34 episodes

What is the secret to writing a really juicy biography? Author Caroline Baum interviews seasoned players and persistent newcomers who share their experience of navigating sensitive territory in the search for the real story behind a person’s life. Whether they are writing about the famous or the forgotten, whether their version of events is authorised or
unauthorised, biography is a high-stakes quest full of twists and turns.

Life Sentences Podcast Caroline Baum

    • Arts
    • 4.9 • 32 Ratings

What is the secret to writing a really juicy biography? Author Caroline Baum interviews seasoned players and persistent newcomers who share their experience of navigating sensitive territory in the search for the real story behind a person’s life. Whether they are writing about the famous or the forgotten, whether their version of events is authorised or
unauthorised, biography is a high-stakes quest full of twists and turns.

    The Mod Quad

    The Mod Quad

    In between the two world wars, a group of lesbian expatriate women from the US and UK found freedom in Paris to explore and foster creativity. They dressed differently and lived and loved with abandon. Some are well known to us today, like Gertrude Stein, some have been forgotten, among them Sylvia Beach, who took a risk and published James Joyce’s Ulysses when no one else would touch it.

    In this conversation biographer Diana Souhami revisits these free spirits who sought creative fulfillment and sexual liberation through a bold new movement of artistic experimentation that would come to be known as Modernism and would include giants of the twentieth century.
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    • 30 min
    Between the Lines

    Between the Lines

    Award winning author Kate Grenville has an ambivalent attitude to biography.  She leverages  this by using its materials, particularly letters, to create an alternative version of events in her novel A Room Made of Leaves, about the colonial figure of Elizabeth Macarthur.

    But when she came to editing the original letters for a recently published collection, what else did she discover about Elizabeth and the  ambiguities of correspondence in the eighteenth century, when news took so long to reach the other side of the world?  And when what was left unsaid was sometimes as eloquent as the writing on the page?

    Kate’s  thought-provoking conversation  with Caroline Baum sheds light on one of the most fruitful but challenging aspects of biographical research.
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    • 50 min
    Paint It Black

    Paint It Black

    In this episode, First Nations guest interviewer Daniel Browning talks to first time author Alec O’Halloran  about  The Master from Marnpi, his biography First Nations artist Mick  Namarari Tjapaltjarri.O’Halloran had never written a biography  before, but had bought a painting by the artist and become fascinated by  his way of expressing his place and his culture. Over several years and many visits to  the Western Desert, Alice Springs and Kintore,  he earned the trust of his subject’s widow and community enough to capture a sense of Tjapaltjarri’s life as a hunter, a stockman , artists and family man. His lavishly illustrated, self-published biography tells the story of how Tjapaltjarri became a leading figure in the  Papunya Tula art movement, one of the most significant in Indigenous art.  In seeing the project through, O’Halloran kept  an important promise.
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    • 34 min
    The Queen of Brit Bio

    The Queen of Brit Bio

    Few biographers can equal Claire Tomalin’s reputation as the queen of British biography. After her beginnings in journalism, she’s had a long and glittering  career writing about the illustrious lives of Dickens and Pepys, Mary Wollstonecraft, Henry James, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and Katherine Mansfield - an amazing roll call.

    Modest and self-effacing herself,  Tomalin  has also shed life on women who have been forgotten  by history or overshadowed - like the actress Nelly Tiernan, who was Dickens’ lover, and another actress,Mrs Jordan, a royal mistress of William the Fourth who bore him ten illegitimate children.

    As well as being dauntingly prolific, she manages to be both scholarly and popular. Since this interview, Tomalin has published her tenth  biography,  of the young HG Wells, announcing that it would be her last book, which is fair enough when you are 88.
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    • 50 min
    The Red in the Bed

    The Red in the Bed

    Katharine Susannah Pritchard (1883 -1969) enjoyed early success as a writer, travelled internationally and married a war hero. Despite seeming privilege, her life was anything but smooth.

    In this episode, Caroline Baum talks to her biographer Nathan Hobby about uncovering the identity of her married lover, and how she became a passionate and uncritical follower of Soviet Communist ideology while writing novels that were well ahead of their time. What emerges is the portrait of an unconventional woman who  spoke and wrote her mind, often at great personal cost.
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    • 49 min
    Suburban Bohemia

    Suburban Bohemia

    When Charmian Clift returned to Australia with her husband George Johnston and their children, they left behind a creative Greek idyll and returned to suburban Sydney at a time of social upheaval.

    Charmian threw herself into her weekly column on the women’s pages of a major newspaper and used it to question whether the country had changed as much as people claimed it had during their absence.  Seeing herself as both a migrant and returning expat gave her a unique outsider perspective. She soon developed a huge following for her opinions on everything from the war in Vietnam to the wearing of hats.

    Her biographer Nadia Wheatley talks to Caroline Baum about how Charmian adjusted to suburbia and how she used her own lived experience and distinctive personal voice to connect with her readers.
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    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
32 Ratings

32 Ratings

Peter Veenhuizen ,

Peter Veenhuizen

This is a wonderful podcast exploring the art of writing biography with those that do it best. Ms Baum is an engaging, challenging and respectful interviewer who makes every minute of the podcast a listening pleasure,

PamWriting ,

A Writer Who Listens

I was ready to be knocked out by Caroline Baum’s podcast of her interviews with biographers because having been in the audience when she interviewed Edmund de Wal at the SWF some years back, I had been transfixed back then, by her ability to reveal so much about this complex author and bring her own intelligent probing to reveal his many layers. I am absolutely loving the Life Sentences podcast. All Baum’s skills are on display and she doesn’t hold back in the tough questions which makes it even more interesting. Just listen to her talk with Hermione Lee about how Lee handled her Tom Stoppard biography, and with Heather Clark about writing a biography of Sylvia Plath which has breathed totally new insight into Plath’s much-told story. I loved the history of Joan of Arc and the podcast was so revelatory. Baum is quite simply a wonderful interviewer, so prepared and knowledgeable, and with an inquiring mind that does her subjects justice. Highly recommended!

Barragga ,

Caroline Baum talks with author Judith Hoare about Claire Weekes

Brilliant storytelling in this episode. Loved the revelations about Dr Weekes and even hearing her speak. Brilliant show CB! Thank you.

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