AusReading Month 2021

Journal: 077

This weekend past, I did another road train load to Koodiadery, the new mine north of Newman, and 1450 km north of Perth. I’m sure you’ve noticed, fuel is up 30 cents/litre in the last few months, and with the amount of fuel I use pulling three trailers, the whole exercise is beginning to get a bit marginal, really marginal without the income from a return load. Interestingly, pulling just one trailer, usually with a wide load, I get paid almost as much and use a lot less fuel.

I unloaded late Sunday then slept and had a leisurely breakfast at a nearby truckstop (Auski, Munjina). The contractor I went up for couldn’t or wouldn’t load me home, but another contractor, Anthony, who’s been giving me machinery work got me not one but three loads out of a really isolated mine west of Tom Price (Look at the map: the mining township Tom Price is the dot north of Paraburdoo, and the mine, x marks the spot, is within the circle, 40km west of Tom Price).

My first load was a roller to be dehired in Karratha. So just one trailer, the back trailer with ramps.

Running east-west through that loop of roads is the Hammersley Range, rugged, beautiful and about 50% pure iron ore. There are dirt tracks through to Karratha but it’s easier to drive round via Paraburdoo – Nanutarra, the only bitumen road between the Great Northern Hwy and the North West Coastal Hwy.

As it happens, either way is about 600 km, so after dropping off the roller, I kept going clockwise to where the NWCH and the GNH connect, south on the GNH through Munjina, and then back in to Tom Price via the Karajini National Park.

My next load, tomorrow (Weds) morning is two or three trailers to Roy Hill, about 350 km each way, then on Thursday I get to load home.

Right now (Tue. evening) I’m parked in the Tom Price road train assembly, with Mount Somethingorother (pictured) behind me and a surprisingly attractive and verdant sewage pond across the road before me.

I’m not really up to much for Brona’s AusReading Month but I am thinking about what Bingo squares I can fill in. I’ve been reading, and am yet to write up, a Canberra/ACT novel; Brona, I think the ‘free square’ should be Indigenous, and for that I’ll say The Yield; NSW I can cover with Eucalyptus; Victoria with Jennifer Government; WA with The Merry-Go-Round by the Sea, which I really must write up soon; and for SA I have just finished listening to Coetze’s Elizabeth Costello (which contains not one word about SA, but that’s where the great man lives).

So that leaves NT, Tas and Qld. Guys, I don’t like your chances.

Murray Bail, Eucalyptus (1999). I was impressed when I first read it, but was less so this second time round. I’m not going to pick on Bail’s geography, anywhere in NSW (not too far) west of the Great Divide will do. You don’t need a synopsis. This very short novel is a fairy tale, and many princes attempt to meet the ‘king’s’ conditions to be granted the hand of the princess, Ellen. Ellen, while not expressing opposition to this process, has her own ideas. As the most boring of her suitors gets closer to winning her hand, she goes into a decline. But of course a handsome prince comes along and all is well. I enjoyed the conceit at the story’s heart, that the condition to be met is the naming of every tree, and we learn a lot about them as we go along; but is Bail anti-woman? Not on the basis of this novel. I think he has Ellen subvert the process very nicely.

Max Barry, Jennifer Government (2003) is a novel of a dystopian (that word again!) future where Australia is a colony of the USA; all services are provided by for-profit corporations, including the police; and in the place of surnames people have the name of their employer.

I have just started re-listening to this, in the hope of writing a proper review. So, I’ll just say here that the plot begins with a lowly merchandising guy, Hack Nike, being tricked into having to murder 10 purchasers of Nike’s new shoe range – to enhance their desirability. He reports this to the police who take over and carry out the murders, but incompetently. There’s a Texan guy who just wants to go skiing who ends up in New Zealand, employed by an NRA assassin squad; and Jennifer Government – yes, she’s employed by the government – must track them all down. It’s lots of fun. I don’t know why I had never heard of it before Emma (in France) twisted my arm to buy a copy. And the thing I enjoyed most is that you’d be cruising along in this American crime satire and suddenly you’re hit with Melbourne street names.

