser for the Australian Journalists' Association and as part-time editor of The Australian Worker newspaper of the AWU – a union representing shearers, drovers and other rural workers – the oldest trade union newspaper in Australia (1964). In 1966, he was briefly editor of the country newspaper The Boorowa News.
At eighteen, he published his first short story, The Young Girl and the American Sailor, in Southerly magazine and this was followed by publication of early stories in Meanjin, Overland, Quadrant, Westerly and other Australian literary magazines.
Moorhouse became a full-time fiction writer during the 1970s, also writing essays, short stories, journalism and film, radio and TV scripts. In his early career he developed a narrative structure which he has described as the 'discontinuous narrative'.
Moorhouse has also written and lectured on the way communication and the control of communication has been developing and the relationship of creative professionals to the economy and to the political system. He has been active in the defence of freedom of expression and in analysis of the issues affecting it and in the 1970s was arrested and prosecuted on a couple of occasions while campaigning against censorship. He has been a chairman and a director and one of the founding group of the Australia Copyright Agency (CAL), which was set up by publishers and authors to coordinate the use of copyright and which now distributes millions of dollars annually to Australian writers. He has been a president of the Australian Society of Authors and member of the Australian Press Council. He was also an organiser for the Australian Journalists' Association.
Moorhouse was appointed a member of the SYDNEY PEN eminent writers' panel in 2005.
He has participated in Australian and overseas conferences in arts, communication and related areas and has taught, been a guest lecturer and writer-in-residence at Australian and overseas universities.
Moorhouse married his high school girlfriend Wendy Halloway in 1959, but they separated four years later, having no children. Since then he has led a sometimes turbulent bisexual life shaped by his own androgyny, some of which is chronicled in his book Martini: A Memoir (Random House 2005). Moorhouse currently lives alone in Potts Point, Sydney. Early in his career he committed himself to a philosophy of personal candour, stating that there was no question a person could ask of him to which he would not try to give an honest answer. In his public commentary he has questioned the notion of separation of public and private life and the concept of privacy.
Throughout his life he has frequently gone alone on eight-day, map-and-compass, off-trail treks into wilderness areas. He is also a gourmand. He once said that he was a member of a think-tank called Wining and Dining.
During the researching and writing of his League of Nations novels – the 'Edith Trilogy' (1989–2011) – he lived in Geneva, various parts of France, Washington DC, Cambridge and Canberra.
His parents are dead and he has two older brothers, Owen and Arthur.
Awards and honours
In 1985, Moorhouse was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for service to Australian literature; and in 2001 he received the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society through writing. Moorhouse has been conferred with a Doctor of Letters honoris causa by Griffith University.
Forty-seventeen won The Age Book of the Year Award and the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medal in 1988. The writer in a time of terror appeared in Griffith Review and won the 2007 Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate in the Victorian Premier's Literary Award and the award for Social Equity Journalism in The Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism. In 1994, Grand Days won the Adelaide Festival National Prize for Fiction; in 1975 The Electrical Experience won the National Award for Fiction; and in 2012 Cold Light won the Queensland Literary Award for Fiction and made the short list for the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award.
The Coca-Cola Kid, a romantic comedy film based on Moorhouse's short stories in The Americans, Baby, and The Electrical Experience, where Moorhouse also wrote the screenplay, was entered into the 1985 Cannes Film Festival; although did not receive an award.
In 2009 Frank Moorhouse was awarded the Senior Fellowship of the Zukunftskolleg at the University of Konstanz.
Moorhouse has been conferred a Doctor of Letters honoris causa by the University of Sydney, and Doctor of the University by Griffith University.
- Futility and Other Animals. Sydney, New South Wales: Gareth Powell Associates. 1969. p. 162.
- The Americans, Baby: A Discontinuous Narrative of Stories and Fragments. Sydney, New South Wales: Angus & Robertson. 1972. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-207-12491-4.
- The Illegal Relatives. Glebe, Sydney, New South Wales: privately published. 1973. p. 96.
- The Electrical Experience : A Discontinuous Narrative. Random House Australia. 1974. ISBN 978-1-74051-142-1.
- Tales of Mystery and Romance. Sydney, New South Wales: Angus & Robertson. 1977. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-207-95700-0.
- The Everlasting Secret Family. North Ryde, New South Wales: Angus & Robertson. 1980. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-207-17179-6.
- Lateshows. Sydney: Pan Macmillan. 1990. p. 217. ISBN 0330272160.
Novels and novellas
- Conference-ville. Sydney, New South Wales: Angus & Robertson. 1976. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-207-13421-0.
- Forty-seventeen. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking. 1988. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-01-400651-9.
- Grand Days. Chippendale, New South Wales: Pan Macmillan. 1993. p. 572. ISBN 978-0-7329-0768-6.
