Germaine Greer, Untamed Shrew

Christine Wallace, Author
Christine Wallace, Author Faber & Faber $27.5 (360p) ISBN 978-0-571-19934-1
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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In this unauthorized biography, Australian journalist Wallace relentlessly stalks Germaine Greer, ultimately finding few redeeming intellectual, creative or social attributes in her subject. Wallace starts out with an apparently even-tempered investigation of Greer's upbringing in 1950s Australia, her early career as actress-cum-journalist and her completion of a doctorate in English literature at Cambridge, leading to Greer's explosion into celebrity in 1970 with The Female Eunuch, a book Wallace calls a testament to ""hegemonic heterosexuality."" Although the bestseller made Greer synonymous with women's liberation, Wallace argues that Greer was an opportunist who took advantage of a historical moment to feather her own nest. She quotes scholars and participants in the feminist movement who saw Greer as a quisling to both the women's movement and the sexual revolution. Wallace often gets in a quick left-right, as when she concludes that Greer derived her premise for The Female Eunuch from Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver's ""Allegory of the Black Eunuch,"" in Soul on Ice, and then charges that Greer's book was ""politically naive."" She also contends that Greer capitulated to men by blaming women for the male violence inflicted on them in language that ""relied on traditional rhetorical ploys,"" such as Greer's Marxist allusion to women as ""sexual proletariats."" Greer's disenchantment with Catholicism, her problematic relationship with her parents and husband (a man whom Wallace casts as the ""culmination of her heterosexual rough trade fantasy"") and her role as a bomb thrower against the women's movement are all covered. But all these issues are raised as part of a one-sided treatment of Greer and her writings. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
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