Author Barry Oakley’s memoir Mugshots takes the reader on a journey through his life, from his childhood at the Christian Brothers in 1938 to uncertain career paths that aren’t quiet right for him. But among the jobs he lands and doesn’t enjoy or prosper at (although it must be said, the range of job positions Barry Oakley obtained can be seen as a credit to him) one constant remains – his determination to write.
During Oakley’s attempts as a teacher, an advertising copywriter and his plunges into film and radio he is forever writing and submitting work for publication. Despite early rejections Oakley’s talent prevails and his novels reach the stands, plus he has a number of short stories printed, as well as writing numerous plays. It’s in Melbourne, Oakley’s home city, in the 1960s and 70s that he finds himself in the theatre scene and the plays that he has written are being brought to life on the stage.
Barry Oakley has written his memoir in both a reminiscent and warm yet matter-of-fact way. It’s dotted with the humour that he’s known for and allows the reader a look into the Oakley family and the way they lived. Barry Oakley married Carmel Hart. They had six children and he recollects looking after a large family when at times the writing grants were running out or jobs were scarce.
The book is broken up into subheads that represent years or moments in his life. I enjoyed the way each one weaves personal and professional anecdotes together. For example, in one section Oakley remembers the time Carmel learnt to drive – manoeuvring their second-hand Holden station wagon in and out of the driveway in Richmond – which then goes on to describe her carting party supplies to celebrate Oakley’s joint win of the Captain Cook Bicentenary award for fiction, for his third novel.
Oakley knits personal stories and professional milestones together and has created an endearing memoir.
Review by Jessica Sanford.