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Things I Didn't Know
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Things I Didn't Know

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  170 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Robert Hughes has trained his critical eye on many major subjects: from Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Goya) to the city of Barcelona (Barcelona) to the history of his native Australia (The Fatal Shore) to modern American mores and values (The Culture of Complaint). Now he turns that eye on perhaps his most fascinating subject: himself and the world that formed him.

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by Knopf (first published June 2nd 2005)
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Though copies of 'Nothing If Not Critical' and 'The Shock of the New' have made it into the never-to-be-sold core of my collection, I wasn't sure, starting out, that I'd get much out of this memoir (if you're not Proust, Nabokov or Edmund White, your childhood isn't interesting), but by the second chapter I was sold, and it just keeps getting better. The arc is essentially conservative Catholic Sydney in the 1940s-50s to late 1960s London, with an Italian interlude. He's one of the few writers I ...more
Jul 29, 2011 Laurie added it
Like "Goya," "Things I Didn't Know" begins with an account of the author's automobile accident, which in this case leads him to review his life up to 1970. He gives an interesting account of his childhood in Australia, criticizing his Jesuit education for its severity, but praising the intellectual curiosity of some of his teachers, who introduced him to modernist poetry and fiction as well as the classics. It's a fine line between love and hate, and Hughes seems to pass from one to the other wi ...more
Nov 22, 2009 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rambling, shocking, informative, deeply sad and funny, Rbt Hughes reveals almost all in this whirlwind adventure of his most exhilarating life. I laughed and cried out loud all the while surprised that I would or could or was even actually relating to this burly macho and at times perhaps chauvinist writer who, when I was in college, made me gag with dread when his name popped up on reading lists. Now, moving on from this lovingly tattered used copy that I found at Harvard Books in MA, I cannot ...more
Tom Dale
Jan 13, 2012 Tom Dale rated it it was ok
I give up. I thought his being dead now might inspire a bit of a push to get through to the end but it's not happening. I loved The Fatal Shore but this... no.

It would be an odd autobiography that wasn't self-obsessed but somehow Hughes manages to make it more obviously so than most and to take a clearly interesting family history and turn it into a turgid, whining, bitter drone.
Mar 11, 2008 Mary rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this memoir but he just kept blathering on about meaningless details that I didn't care about...
Bookmarks Magazine

Noted art critic Robert Hughes has lived a writer's life, and here he relives his dramatic career. Although he relates key events__his car crash, his two unhappy marriages (and a third good one), and his son's suicide__Hughes focuses, instead, on the fascinating informal education that made him "completely an elitist, in the cultural but emphatically not the social sense." Despite his description of himself, a few critics caught a whiff of elitism in Hughes's jabs at other artists and pop cultur

Sep 07, 2016 Alison rated it liked it
Provocative writer, very opinionated about art, Catholicism, Australia and everything he comes across.
He ends the book in the late sixties, and it is too bad he didn't get around to writing the next volume. I found the Fatal Shore hard going but this moves along; I did have to skip some overwritten parts.
Oct 01, 2009 Hope rated it liked it
Mr. Hughes is a very talented writer with an impressive vocabulary but I urge him stick to historical writing and art reviews. The best parts of this book were those in which he delved into discussions of the art that inspired and formed his career, and the history that shaped his family. The chapters on his childhood were exhausting and almost made me pass on the book altogether. Perhaps this review should be read with a grain of salt though; I am generally skeptical and unimpressed by memoirs. ...more
Bob Speechley
Nov 18, 2012 Bob Speechley rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography

There is lot of interesting information in this book about the early life of Robert Hughes before he became an acclaimed, internationally respected Art critic. His family, schooldays and his early working life before he became established are portrayed in a readable form.

Hughes doesn't hold back on the trials associated with his personal life with his first wife and writes a superb story about his visit to Florence after the disastrous flooding in 1966,on behalf of the BBC. The assistance given
Jon Chapman
Mar 02, 2013 Jon Chapman rated it liked it
It is always a risk with later autobiographies that the writer's abilities begin to wane, and so they never quite live up to the style and quality that we experience of the writer in their prime. Such is the case with 'Things I Didn't Know' - it is patchy, with moments that are moving, funny, insightful and eloquent, and others that are rather flat. Clearly the accident and subsequent legal wrangle that begins the book, and cripples him physically and professionally, had a major impact on his po ...more
David Nash
Oct 07, 2012 David Nash rated it it was ok
"Things I Didn't Know" starts with the most exciting chapter of the book, his recent car crash; but then gets bogged down in the details of his early life. The book ends abruptly in 1970 leaving 1970-2006 completely absent.

Tales of his life are interspersed with commentary on art which really just seems to be Hughes sticking to what he knows to meet a word count. Otherwise the writing is excellent and it's mostly an easy read.

I picked up a copy for about $6 (delivered!) on book depository and f
John Orman
Jan 24, 2014 John Orman rated it liked it
Mr. Hughes is a chronicler and historian, but here he turns his critical eye on himself and his world.

I was interested in his stories about his Catholic upbringing, including adventures with Confession and Communion. The story of his recovery from a near-fatal car crash is also very revealing.

A book that shows the value of life, and the value of exploring and celebrating his life.

Apr 20, 2013 Brad rated it liked it
An interesting individual, brutally honest about himself and his passion for the Visual Arts. While I agree that the book tends to ramble on, and that Hughes doesn't go much beyond 1970, I still found him to be a highly intelligent and intense individual. Certainly, Mr. Hughes was someone you could count on for an interesting conversation.
Scott Gilbert
Jul 08, 2011 Scott Gilbert rated it it was amazing
Wonderful writing, compelling and lucid details as usual from Hughes. He never has the most penetrating insights nor has he lived the most admirable existence, but he presents them in an extraordinary way.
May 29, 2013 Tonette rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed all of Hughes' thoughtful stories in these dense and layered pages. A required reading for artists, art-lovers, travelers and adventurers, especially when considering Western culture.
May 26, 2009 David rated it it was amazing
fantastic.....robert grew up in australia, went to sydney uni, and then ended up in america, just like me....

this book for me, was very personal.....

i loved it.....
Aug 26, 2012 Clint rated it liked it
Did not like the first section much at all. After he goes to Italy the book is pretty good. The section about the Florence flood is very good.
Jul 29, 2007 Tobey rated it liked it
Shelves: art-books
The beginning is great and the end is really interesting. The middle drags a bit but I did laugh aloud more than once.
Dec 09, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it
he's deep, intriguing, incisive and I want to read more of his books! what a life... even tho he ends this one when he goes to Time at age 31.
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Robert Studley Forrest Hughes, AO was an Australian art critic, writer and television documentary maker who has resided in New York since 1970. He was educated at St Ignatius' College, Riverview before going on to study arts and then architecture at the University of Sydney. At university, Hughes associated with the Sydney "Push" – a group of artists, writers, intellectuals and drinkers. Among the ...more
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