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Leaving a mark on history is usually the result of courage, but it always starts by simply making a stand.

Since 2009, Australian journalist Michael Burge has written about single-minded individuals who faced fear, grief and oppression, yet went through with defiant acts of social and cultural rebellion.

Many of them got a very bad name in the process, or had their motives shrouded in mystery.

Pluck is Michael’s re-examination of several divas, dilettantes, groundbreakers, chameleons, rebels and heroes faced with crossroads, comebacks and reinventions.

From international cultural figures such as Whitney Houston, Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury, and writers E. M. Forster, Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare and Helene Hanff; to lesser-known artists such as Australia's unsung costume designer Orry-Kelly and England's wayward Brontë brother Branwell, Michael digs deep into extraordinary lives.

Along the way, he records encounters with people whose courage put them in the line of critical fire, through coming out, such as Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe; and through making a stand for the sake of their working style, like Australian actor Judy Davis. 

This fascinating collection reveals new perspectives on fame but also sheds a timely light on lives which may never be acclaimed, yet went where angels fear to tread.

Don't fuck with Judy Davis
Mrs Christie would kill for a holiday
Shakespeare - a farmer who cultivated words
Matthew Flinders - navigating prejudice
Carbon Cate's direct action on the cultural cringe
Orry-Kelly - the costume King from Kiama
The false start we gave Ian Thorpe
Alan Bennett - the mystery boy
Katie Webb and the Cave Girls
Tony and Bern Sutton - equality people
Dymphna Cusack & Florence James - literary chicks
Margaret Betts - tree planter
Lottie Lyell - the sentimental girl
Janet Mays - forging independence
Angela Lansbury - the sharpest battleaxe
Helene Hanff - lady of letters
Annie Lennox - tarnished angel
Grit & Gentility
Nellie Melba and the daffodil farmer
The soul searching of Whitney Houston
Branwell Brontë - literature's never-was
Beryl Guertner - decor queen
Sumner Locke Elliot - loved us and left us
The wilderness years of Meryl Streep
The writer's block of E. M. Forster



Publié par
Date de parution 28 septembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780994388742
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0100€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Title Page
Exploits of the single-minded
‘Either life entails courage, or it ceases to be life.’

E. M. Forster
About the author
MICHAEL BURGE is an Australian author and journalist who lives at Deepwater in the New England region of NSW with his husband and their dogs. After graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Michael undertook media studies in the United Kingdom. His debut novel Tank Water was published by MidnightSun. An earlier memoir Questionable Deeds: Making a stand for equal love explored familial and institutional homophobia in Australia during the marriage equality campaign. Michael has written, edited, directed and broadcast for Fairfax Media, Intermedia, United News & Media, Margo Kingston’s NoFibs and a range of lifestyle mastheads. He is director of the annual High Country Writers Festival in Glen Innes. His complete works can be found at

Tank Water

Closet His Closet Hers


Questionable Deeds: Making a stand for equal love

Pluck: Exploits of the single-minded

Write, Regardless! A no-nonsense guide to plotting, packaging & promoting your book

Creating Waves: Critical takes on culture and politics


Merely Players
First published in Australia in 2015 by
Copyright © Michael Burge 2015
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author.
National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication data:
Burge, Michael, 1970-
Title: Pluck: exploits of the single-minded / Michael Burge.

ISBN: 9780994388742 (eBook)

Subjects: Fame.

