The Weekend, Charlotte Wood

Brona’s AusReadingMonth Bingo, November 2019 – [NSW]

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The Weekend is a novel about three 70ish women cleaning the beach house of their dead friend. And the thing is, I’m within 2 or 3 years of their age and Charlotte Wood (1965-  and looks younger on Facebook) isn’t. Wood no doubt has all or some of mother, mothers-in-law, aunts, friends, colleagues to draw on, and I’m sure she gets women, but I don’t think she gets 70, an opinion I also had about another much lauded novel, Extinctions by Josephine Wilson.

On the other hand, towards the end one of the characters muses:

People thought when you got old you wanted your lost youth, or lost love, or men or sex. But really you wanted work and you wanted money.

Well, she got that right!

I loved The Natural Way of Things and I was ready to love The Weekend, but that’s not the way it has worked out. Wood has a clear, not particularly literary, style of writing which suited TNWoT, with its compelling story line of young women in indefinite detention for being the victims of men they trusted. The Weekend is the story of just three women, at the other end of their adult lives – or so Wood would have us believe though I personally am looking forward, like my parents and grandparents, to a couple more decades of activity – but again without men at this time, and having been with men they should not have trusted as much as they did. It’s a smaller story which needed better writing and character development to carry it off.

The protagonists are Wendy, a public intellectual, Jude, a retired restaurant manager, and Adele, an actress. They all live in Sydney, and the novel opens with them making their separate ways to the fictional community of Bittoes on the Central Coast (the rocky and spectacularly beautiful coast between Sydney and Newcastle, 160 kms north), where their lately deceased long time friend Sylvie had a beach house, which they had often used together and separately, and which they have been asked by Sylvie’s partner, now safely home in Dublin, to clean up for sale.

Wendy lives comfortably off the sales of her erudite books, and plans to write more. She is overweight, and a bit stereotypically, is sloppy in her person and in her housekeeping. She has an old car, which breaks down on the way to Bittoes, and in which she is trapped while “road trains” roar past, while her old dog pisses on her lap. Wendy, now a widow, had been in a loving marriage for many years, and has two children, by an earlier marriage, who appear to blame her for something.

Jude is uptight and bossy and has been the mistress for 40 years of a banker whose principal relationships are with his wife and children and grandchildren. She has no presence other than as a storm cloud around which the others navigate.

Adele, is small with a good body, is still amazingly supple, hasn’t been offered a part for more than a year, is or was in a relationship with another woman, and is also stereotypical in her narcissism and dependence on others.

She would wear black, very simple – or no, charcoal. With some stylish sleeve detail, but fitted so that you could see her figure, which was still really very lovely. People said that to Adele often. You have a lovely figure. Which meant, you have terrific tits. For your age.

I think the author’s intention was to explore the notion of friendship, not a subject to which I have given a great deal of either thought or practice.

The thirties were the age you fell most dangerously in love, Adele had discovered, after the fact. Not with a man or a woman, but with your friends. Lovers back then came and went like the weather … No, it wasn’t lovers but friends – these courageous, shining people – you pursued, romanced with dinners and gifts and weekends away. It was so long ago. Forty years!

Wood appears to confusing my generation with hers. Baby boomers were too busy, and too poor, in their thirties, with partners and children, to be “romancing” friends.

Anyway, the three women spend the long weekend over Christmas, cleaning, or not cleaning, reviewing their lives, being bossed about by Jude, bickering, and briefly, relaxing on the beach. Adele bumps into a rival, more successful older actress at a restaurant and invites her and her 40 ish producer partner to dinner. Where everything comes to a head, including the weather (Wood shows some restraint, and doesn’t throw in a bushfire).

The air was all electricity. They were suspended, Wendy pinned on the couch, Jude and Adele each separate, adrift. None could reach the other. The door was still open and the rain swept in; darkness had swallowed up the room.

Nothing is resolved, the dog doesn’t die. Wendy feels vaguely she must do something to find out what it is that so bothers her children about their upbringing. Adele has no visible means of support for the coming year. Jude we don’t know enough about to care. The late Sylvie, whose absence might have been expected to be the centre of the novel, barley makes a showing. The friendship, having lasted this long only through inertia, would seem to have nowhere to go.