- Dark Palace (2000) Random House 678pp
- Cold Light (2011) Random House
Humour and memoir
- Room Service: Comic Writings of Frank Moorhouse. Ringwood, Victoria: Viking. 1985. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-670-80858-8.
- Loose Living. Sydney, New South Wales: Picador. 1995. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-330-35719-7.
- The Inspector-General of Misconception: The Ultimate Compendium to Sorting Things Out. Milsons Point, New South Wales: Vintage. 2002. p. 296. ISBN 978-0-09-184162-1.
- Martini: A Memoir. Milsons Point, New South Wales: Random House Australia. 2005. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-74051-312-8.
- Moorhouse, Frank, ed. (1973). Coast to coast : Australian stories 1973. Sydney, New South Wales: Angus & Robertson. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-207-12693-2.
- Moorhouse, Frank, ed. (1980). Days of wine and rage. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books. p. 446. ISBN 978-0-14-005687-7.
- Moorhouse, Frank, ed. (1988). Fictions 88. Crows Nest, New South Wales: ABC Enterprises for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. p. 239. ISBN 978-0-642-53107-0.
- Moorhouse, Frank, ed. (1983). The State of the art : the mood of contemporary Australia in short stories. Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-14-006598-5.
- Moorhouse, Frank, ed. (2004). The best Australian stories 2004. Melbourne, Victoria: Black Inc. p. 218. ISBN 978-1-86395-245-3.
- Moorhouse, Frank, ed. (2005). The best Australian stories 2005. Melbourne, Victoria: Black Inc. p. 235. ISBN 978-1-86395-110-4.
Scripts for films
- The American Poet's Visit (1969)
- The Girl from the Family of Man (1970)
- The Machine Gun (1971).
- The American Poet's Visit (1969)
- The Girl from the Family of Man (1970)
- The Machine Gun (1971)
- Between Wars (1974)
- The Girl Who Met Simone de Beauvoir in Paris (1980)
- The Coca-Cola Kid (1985)
- The Everlasting Secret Family (1988)
Reviews and critiques
Martini: A Memoir
Martini: A Memoir was published in 2005. Part autobiography, part history of the martini, the book's minimal plot involves deep conversations about the cocktail between the author and his martini-obsessed friend, V.I. Voltz, a character based on Moorhouse's friend, screenwriter Steven Katz.
The book includes love letters written by Moorhouse's ex-wife, the journalist Wendy James, to him during her time as a student in Nowra. She was deeply unhappy at their unauthorised publication and at the suggestion that she had had an affair with one of her teachers. James requested that any monies earned from the book's publication be donated to charity, suggesting that charities which aid children affected by AIDS would be suitable recipients. Moorhouse offered to return 20–30 letters to James but refused to apologise for the passages of the book dealing with the affair with the teacher saying, "Nowhere in the book is it seriously suggested that the ex-wife – not that it's purely Wendy – ever had an affair with her teacher. This idea exists only in the mind of the character – of the demented narrator-author."
- Frank Moorhouse:The Writer as an Artist by Pradeep Trikha (2001)
Opinions of his work
"In Australian writing, Moorhouse stands apart..." Le Monde, Paris
"I doubt whether Frank Moorhouse, whose reputation in Australia has been built on his witty reporting of life among city-dwelling professionals and conference-goers, would expect to find himself likened to Henry James. Yet James's complicated explorations of American innocents (supposed) and their European corrupters (assumed) is strongly brought to mind in Moorhouse's duo of novels about the interwar activities of the League of Nations, of which Dark Palace is the concluding part." Peter Porter the Guardian (UK), 9 April 2002
"The chair incident is a minor but emblematic moment in Grand Days, the first volume in the League-based Palais des Nations series produced by Australian writer, Frank Moorhouse. It would be a striking novel set in any period, well-written and peopled with engaging characters, but Moorhouse's choice of time frame makes Grand Days especially poignant; the hopes and idealism expressed in Geneva in the 1920s are shadowed by the reader's knowledge that the League of Nations is destined to be a noble failure.
"There is, in short, much of Henry James in this novel-the emphasis on the complexities of social interaction, on the overlooked details of life, on the clash of manners and cultures. Moorhouse, naturally, is more modern than James – one of Edith Berry Campbell's great friends is transsexual – but also more arch, giving Grand Days a humour and drollery absent from most of the master's work.
"Like James, too, Moorhouse isn't overly concerned with surface plot. When Edith, early in the novel, accepts the gift of a revolver from an odd American named Col. Strongbow, the reader expects the gun to reappear at some point; it never does, though, for few of the charged, apparently significant incidents in Grand Days have external consequences." Chris Goodrich, Los Angeles Times, 5 June 1994
' "Let us drink to the discipline of indiscipline which must guide us all in every action." The hero announces near the start of Frank Moorhouse's wry, elliptical, funny and sad novel which like a casual outfit from a couture house, is constructed with the art that conceals art – a veritable model of dishevelled elegance.
