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November 05, 1995|CHARLES SOLOMON

DAISY BATES IN THE DESERT: A Woman's Life Among the Aborigines by Julia Blackburn (Vintage: $12; 232 pp.). Blackburn's semi-fictional biography offers a blurry account of the life of the eccentric English woman who began living among the Australian Aborigines in 1913. The widow of Breaker Morant, Daisy Bates styled herself Kabbarli "the white-skinned grandmother." Blackburn concedes that her subject was an unrepentant liar who invented a series of genteel pasts for herself, but she leaves the reader unsure whether Bates' notes on Aboriginal culture were a breakthrough in ethnological studies or just another element of her fantasy world.

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