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An Unsentimental Bloke

The life and work of C.J. Dennis

Philip Butterss

An Unsentimental Bloke
The Sentimental Bloke and Doreen are famous characters in Australian popular culture, but their creator deserves to be better known. C.J. Dennis transformed the larrikin from a street thug into a respectable image of Australian identity, and helped shape the Anzac legend.

Many people regarded Dennis himself as a sentimental bloke, but this book shows he was a much more complex and sometimes darker personality - not only examining his humorous and lovable side, but also his struggles with alcohol and depression, his political activism, his marriage and his financial dealings.

An Unsentimental Bloke traces Dennis's early years in rural South Australia, his work on a bohemian newspaper in Adelaide and move to Melbourne as a freelancer for the Bulletin, his period of political involvement, followed by enormous successes (he was more popular than Banjo Paterson or Henry Lawson ever were), spectacular fall, and re-emergence as an elder statesman of Australian letters.

Winner of the 2015 National Biography Award.
Shortlisted for the Walter McRae Russell Award (2013-2014).
Longlisted for the 2015 CHASS Australia Book Prize.

Praise for An Unsentimental Bloke:
An Unsentimental Bloke is deeply researched and fluent in style. The writing is scholarly in the best sense – informed, perceptive and very readable. This first full biography of the man who wrote The Songs of the Sentimental Bloke is long overdue. Butterss’ book explains how cultural change as well as Dennis’s own colourful personal history created this gap in the record of our literature, now brilliantly filled in by a first class biography which is richly rewarding.’ – Judges’ Citation (2015 National Biography Award)

'Butterss’ biography is the result of painstaking research and a thorough knowledge of Dennis’s extensive writings' - Gillian Dooley, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, No. 43

'Compared to the overly positive biographical works on one side and McQueen’s harsh account of Dennis on the other, An Unsentimental Bloke is fair-minded and balanced. Butterss endeavours to communicate the man’s appealing qualities as well as his deficiencies, bringing a wealth of photographic and textual resources together to produce a nuanced, bittersweet portrait.' - Brigid Magner, Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature

'Very readable ... Butterss provides much more than a biography of C.J. Dennis; there are excellent analyses of Den's major works which are insightful, intelligent and highly informative.' - Greg Elliott, Indaily

'This timely and fascinating biography of Clarence Michael James Dennis, better known as Clarrie, reveals this hugely popular writer as he really was.' - Nic Klaassen, Flinders Ranges Research

'General readers as well as historians will find this biography a valuable account of a significant Australian writer. 3.5 stars.' - Fotini Dangiris, Good Reading

'The book's production values match the high standard of its contents; Butterss has performed a service not just for Dennis but for Australian literature generally.' - Dennis Haskell, Australian Book Review

'A fascinating read for the picture it provides of Dennis, for its analysis of his work, and for its exploration of wider themes to do with Australian culture and society and the role of the artist.' - Sue Terry, Whispering Gums

'Readers will find much of interest in this book. It is highly informative and well written, with suitable scholarly supports in the form of a select bibliography, notes, and an index. It is also well produced, with 19 graphics, some in colour. C.J. Dennis may not to be everyone’s taste today, but his place in Australian literary history is assured and strengthened by the thorough and thoughtful treatment provided here. Butterss’s book will be the standard biography of the poet for many years to come.' - Jill Roe, Transnational Literature

'A meticulously researched and very readable study ... I confess that I have never particularly liked Dennis's verse, its slang, dialect and 'ockerism' (albiet 'sentimental') not being to my taste. However, Philip Butterss' book has persuaded me to soften my view. I am left with admiration for a man for whom life was not easy but who remained dedicated to his profession of writing. I am even more impressed by Dr Butterss' impeccable scholarship, which produced this interesting and accessible 'life and work'.' - Rosemary Luke, Bibliofile, Vol. 13, No. 4

'Philip Butterss has written a fascinating book that describes the life of Dennis in a way that is more than the run-of-the-mill, flat text than some biographies can become; he has made Dennis come to life and also created a very entertaining read.' - Michael Baylis, Glam Adelaide

Philip Butterss grew up in Melbourne, studied at the University of Sydney, where he completed a PhD on Australian ballads, and now teaches Australian literature and film at the University of Adelaide. He has published widely on Australian cultural history and is currently working on a history of literary Adelaide.
Format Paperback
Size 234 x 160 mm
ISBN 9781743052877
Extent 296 pages
Price: AU$34.95 including GST
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