 

Charlotte Wood, The Weekend, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2019

Other Reviews:
Kate, booksaremyfavouriteandbest (here)
Kim, Reading Matters (here)
Lisa, ANZLitLovers (here)

About Canberra

Brona’s AusReadingMonth Bingo, November 2019 – [ACT]

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My father died a few years ago aged 87. He was born in Queensland but was only 6 or 7 when his father got a job in Canberra in the Commonwealth Public Service as deputy head of the Pharmacy section in Health Patents (see Comments below), the position he held, with the same boss, for the next 20 something years, as the department grew under him.

As it happened, the War years, when much of the Government moved to Melbourne, coincided with Dad’s high school years and so when his parents moved back to Canberra, he stayed on in Victoria as a teacher. The important thing about the Holloways’ years in Melbourne were that they lived in Hawthorn – hence our football affiliation.

I’ve said earlier that I inherited Dad’s books, 30 boxes, and all the non-war ones are on shelves around my flat. I knew I had some relating to Canberra and had vaguely intended giving them to Sue/Whispering Gums when I finally caught up with her. When I pulled them out for Brona’s readathon – and here I must apologize to Sarah Dowse whose West Block I couldn’t immediately lay my hands on – I found:

Lionel Wigmore, The Long View: Australia’s National Capital (1963)
LF Fitzhardinge, St John’s Church and Canberra (1941, 2nd ed. 1959)
Lindsay Gardiner, Witness in Stone (1958)
P Luck & U White, Canberra Sketchbook (1968)
John Gale, Canberra: Its History and Legends (1927. Facsimile ed. 1991)

I also found Grandpa’s had a stroke which was apposite, Hugo’s Italian self-tuition in three months, which seems ambitious, and The Lake Condah Aboriginal Mission (1984) which I’ve said previously I knew nothing about when we lived nearby in the early 1960s.

So let’s start with the churches. Mum’s family was Cof E. Dad’s was Presbyterian but he was confirmed and became an Anglican lay preacher around 1962. Witness in Stone is the history of St Ninian’s Presbyterian church in North Canberra. I don’t know if it was my grandparents’ home church – an unreadable note from Nana appears to say “David, you might find this interesting”. The earliest Presbyterians around “Canberry or the Limestone Plains” were shepherds brought out from Scotland in the 1830s. There were Anglican and Presbyterian churches from that time, though St Ninians itself dates from 1881. I wonder whose spire it was that Miles Franklin’s characters could see as they galloped home across the plain.

St John’s is the church I remember, from the 3 or 4 times as a boy I went to midnight services there on Christmas Eve (and it is probably MF’s spire).

In 1836 Australia was separated from the Diocese of Calcutta, and William Grant Broughton was made the first, and only, Bishop of Australia.

Up to the 1820s with white settlement spreading out across the Southern Highlands and along the Murrumbidgee, the southernmost church had been Liverpool on the outskirts of Sydney, but under Broughton churches were established first at Sutton Forest then at Goulburn, Yass, Queanbeyan, and in 1841, Canberra. On Jan 1, 1911 the transfer of the new Australian Capital Territory (from NSW) was completed and “St Johns became the Mother Church of the National Capital”.

Some final words –

This little church in its quiet valley offers a microcosm of Australian history and indeed of the wider history of Empire.

No wonder John Howard converted.

Canberra Sketchbook is one of a number of such books based on the drawings of NZ born cartoonist Unk White (1900-1986). It contains 30 drawings each with a facing page of text.

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To continue the church theme, the drawings include St Johns, All Saints and the Canberra Mosque, built in 1960 with $36,000 provided by the Indonesian, Malaysian and Pakistan governments; as well as some notable government buildings and old homesteads.

The Long View Dad got from Nana for his birthday in 1967. I can see she has written “I’m sorry this is so late… something  … something … I live in a kind of madhouse these days. Trust you like the book.” No “love from Mum” which says something about the kind of family we were.

It’s very well presented, with black and white photos incorporated into the text on nearly every page (including St John’s yet again, after a snowfall in 1929).

Canberra, national capital of Australia, had become before its fiftieth anniversary in 1963 the most populous of the Australian inland cities. The number of people living there more than trebled between 1947 and 1960.

