Book Notes: "Tell 'em Nothing, Tame 'em Nowhere" by Max Cullen

Tell 'Em Nothing, Take 'Em NowhereTell 'Em Nothing, Take 'Em Nowhere by Max Cullen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had to track down this autobiography of Max Cullen. I wanted to know more about him. I did a show on the works of Henry Lawson put to music on The Rebel Chorus (a show I present on 2XX 98.3FM community radio in Canberra). While looking up a CD by John Schumman of Lawson's words put to music, I stumbled upon Max Cullen again. I went to his solo performance of Faces in the Street: A Salute to Henry Lawson at The Street Theatre in Canberra in April 2010. The ending left me bewildered: should I put some money in his hat? Does he need it? Cullen played Lawson so well I can still picture him going from sober to drunk and sober to drunk again as he spoke. Reminded me of so many old men I have seen in my life. But I wanted to know was there something extra-special about Cullen? His performance was brilliant, but where did it spring from? Where did he get it? The book is like so many other Australian autobiographies, it was short, but large-type and well-spaced to pad out the lack of text. A bit like Shane Warne's biography. And I felt it trying to bung on the Aussie too much, like most Australian acting (see the opening scene of Strictly Ballroom for a good-old Aussie cringe). I suppose I was hoping for something more intellectual. I wish there was a newer version- something post-Faces - that would explain more about his alone time, his solitude, more about his art, more about why Gunning, why an old theatre, did his lack of success in London matter? The book leaves more questions than answers. Cullen did promise to tell me nothing and take me nowhere. But I had hoped that he would tell me something or at least take me to Gunning...

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