Dewey Number: 302.54
The biographical information in this book has been researched and sourced from interviews, articles and other existing published sources in the public domain The author does not present it as having been authorised by any of its subjects.
The cover photo is Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin’s bootprint, a public domain image courtesy of NASA.
THE articles in this collection, written between 2009 and 2015, have one thing in common: courage. I am not referring to the guts it takes to climb Mount Everest (although there is one amazing climbing feat in one of these stories), I mean something that runs deep in the soul and can be drawn on to face moments in life as significant as conquering a mountain.
‘Pluck’ is a bit of an old-fashioned word, one you might notice in a 19th century novel or a genteel play, used to describe a person who does something unusually brave, or lives their life in a manner that sets them apart.
For me, the word is slightly pejorative, in that calling someone ‘plucky’ pigeonholes them as a certain type, the same way that descriptors like ‘tomboy’ and ‘pansy’ signal something only fractionally better than other words we might not use in ‘polite’ company.
Chronologically, the earliest of these articles was Grit & Gentility, an analysis of the amazing voyage undertaken by one of Australia’s pioneer settler families, the Pitts. My inspiration was Germaine Greer’s study of Ann Hathaway in Shakespeare’s Wife , where a whole life needed to be drawn in the absence of primary sources. To bring Mary Pitt into focus, I took the small amount of evidence about her, and used a contemporary tool - Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice - as a shortcut to Georgian sensibilities around marriage.
While editing and writing for Blue Mountains Life magazine, I instigated a two-year cycle of writing about women who’d had an impact on the region’s cultural heritage, or been impacted by it. This research allowed me to explore a region I had more than thirty years’ association with, and led to pieces on the famous, such as Nellie Melba; unsung media pioneers like Beryl Guertner; and explorers like Katie Webb who had been relatively sidelined.
Many of the people in these articles are those whose work I admire, and whose lives I analysed for times where they needed to engage a little pluck, and got a very bad name in the process. Judy Davis’ ‘difficult’ tag, particularly while shooting her first international role in A Passage to India , has rarely been analysed in the context of a young performer facing-off an older director, and was another early piece of writing that led to others in a similar vein, particularly about female performers, of which there are many in Pluck .
There has long been a scarcity of writing about Australia’s great ‘pink expats’ - the likes of costume designer Orry-Kelly and writer Sumner Locke Elliott - simply because they left our shores and barely registered as Australians. I have sought to reconnect them with their homeland and look at how far their courage took them. I also wrote on another Australian icon, Matthew Flinders, to shift the perspective from his sexuality to the homophobia he may have been subjected to, and how that discrimination still preys on Australian men two centuries later, when considering the coming out of Ian Thorpe.
Writers also feature heavily in this collection, and my ongoing fascination with literary reputations damaged by snobby naysayers, such as that of Shakespeare; but also how oeuvres are formed, in the case of Agatha Christie and the clues I found to her infamous disappearance.
Scattered throughout are various people who are not famous, but are notable for the courage they drew on when faced with emotional challenges.
Looking at this collection, I am reminded that in 2009, after years of waiting for someone else’s permission, or for validation that was never going to come, I determined to make writing my primary focus as an artist, a leap of faith that felt more than a little plucky.
Pluck begins and ends with E. M. Forster. My inspiration is always his courageous writing legacy, and what he left to generations of gay writers in his wake.
Michael Burge, September 2015.
Don’t fuck with Judy Davis
LOVE or hate Judy Davis, chances are you’ve seen one of her acerbic, riveting onscreen meltdowns - they’re synonymous with the media-shy Australian actress who’s long been preceded by an offscreen ‘difficult’ tag.
Already a staple in period dramas by the time of Charles Sturridge’s 1991 production of E.M. Forster’s debut novel Where Angels Fear to Tread , Davis had breathed life into array of heroines on the brink of brave new worlds, and used a decidedly English voice to do so.
Her debut in Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career saw Davis as Sybilla Melvin quite matter-of-factly assert to her suitors that she will never marry. Her Adela Quested, when pressed on Doctor Aziz’s crime in David Lean’s A Passage to India , eventually and quite calmly enunciates the truth.
Perhaps it was Sturridge who saw something more in Davis than polite colonial girls when he cast her as the boorish Harriet Harriton, one of Forster’s best-drawn wowsers who will not be broken down by Italy’s disarming romantic freedom.
After admonishing the cheering crowd at the local opera as “babies”; banging around the pensione in tears and rage, and delivering the final devastation of Forster’s story, with this Harriet Harriton, 1991 became the year the Judy Davis ‘volcano’ was finally able to erupt on the screen.
She moved on to a comic romance as 19th century French author George Sand in James Lapine’s Impromptu . The best scenes are those in which Sand verbally explodes, elucidating how it might have felt to be a woman in the period without the filmmaker having to resort to all the usual corset-tightening symbolism.
But the shrewish screen potential of this actress was fully realised when Davis appeared in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives as the woman who finds true love by losing it, literally.
Famous for never overtly directing actors, Allen simply loaded Davis into the film cartridge, and let her pull the trigger on an onscreen screaming match that peaked with Allen’s Deconstructing Harry , in the iconic scene where Davis takes a gun in a cab to Allen’s apartment, and lets rip.
Through the psychobabble (she called it going “slightly over the top” when interviewed about Husbands and Wives ) Davis brings a genuine pathos to the character, who, as it turns out, has a point.
Yet if you believe some of the hype on the internet, Judy Davis was responsible for some heinous cinema crimes, such as driving River Phoenix to his untimely death during the production of Dark Blood (Phoenix’s final and only recently completed film), and ending the career of Britain’s legendary director of epic historical dramas, David Lean.
Powerful stuff for a Catholic schoolgirl from Perth, Australia.
It was during Lean’s production of A Passage to India  that stories about Davis being ‘difficult’ emerged. The two reportedly started on good terms during the film’s casting, when the antipodean ingenue and the lion of British cinema first met.
Their conversation revolved around one of the great conundrums of 20th

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