Today, Canberra’s population at 410,000, while well below the 1-5 millions of the state capitals on the coast, is nearly 4 times greater than the nearest (in size) inland centres – Bendigo 121,000, Toowoomba 115,000, Ballarat 100,000 and Albury-Wodonga 95,000.

I wonder what the story is behind the lines:

Relationships appear to have been especially bad in 1826, to the extent that troops were sent from Sydney to disperse large numbers of aborigines [sic] congregated near Lake George and Inverary [Bungonia] …

“Disperse” in Australian histories is a word to hide any number of sins, including mass murder.

So, the author leads us through the story of the site, its selection as national capital, the Griffin plan – adopted, not adopted, mostly adopted – and construction, which was continuing of course as the book was being written, Lake Burley Griffin yet to be flooded and new Parliament House years in the future.

Canberra: Its History and Legends was first published in 1927 by the author, John Gale (1831-1929) who had founded the Queanbeyan Age in 1860 (for non-Australians, Queanbeyan is a few kilometres from Canberra and just outside the borders of the Australian Capital Territory). No one mentions the fact that Gale was 96 when the book came out and I can only imagine he had compiled it over a number of years.

The inscription in this book, numbered copy 964, is “David Holloway, 1992. Arrived in Canberra 19.01.1934”. I guess he was writing for his sons and grandchildren.

My associations with Canberra and the Queanbeyan district .. date back to 1855

Gale writes for his grandchildren and great grandchildren, with that lovely formal quality of the C19th.

Here, the native peoples hunted, battened and throve, here their men kind furbished their war weapons and trained and disciplined themselves for war with hostile tribes, and in the flarelight of their fires, with their gins and piccaninnies onlooking, danced their weird corroborees.

But they were soon ‘dispersed’, as Miles Franklin, amongst others, records, by the irresistible tide of white settlement.

The book is just a collection of stories and descriptions, culled from settler diaries, and no doubt from the Queanbeyan Age, with some linking text and filled out with the author’s reminisces from a lifetime in the district.

I forgot to note which book I read it in, but the Aboriginal meaning of ‘Canberra’ is said to be breasts, or cleavage, relating I think to Black Mountain and Mt Ainslie and the open area between them (someone will correct my geography, I’m sure). The people of Canberra are the Ngunnawal (here). They may be part of a larger group, perhaps taking in the mountains to the east and south. Their neighbours to the west are the Wiradjuri whose country encompasses much of central NSW.

 

see also: Miles Franklin, Canberra, the Griffins (here)
Books reviewed by Lisa/ANZLitLovers, set in Canberra (here)
Books reviewed by Sue/Whispering Gums, set in Canberra (here)

Milk and Honey, Elizabeth Jolley

Brona’s AusReadingMonth Bingo, November 2019 – [WA]

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I am flummoxed  by this book, Jolley’s third, which doesn’t feel like an Elizabeth Jolley at all and in fact reminds me quite a lot of Janette Turner Hospital’s (20 years later) Orpheus Lost (review) – the music, the weird family isolated in a house in the country, the locked up family member.

The protagonists in this novel are Austrians, or of Austrian descent, migrants to an unnamed and relatively un-Australian country, to escape the Nazis. I can’t claim any expertise re Jolley, but I have found those of her books that I have read relatively ‘local’, deriving from her living in Perth and owning a little farm in the hills. Milk and Honey (1984) is not like that at all. The atmosphere of the novel is European Gothic and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been started or at least conceived before she left England (in 1959 when she was 34).

Skip-reading Brian Dibble’s biography of Jolley, Doing Life, I see that in the 1960s Jolley was “revising old novels”, including The Prince of a Fellow which became Milk and Honey, and selling door to door –

Jolley felt that, whether selling to the ladies of the Tuart Club or to the women of Swanbourne, Watkins work was essentially awful, but she knew how such work brought her in contact with the sort of people and the kind of experiences she wrote about best. (Dibble, 2008, p.152)

Jacob, the central character in Milk and Honey is a musician, a cellist, and his love interest Madge is a violinist, but Madge is supported by her door-to-door salesman husband, who ends up taking Jacob on as a trainee/assistant, and the products – soaps and bath crystals and so on – that they sell, or more often don’t, are pretty much the products Jolley was flogging for Watkins.

