Described as a “forensic work of recovery”, an extraordinary biography of Australia’s most popular poet CJ Dennis – almost forgotten until now – has won the $25,000 National Biography Award, announced at the State Library of NSW today.
An Unsentimental Bloke (Wakefield Press) by Philip Butterss was awarded Australia’s richest prize for life writing, now in its 20th year, from a field of 72 entries.
The judges praised Butterss for his deeply informed, illuminating and delightfully readable work; “the first full biography of the man who wrote The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke, The Moods of Ginger Mick and several other classics.”
“An Unsentimental Bloke is a meticulously researched account of the life and times of CJ Dennis, possibly the most popular writer ever to pen stories for an Australian audience and far and away the most popular of all Australian poets,” the judges reported.
“It is a fascinating account of Dennis’s public and private life and an illuminating analysis of the literary worlds in which he moved.”
NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive Alex Byrne added: “CJ Dennis was an extraordinarily successful poet whose books were in every home although he has now fallen out of fashion. His rhymes and wry humour, his take on Australia's growing cities were repeated by all with smiles on their faces. This new biography, An Unsentimental Bloke, will restore his prominent place in Australia’s rich literary landscape.”
The judges for this year’s Award are: Professor Melanie Nolan, the Director of the National Centre of Biography and General Editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography at the Australian National University; Dr Peter Cochrane, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities; and Rosemary Sorensen, a reviewer and journalist.
See the full media release attached.