JM Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello (2003) I don’t know what to do with this, it all went completely over my head. Elizabeth Costello, in her seventies by the end of the C20th, is the most important Australian writer of her generation. She gives/listens to a series of 8 speeches, spelled out in excruciating detail, which build up via a patronising chapter on the novel in Africa, vegetarianism, animal liberation, some ‘brave’ comparisons between factory farms and the Holocaust, to a full-fledged discussion of the nature of god and heaven. There’s some interesting stuff about the novel, including who should write what. But I wasn’t convinced by the femaleness of Coetzee’s protagonist, and I was bloody annoyed having to listen to his arguments for (and psuedo arguments against) the existence of god.

As I said, in the morning I’m loading for Roy Hill, which the more attentive of you will remember was the station (before Gina bought it and turned it into another iron ore mine) where a hundred plus years ago Daisy Bates’ husband Jack was manager. It’s occurred to me to wonder whether Jack went back to Roy Hill after the failure of his cattle venture with Daisy; and whether he, or their son Arnold, may have had anything to do with Daisy’s station nearby, Glen Carrick (Ethel Creek), in the years before she sold it. More research for when I retire.


Recent audiobooks 

Evan Currie (M, USA), The Heart of Matter (2012) – SF
Nelson Mandela (M, SA), Conversations with Myself (2010) – NF
Tara June Winch (F, Aust/NSW), The Yield (2019)
Margaret Atwood (F, Can), Surfacing (1972)
Max Barry (M, Aust/Vic), Jennifer Government (2003) – SF
Lee Child (M, Eng), Bad Luck and Trouble (2007) – Crime
Sarah McCraw Crow (F, USA), The Wrong Kind of Woman (2020) – Hist.Fic. (the 1970s!)
Murray Bail (M, Aust/NSW), Eucalyptus (1999)
JM Coetzee (M, Aust/SA), Elizabeth Costello (2003)

Currently reading

Robert Sheckley (M, USA), Can You Feel Anything when I do This?
Sheri S Tepper, The Gate to Women’s Country


34 thoughts on “AusReading Month 2021

  1. I have two books for AusReading month, Saga Land is set in Iceland but by two Australians, and Terra Nullius is set across Indigenous communities, as far as I can tell. So I feel I’m firmly in that middle square myself!


  2. You’ll love Terra Nullius, and be mystified in equal parts. I saw Saga Land around but never read it.

    (Re. Milan Kundera. I’m sorry you felt attacked by the Czech commenter, I approved her thinking she was responding to something I’d forgotten I’d written. I’ll have to think up an answer to her).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Saga Land is brilliant so far – but then of course I’m obsessed with Iceland so it’s going to appeal (between that and a TV series on the country, we’re starting to plan a trip back). And thank you – I think I spoke up for myself but I was a bit shocked at the vitriol! I think I read it before I blogged at all, which is a shame – I could probably find my pro-Czeck, anti-Kundera review in a notebook somewhere if I really tried!


  3. I want to say one of the Canadian bloggers read and reviewed Jennifer Government, because I’ve definitely heard of it before. I read JM Coetzee in college and don’t remember feeling terribly impressed, despite how prolific he is. If I remember correctly, he’s one of those authors who write about white elderly male professors sleeping with their eighteen-year-old students, though maybe I’ve confused him with someone else.


    • I reviewed a Coetzee a while ago, written in 3 bands across the pages. I seem to remember liking it but I’ve shut my laptop up for the night so can’t check. There’s one (or two) brief sleeping withs in this novel, but no power imbalances. I wonder if someone can expand on your brief memory. I’m not sure anymore how much of his I’ve read.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my, you do get around. I love the weather reports here because they taught me WA place names of which my favourite is Paraburdoo! Such a great word to say out loud!


    • It’s interesting, the poetry of place names. I’m sure that’s why people used to listen to English fourth division football scores. Years ago the ABC would broadcast on Saturday night Victorian country football scores which had a similar poetry – Sea Lake, Berriwillock, Manangatang, Culgoa from the Tyrell League (I forget the towns Leongatha and presumably Koonwarra played against).