The story is narrated by Jacob, who seems barely aware of what is happening around him. His mother dead, his vintner father sends him as a teenaged boy to live with the ageing Heimbachs, Leopold and his sisters Heloise and Rosa, to go to school, which he doesn’t for very long, and to study music. Leopold has two children, Waldemer who is simple, and Louise, 3 or 4 years older than Jacob. The Heimbachs had left a prosperous life in Austria, escaping first to Switzerland and then on. Leopold’s wife and the children’s mother had been abandoned, without comment, because she was Jewish.

Jacob’s father dies. His uncle and aunt sell the vineyards to property developers and Jacob is wealthy, though much of his money, that which isn’t siphoned off by his uncle and aunt, is kept in trunks at the Heimbach’s. Because Jacob is so unaware, the novel has an unreal quality, and much of what is happening around and to him we have to infer.

Jacob’s principal interest is to have sex with Madge, an older woman in the provincial orchestra in which Jacob plays. All the novel revolves around him finding ways to get away with her for an hour or a day.

Meanwhile, Jacob retaliates to be being teased by Waldemar by punching him, and Waldemar falls down, dead it seems, of heart failure, though it later turns out he has been hidden in the attic where he is cared for by his aunts and (a little too lovingly) by his sister. Louise and Jacob become engaged and subsequently married without any intention on Jacob’s part.

Was I waking? was I dreaming? Of course I remembered I was supposed to marry Louise. It had been arranged that day I became the owner of my father’s land.

I was a bird in a snake’s eye. I had never thought it could be avoided. If I thought anything, it was, ‘Not Yet. Not Yet.’

This afternoon I had been on the point of merging into Madge but now I was married. To Louise.

The wedding night is a fiasco, they subsequently sleep separately, but Jacob is gradually made aware that Louise is pregnant.

The climax builds as Jacob uses his money to attempt to find a way to spend more time with Madge while continuing to live within the constraints imposed by the Heimbachs. Leopold dies. It becomes increasingly obvious that Heloise and Rosa know about Madge.

There’s a fire, foreshadowed from the beginning, when the novel opens with Jacob and Louise living in poverty with their daughter. Louise working in a factory, Jacob working with Norman, Madge’s husband.

As Dibble writes, “There is no end in sight to this tangled web of dependency and deception in the name of love.” But did I like it? Not really.

 


The barbarians are inside the gates. UWA Press, Australia’s second oldest university press, is to cease publishing. Yes, the state (Labor) government continues for now to support Fremantle Press formerly Fremantle Arts Centre Press, but for how long.

Jess White wrote today on Facebook: “This is absolutely dreadful news: The University of Western Australia has decided to shut the doors on @uwapublishing (my publisher!). This press is run by the wonderful, vibrant Terri-Ann White who is a smart & savvy businesswoman, & who produces beautiful books. As well as this, who will publish WA’s stories now??” and links to a story in The Australian (which I will leave you to find, or not, for yourselves).


 

Elizabeth Jolley, Milk and Honey, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, 1984

Brian Dibble, Doing Life, UWAP, Perth, 2008

More Elizabeth Jolley reviews, including mine, on ANZLitLovers’ Elizabeth Jolley page here

The Rosie Result, Graeme Simsion

Brona’s AusReadingMonth Bingo, November 2019 – [Vic]

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Simsion’s “screenplay for The Rosie Project is in development with Sony Pictures”. Do I feel I have been sucked in by the hype for this series or should I be pleased that Australian authors, Lianne Moriarty (here and here) is another, are getting some reward for effort? I fall somewhere in between.

I reviewed The Rosie Project (here), which I enjoyed, and later read the sequel, The Rosie Effect, which I found forced and derivative. The Rosie Result regains some of the life and originality of The Rosie Project, at least in part by concentrating on the developmental issues encountered by Don and Rosie’s son, Hudson, who is very similar to Don, over the course of his last year in Primary school.

The great strength of the book is the way Simsion raises and deals with issues from the debates around Aspergers Syndrome and the Austism spectrum by explicitly discussing, having the protagonists, including Hudson, discuss, how they apply or don’t apply to Hudson.

