Intellectual. Feminist. Polemicist. Provocateur.
This riveting biography of Germaine Greer traces the personal and political history of one of the most important, radical, and controversial women of twentieth and twenty-first century feminism. It reveals how her public persona has shifted with time from sixties trailblazer to present-day rabble-rouser, and why her legacy deserves to be reexamined.
Upon the publication of her seminal book The Female Eunuch in 1970 (written at the urging of Sonny Mehta), Greer became an international celebrity, known worldwide as a charismatic and compelling voice in women’s liberation. She appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine; took on Norman Mailer in an infamous Town Hall debate with Betty Friedan and Susan Sontag in the audience (made into a documentary by DA Pennebaker and, last year, into a Wooster Group performance), debated William F. Buckley Jr in Cambridge, founded the Center of the Study of Women's Literature at the University of Tulsa, and reputedly had trysts with Warren Beatty, Federico Fellini, Martin Amis, and, of all people, her regular sparring partner Norman Mailer.
Although she’s been largely forgotten in the US, and controversial statements about rape and transgender persons have caused widespread denunciations, she remains a profoundly influential figure in second-wave feminism. In this new biography, Elizabeth Kleinhenz draws on unprecedented access to Greer’s personal archives to create a complete picture of a powerful but divisive figure and, in so doing, adds to our understanding of the entire feminist movement.
“She has produced a terrific book—even-handed and entertaining…Kleinhenz’s biography is richly human and intellectually lucid, uncontaminated by cheap psychology. She lays bare Greer’s personal flaws, cruelties and venomous tongue, but her quiet triumph is to balance them with the majestic achievements.”
Melanie Reid, The Times
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“Elizabeth Kleinhenz, a former teacher, deserves a bravery medal for writing this biography…[Greer] has had many identities, often concurrently. Kleinhenz shows us Greer the Shakespeare scholar; the wit; the academic who wrote provocative articles for Oz; the “starf***ker” (Greer’s term), who seduced famous men; and the “bully who could be extraordinarily kind” (she would invite society’s strays to stay in her home).”
Rosamund Urwin, The Sunday Times
“Kleinhenz’s approach is as imaginative as it is conventionally linear. Using interviews with key figures as well as the archive material, she tracks Greer's life from its beginnings in January 1939. Hers is a well-rounded, sympathetic portrait of a remarkable human being, in a narrative that grips from the start. I'm in no position to predict how Greer will respond to this newly unauthorized account of her life, but I found it utterly fascinating.”
Sara Dowse, The Sydney Morning Herald
“How lucky we are that Elizabeth Kleinhenz has mustered the courage to write a biography of a woman who is famous for hating those who attempt such a task! She has written an engaging, nuanced and carefully researched book not just about Germaine Greer but about the societies she has shaped and shocked over the decades. Trust me, you don’t have to be a fan of Germaine Greer to thoroughly enjoy this book.”
“The Greer that emerges is a complex character whose powers of insight and invention are consistently confounded by her enthusiasm for controversy. Kleinhenz’s achievement is to have produced a sympathetic, thoroughly readable portrayal of an ultimately unsympathetic figure.”
Lorna Finlayson, The Guardian
“[A]n informative look at Greer's cultural impact.”
“Greer will no doubt scream at this biography…Kleinhenz holds her nerve and has made good use of the recently opened Greer Archive at the University of Melbourne.”
Lynn Barber, The Oldie