Hal Porter Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Although the works of Harold Edward Porter spanned many genres, he is best known for his three volumes of autobiography. An accomplished stylist, Porter broke away from the plain, realistic style that had characterized earlier Australian writing. Although he never gained an extensive international reputation, his work was widely read and admired in Australia during his later life. It received numerous literary prizes and the full attention of Australian critics. Time, however, has not been kind to Porter, whose reputation has faded over the years.

The oldest child in a large family, Porter was born in Melbourne. He was six years old when his family moved to Bairnsdale in Gippsland, a somewhat tropical agricultural and mining area. After completing his education, he worked first as a newspaper reporter, then started teaching—a career he would follow off and on until the 1960’s, when he became a full-time writer. During the 1930’s and 1940’s he was writing but publishing very little.

In 1939 he married but was divorced four years later and never remarried. As a result of injuries sustained in a serious automobile crash, he was unable, much to his regret, to serve in World War II. During the war years, he taught in Adelaide and in 1942 published his first book: fourteen stories in a privately printed volume simply titled Short Stories.

Taking a break from teaching after the war, Porter worked as a hotel cook and...

(The entire section is 551 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Burns, D. R. “The Watcher on the Cast-Iron Balcony: Hal Porter’s Triumph of Creative Contradiction.” Australian Literary Studies 12, no. 4 (1986): 359-366. Notes that while the experiences recorded in Porter’s autobiography tend toward the ordinary, the artistry employed lends the material depth.

Capone, Giovanna. “Hal Porter: The Tower and the Quintessence of Porterism.” Australian Literary Studies 15, no. 2 (1991): 162-172. Analyzes the play The Tower, compares it to Porter’s other plays, and traces Porter’s theatrical career.

Goodwin, Kenneth. “Hal Porter.” In A History of Australian Literature. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986. Provides a succinct account of Porter’s literary career and an evaluation of his work.

Lord, Mary. Hal Porter: Man of Many Parts. Sydney: Random House, 1993. A definitive biography that reveals what Lord calls Porter’s “dual personality.” While holding her subject’s literary accomplishments in high regard, Lord tends to stress what she considers Porter’s negative traits.

Lord, Mary. Introduction to Hal Porter, by Hal Porter. Edited by Mary Lord. St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1980. Introducing this collection of Porter’s writing, the editor considers Porter the “odd man out” in Australian literature because of his stylistic qualities and experimentation in various genres.