Briefly, and I hope I get this right, I listened to the audiobook last week, and don’t have a hard copy to look up, Don and Rosie are living and working in NY. Their son and only child Hudson is aged about 11. Rosie, a medical doctor with a PhD in psychology, is offered a prestigious research position back home in Melbourne. Don, a mathematician working in genetics, is happy for her career to take precedence and in any case expects to and does find a suitable position at Melbourne Uni. Hudson is not happy about changing schools but doesn’t get a vote. The audiobook reader gives Hudson a generic American accent throughout, emphasising the difficulty Hudson has in adjusting to school in Australia.

In Melbouren, Hudson is put into a private school, makes friends with a girl with albinism, is misunderstood by his teacher – who starts out as the “villian”, but is more sympathetic towards the end, gets transferred to another class where he gradually blossoms.

The premise of the story is that Hudson’s problems at school lead to the conclusion that he needs a stay-at-home parent. Logically (of course) Don adopts that role and gives up his professorship (after giving a lecture on genetics where he asks students to place themselves on a race/colour spectrum to prove something – I forget what – in answer to a query from a student who is setting him up).

But this leaves the family short of money, so Don opens a cocktail bar which is specified so as to be only suitable for people with autism, and which should only occupy his time when Hudson is in bed. Except he very rarely is, often sleeps behind the bar, and has an official position as greeter and trainer (you’re meant to order your drinks using a complicated app).

Don meanwhile becomes friends with Hudson’s friend’s mother, who is in an abusive relationship – which is a polite way of saying she is dominated by and sometimes belted by her husband and seems to like it – which eventually leads to Don being able to do some he-man stuff at a school function.

All the old characters are back. Don continues to be supported by Claudia, his ex-best friend’s ex-wife; and by his men’s group from NY, until they end up in Melbourne. Hudson gets his own support group, Gene and Claudia’s son and daughter. There’s a little running joke about damage to his father in law’s Porsche, which Don is driving, being blamed on Rosie. And so on. Rosie still seems to be the one who must adapt to Don’s logical idiocies.

The Rosie Result is worth reading/listening to just for, maybe only for, the considered debate about autism. But of course, despite the fact the kids and I all think we’re somewhere on the spectrum, it’s a subject I know nothing about and Simsion may for all I know be completely wrong. I hope not because he’s going to get millions of readers.

 

Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Result, Text, Melbourne, 2019. Audiobook read by Dan O’Grady.

Brona’s AusReadingMonth Bingo

Journal: 040

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Brona’s AusReadingMonth Bingo, November 2019

Australian reading bingo’s in the past, I have dealt with by waiting until the end of the period in question and then filling the squares with books I have read during the previous 12 months. On that basis, this is as close as I could go today to filling in Brona’s Bingo card (by setting, rather than by home state of author), and closer than I expected:

NT     Alexis Wright, Tracker (here)
Tas    Krissy Kneen, Wintering (here)
SA
Vic    Peggy Frew, Islands  (here)
Free Claire Coleman, The Old Lie (here)
WA    Alice Nannup, When the Pelican Laughed (here)
Qld    Anne Gambling, The Drover’s De Facto (here)
NSW David Ireland, The Unknown Industrial Prisoner (here)
ACT   TAG Hungerford, The National Game (short story here)

I chose Claire Coleman for “Free” because I got to it first, but as I scanned my reviews I must say I was tempted by Behrouz Boochani, No Friend but the Mountains (here) and Rosaleen Love, The Total Devotion Machine (here). I’m sorry about the empty SA. The last I can remember reading, and I recommend it, is Cassie Flanagan Willanski’s, Here Where We Live (here) from 2016. Though I did review Joseph Hawdon’s Journal of a Journey from NSW to Adelaide (in 1837) a year and a week ago (here).

Brona made a list of suggestions for non-fiction (it’s apparently also Non fiction November) and for poetry. I could, surprisingly!, get half way round the country with poetry (by going back more than one year):

NT
Tas
SA
Vic     Allan Wearne, The Nightmarkets  (here)
Free
WA    Green & Kinsella, False Claims of Colonial Thieves (here)
Qld
NSW  Alison Whittaker, Blakwork (here)
ACT   

and probably more than halfway with Indigenous authors, Science Fiction, and maybe even Journals. But here is a suggested reading list, because it fits in with the general theme of this blog, for Pre-1950s Women:

