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Hal Porter Biography

(1911–84), A Bachelor's Children, Mr Butterfly, and Other Tales of Japan

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)

Australian writer, born in Melbourne. A stylish detachment characterizes his short stories, the first volume of which was published in 1942. Of six collections, A Bachelor's Children (1962), Mr Butterfly, and Other Tales of Japan (1970), and Fredo Fuss Love Life (1974) received most critical attention. Sharp, extravagant of detail, the stories are realistic depictions of everyday life. Porter's first novel, A Handful of Pennies (1958; revised 1980), is about Australians with the occupation forces in Japan, the children of whom Porter had taught in 194950. The Tilted Cross (1961), set in colonial Hobart, gives a fictional account, through the artist Vaneleigh, of the story of Thomas Wainewright, a historical convict. The Right Thing (1971) is set in a coastal town in Victoria of the 1960s. His autobiography The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony (1963), which recorded his childhood, is recognized as his major work and was continued in two sequels: The Paper Chase (1966), which conveys the subsequent period of recognition of the conditions of his vocation; and The Extra (1974), in which the author appears as observer of the world and includes some memoirs of fellow writers. His non-fictional works include The Actors (1968), a study of modern Japan; Bairnsdale: Portrait of an Australian Country Town (1977), a history of his own town; three books of verse, and several plays.

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