In Behind the Text, Sue Joseph brings together 11 authors whose works range from wartime correspondence to journalism that serves justice to a wrongly accused man. In uniting them as authors of ‘creative non-fiction’, Sue has created a compilation that itself deserves that description. She delves into the lives of these authors until they seem like characters, and paints their stories so vividly that the discussion of the genre comes second to the authors themselves. Some of the authors dispute the label – they’d prefer not to think about genre at all, or argue that it applies more to the marketing of their books than the writing itself. For me, the stand-out of this book was not the attempt at categorising creative non-fiction, but the stories Sue tells about the authors in her efforts to do so. From Paul McGeough’s survival of a hotel bombing to Kate Holden’s unflinching tale of heroin addiction, the strength of this book lies in the embellishing of real lives. Maybe that was what Sue was getting at all along.
Sue Joseph is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at UTS and has been a journalist for more than 35 years.