    • Thanks Lisa. I looked up Arfer Apple. They have an interesting bio. If Arfer is a guy I’m not sure I want to read about the woman detective with “a double mastectomy a divorce then followed by the death of her husband”.
      I have however ticked the Tas square. I had Death of a River Guide in my Audible library, so I listened to it on the way home.


  5. I’ve been showing Mr Books your driving maps as we have hopes/dreams of a driving trip up or down WA (probably Broome to Perth at this point)…and given the ongoing Covid-19 situation an Australian driving holiday is more likely in the next year than something overseas. Which is my long way of saying, I love these posts.

    I like the idea of using the ninth square to highlight Indigenous authors – great idea Bill. And like Kim, my first trip to WA gave me a great love of all the -up names in southern WA in particular.


    • Always glad to have a satisfied customer. You’ll probably get to see some coastal places I never get to (even in Broome itself I’ve only been to the industrial parts). But do spend some time in the Karajini national Park. And for wildflowers further south, Spring is the time. For ‘poetic’ farmstays, I drove past Kirkalokka and Doolgunna Stations yesterday, on the way home.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a striking image, I love the contrast and the background.

    I loved Eucalyptus when I read it, but it’s been years now. I keep thinking about reading more audiobooks, but I’ve not done anything about it yet. It’s so hard to change habits, and I’m working on changing a few others just now too.


    • I think I’m making clear that the dominate colour in the Australian outback is red, red, red, fading to a bluey purple in the distance. Such a cliche and yet it’s real, even down to the spare, white-trunked eucalypts along every dry watercourse. I probably should do more though to acquaint you with the monotonous grey-olive acacia scrub. Though even that might be surrounded by carpets of yellow, white, pink, purple flowers, and shot through with grevilleas and wattles.

      Audiobooks just suit my situation. I never listen to them when I’m not moving, and I couldn’t imagine walking or riding with earbuds in. Nor training, trains are for paperbacks. SoW, I finished Sheri S Tepper last night. Loved it, it was a wrench to come to the end.


      • Yes, I’m getting that impression. Somehow, though, it’s different seeing it in an individual’s photographs, rather than a single shot in a magazine or something, when it’s harder to comprehend how typical that is.

        I started to plug in more often when I was travelling (pre-Covid, I mean) because, with cell phones proliferating, the one-sided conversations were irritating, whereas fellow travellers having conversations just wasn’t annoying (not usually, anyway).

        It’s been ages since I read that one, but my copy is fairly tattered. Hmmm, I haven’t seen it for awhile, you’re going to set me on a hunt now!


      • Reminds me, I keep promising to review Merry go round by the Sea (which I listened to last month) and I can’t for the life of me work out where my copy is.


    • Great to have you along. I’m sure I used to see you on Facebook but the algorithm there doesn’t even always show me my children and friends are forever becoming invisible.


  7. Was interested to see that Eucalyptus doesn’t quite hold-up on a second reading – perhaps because you knew the ending (which is clever, from memory). I loved this book, but re-reads are a rare thing for me (despite doing one this week – my first for the year!).


    • I rarely remember enough for re-reading to be a problem, and anyway I often enjoy re-reading those few books I do remember. Old friends! I think the problem with Eucalyptus was that first time round I thought it was special, and this time was a bit more ho-hum. I still think it’s a good book though.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The last book I read by Coetzee went completely over my head too – he got onto this religion theme which held no interest for me.

    I do love your tales from the road, the distances you travel are phenomenal. I dont know what conditions are like in your area but there’s been a big focus here in UK on the fact truck drivers get a raw deal. I didn;t know they had to pay to park up a truck overnight at a motorway service station (in France they are free) so most of them end up sleeping at the side of the road where they are vulnerable to attacks


  9. Like Marcie, I read Eucalyptus years ago. I remember some things about it, but overall it’s fuzzy. I do remember liking it, though.
    I think I read The Natural Way of Things for Aus Reading Month last year (I can’t believe that was already a year ago!), but I might be running out of time this year. I had hoped to read The Yield because we have it at the library. We’ll see how things go… (There are so many things!)


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