NT    Mrs Aeneas Gunn, We of the Never Never
Tas   Tasma, What an Artist Discovered in Tasmania (short story, here)
SA     Catherine Helen Spence, Mr Hogarth’s Will (here)
Vic    Eve Langley, The Pea Pickers  (here)
Free Catherine Martin, An Australian Girl (here)
WA    Katharine Susannah Prichard, Working Bullocks
Qld    Rosa Praed, Lady Bridget in the Never Never Land (here)
NSW  Eleanor Dark, Waterway (here)
ACT   Miles Franklin (Brent of Bin Bin), Ten Creeks Run (here)

Yes, I had to cheat a bit with that last, but Miles’ heroes and heroines ride backwards and forwards through what later became the ACT to get from their properties to Goulburn and on to Sydney. (See also my post Miles Franklin, Canberra, the Griffins). And there’s plenty more pre-1950s women in my AWW Gen 1, Gen 2 and Gen 3 pages.

As for what I’m actually planning to read, I currently have Elizabeth Jolley’s Milk and Honey on the go (WA), I should do another David Ireland (NSW), I’ve just purchased Charlotte Woods’ Weekend, without knowing what state she’s from, and I would love to come up with another Marie Munkara (NT). Unfortunately I chose the audiobooks for my current trip without thinking about Brona, but I have listened to The Rosie Result (Vic) which I’ll review as soon as I get a day off.

 

Currently Reading:

Elizabeth Jolley, Milk and Honey
Lily Brett, Just Like That
Mike McCormack, Solar Bones

Australian Women Writers, 1930s

Australian Women Writers Gen 3 Week 12-18 Jan. 2020

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Dulcie Deamer

The title for this post is a straight steal from a post written by Whispering Gums (Sue) in 2014 (here) based on an article by Zora Cross in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1935. It is not my intention to plagiarise Sue, but rather to research the largely unknown women writers Cross lists for my Australian Women Writers Gen 3 page (here), though as it turns out, most of them are Gen 2 by age, or even Gen 1.

I was inspired to research by this line in Sue’s post:

[Daniel] Hamlyn, she says, won The Bulletin’s second novel competition, the first one having been jointly won by Katharine Susannah Prichard and M. Barnard Eldershaw.

Neither Sue nor I were able to find any other mention of Hamlyn (not by Google, the Annals of Australian Literature, nor the Oxford Companion), and I’m pretty sure (now!) that the second winner, in 1929, was Vance Palmer with The Passage. On the other hand, Zora Cross was there and should know.

Cross’s actual words are “Daniel Hamlyn, a winner in the second “Bulletin” novel competition, and a promising woman writer, is another” [of Mary Gilmore’s “discoveries”]. Who Hamlyn is will have to stay a mystery for a bit longer.

Three hours, and a few glasses of wine, later. Got it! In Trove, in a story about Vance Palmer. Second prize in 1929 went to Mrs Kay Glasson Taylor.

Final step Wikipedia. Kay Glasson Taylor’s novels “include Ginger for Pluck (published under the pseudonym “Daniel Hamline”, for young readers, 1929 … Her fiction is still read as a representation of white Australian women’s experiences of gender and race in the context of colonialism”. (Read by whom, I wonder).

Postscript. Taylor, Kay Glasson (‘David Hamline’) does get a few lines in the Oxford Companion.

The other writers Sue mentions (where I can, I list their pen names, invaluable for searching on Trove) are –

Ada Holman (1869-1949) ADB

Novelist and feminist. AKA Ada Kidgell, Marcus Malcolm, Nardoo, Myee.  “A recurring theme to her stories was tension in marriage as when a wife’s interests were suppressed or ignored, or a woman married unwillingly from economic necessity or family pressure.” Married NSW Labor politician and sometime Premier WA Holman.

Dora Wilcox (1873-1953) AustLit

Poet. NZ born and educated. A VAD (nurses’ aid) during the War.

Alice Grant Rosman (1882-1961) ADB

Published initially in Australian magazines, Bulletin, Lone Hand, Gadfly, etc. Moved to England and became a prolific and best selling author of romance fiction.

Ella McFadyen (1887-1976) People Australia

Children’s author

Vera Dwyer (1889-1967) The Australian Women’s Register, AustLit

Children’s author. Active member Fellowship of Australian Writers

Zora Cross (1890-1964) ADB

Writer of ‘sensual’ poetry, single mum, indifferent novelist, wrote about other writers.