'...In between these affirmations of rigorous flexibilities a novel crammed with ideas, constructed in brief chapters crafted as finely as if they were individual short stories, threaded together with verbal echoes and emotional resonances...'
'...an utterly distinctive voice—discursive, sexy, furiously sceptical, literate, desperately romantic, rude.'
'...Comparisons with Milan Kundera are not out of place, although Mr Moorhouse's female characters are far more credible...his effect is unexpected, exhilarating, disorienting, sometimes hilarious...He makes you laugh, and think.'
Angela Carter, New York Times (Forty-Seventeen), full page 3 review. [Date is being located]
'Unlike many male writers Moorhouse is at ease writing about the way people understand and express themselves sexually...this is a stunning collection...Most of all; it's a terrific read...' Delys Bird, Australian Book Review (Forty-Seventeen) [Date is being located]
'Monstrous, pathetic and hilarious...he creates admirable female characters...' Elizabeth Ward Washington Post (Forty-Seventeen) [Date is being located]
'with the skill of his writing and the shrewdness of his observations about human behaviour, but by his ability to fictionalize records which might otherwise be too painful to read. Making what he writes about acceptable in this way he extends enormously the range of human behaviour we are able to contemplate with equanimity, humour and compassion.' Gay Raines, Australian Studies. (Forty-Seventeen) [Date is being located]
'...an irreducibly rich, sustained and complex work of the imagination...showing the quiet mark of genius...Throughout, the gems of the book stem from delight. Delight in words, in sensations, in work, in love.' Natasha Walter, The Independent, London 11 September 1993
'..chief among the many pleasures of this wonderful novel is the satisfaction of feeling that while you are, at every turn, reminded of why you liked reading in the past, you are never for a moment not reading about the present...you won't have performed better as a reader since you read Middlemarch.' Howard Jacobson, Sunday Times, 12 September 1993.
'...combines meticulous research with imaginative bravura to transform what he calls "a trunk in the attic of history" into an exuberant novel...it says a lot for Frank Moorhouse's capacity as a story-teller that Grand Days doesn't feel as long as it actually is (over 500 pages).' Lucasta Miller, London Sunday Telegraph, 26 September 1993.
'Frank Moorhouse has opted for the blend of historical and fictional characters which turns the novel into an epic docudrama.' Nicola Walker, Times Literary Supplement, 24 September 1993
'This is a big, luminous, affectionate and beautifully managed novel. It shows Frank Moorhouse passing from days of wine and rage to his own grand days.' Brian Matthews, London Sunday Independent, 26 September 1993
'Grand Days is easily the most original novel I've read this year both in subject matter...and in style...' Margaret Forster, London Telegraph Books of The Year, 12 December 1993.
'...worth not reading, but re-reading.' Natasha Walter, Independent, Writers look back on Highlights of 1993, 4 December 1993.
'...Grand Days is a celebration of the novel as a form, for its inclusiveness and its contingent truths, as well as the requirements that we surrender to its telling...Contemporary fiction must relearn how to propose and leap into embodying its proposal. This novel does both beautifully, challenging us to listen with complete, rapt attention to Edith as she storms into life through these many pages. Whether we accept her word or warm to her self-appraisal is unimportant because we have been implicated in her singularity...It is a rich and enriching novel, out of its time but vital to it, whose writing is an act of inspiration..’ Guy Mannes-Abbott, The Guardian, 28 December 1993.
'...Moorhouse has enormous gifts—he is our funniest writer and our finest connoisseur of the comedy of manners.' Peter Goldsworthy, The Adelaide Review. [Date is being located]
In July 2012, Michael Chamberlain broke his silence on Frank Moorhouse's "docudrama" that failed to put the Chamberlains' side of the Azaria Chamberlain case (they have been completely exonerated) and said Moorhouse's invective was hurtful, and that the Chamberlains are owed an apology by Moorhouse. [ABC666 broadcast, Michael Chamberlain interviewed by Andrea Close Thursday 12 July 2012]
- "Contributors: Frank Moorhouse". Griffith Review. Griffith University. 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- "Miles Franklin Literary Award 2001". Miles Franklin Literary Award. The Trust Company. 2001. Archived from the original on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- Steger, Jason (12 November 2011). "Interview: Frank Moorhouse". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- "MOORHOUSE, Frank Thomas: Member of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 26 January 1985. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- "MOORHOUSE, Frank Thomas: Centenary Medal". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- "Frank Moorhouse: Cold Light: Biography". Miles Franklin Literary Award. The Trust Company. 2012. Archived from the original on 10 May 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- "The writer in a time of terror". Griffith Review (14: The Trouble With Paradise ed.). Griffith University. 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
- "Festival de Cannes: The Coca-Cola Kid". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- Moorhouse, Frank (August 2012). "Man About Town". The Monthly. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
- Jonathan Porter (31 March 2007). "Martini stirs Moorhouse ex's fury". The Australian. Retrieved 1 August 2011.