Pretence and defence, Melinda Johnston

Bromhead: Scratching a Living
Peter Bromhead
Penguin Books, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143574200

In the Cartoon Archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library there is a marvellous ink caricature captioned “The loveable fun-loving Monsieur Bromhead”. Drawn in 2001 by caricaturist Dinah Priestley (a regular contributor to this publication), it shows a well-dressed gentleman with slightly vampire-like teeth. It is a particularly memorable image, where the celebrated cartoonist has himself been caricatured. Good cartoons, like Priestley’s portrait, present their subject in such a convincing manner that, once seen, it’s very hard to see them in any other way. And so, for better or worse, it was this picture that I couldn’t help but imagine as I read Peter Bromhead’s latest book. It’s possible, therefore, that I’ve been unduly influenced by Priestley’s drawing; but, as I read, I began to feel that the mannered, detached quality captured in her cartoon was equally strong in this memoir.

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