Dulcie Deamer (1890-1972) ADB

Famous Kings Cross bohemian, actor, writer. Founding member Fellowship of Australian Writers

Nina Murdoch (1890-1976) ADB

Travel writer, reporter. Other names Madoline Brown, Manin, and as Pat founded the Argonauts on ABC radio.

Kay Glasson Taylor (1893-1998) 105! (Wiki)

AKA Daniel Hamline. Her second novel, Pick and the Duffers (1930), was called “an Australian Tom Sawyer” and was made into a movie

Helen Simpson (1897-1940) ADB

Novelist, playwright living mostly in England (married to Rolf Boldrewood’s nephew). Detective and historical fiction

Georgia Rivers (1897-1989)

Pen name of Marjorie Clark. AustLit got bolshie and wouldn’t let me see any more.

Dorothy Cottrell (1902-1957) ADB

Wheelchair-bound by polio as an infant, she and her husband were inveterate vagabonds, living in and writing about outback Australia, Dunk Island (with ‘beachcomber’ Edmund Banfield), Florida and the Carribean. Mary Gilmore wrote, “Mrs. Cottrell writes Australia as it has never been written before.”

Jessie Urquhart ()

Nothing published under that name in the years 1925-1945

see also:
Whispering Gums, 1930s, moving beyond “gumleaf” and “goanna” (here)
Whispering Gums, The novel in Australia, 1927-style, Part 1 (here)
Whispering Gums, The novel in Australia, 1927-style, Part 2 (here)

Queensland!

Journal: 039

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Queensland is the odd state out. Australian states typically have one large metropolitan centre, with 70-80% of the total population, plonked down around a convenient port, and a mostly empty hinterland. But Queensland’s rural-metro split is much closer to 50:50. And that makes a real difference.

Right-wing Labor governments alternate with very right-wing Liberal-National governments; the police force is institutionally racist (I believe no Qld policeman has ever been convicted of killing a Black person (more here)); Queensland is Australia’s bible belt, though that seems to be spreading into suburbs Australia-wide, not to mention the Lodge; climate-change denialism is rampant: – institutionalized water-theft from inland rivers; widespread land clearing, coastal mangrove clearing; coal mining and fracking for gas prioritized over agricultural production; sugar cane farming and coal ports destroying the Great Barrier Reef.

And yet it is a beautiful place with lovely people (who invariably ask you to agree to 3 impossible things before breakfast – usually concerning God, greenies and commos).

So, my last trip: crossing back over the poor, dead Darling at Bourke; up through Cunnamulla (if you haven’t yet, see the movie), Charleville, Roma, Injune. Drop down into the Carnarvon Gorge National Park, 180 km of cool, tall timber (yes, some clearing) one of my favourite spots in all Australia and I don’t see the best of it from the road. Into Central Queensland coal country. My first delivery to a mine near Nebo, then over the Great Divide to Mackay and up the coast to Townsville.

They weren’t ready for the second delivery, so I left my trailers at the depot and went off for a shower, a sleep, a day off, shopping.  No secondhand bookshops that I could see. I asked at Mary Who?, where I bought Islands and The Old Lie, and the lady there said that as far as she knew they were all gone.

Late in the afternoon I headed up the coast again, too late to see Hinchinbrook Island bright green in a brilliant blue sea as you come over the last hill, but still a presence in the dark, then on through Innisfail and up into the range.

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Parking for the night in a tourist centre car park and in the morning out into the morning mist and lush greens of the Atherton Tablelands.

Loaded and tied down 92 round bales of hay with the help of Tim and Matt, young contractors from Toowoomba; headed south on the inland road (map): Mt Garnet, Charters Towers, 370 km of ‘development’ country, looking perenially newly cleared – I think the scrub keeps growing back – to Clermont and so back through Emerald, and on to Roma, turning east to Miles then south to Condamine where I parked up for the night in the main street, walked to the pub, was offered a shower before I thought to ask, truckies are special in the bush, and sat down to vegie pasta and wine.

Years ago Uncle S and Auntie M – mum’s younger sister – and their kids, my cousins, left Sea Lake for a larger, only partially cleared farm at Tara, southern outback Queensland brigalow country which had broken a lot of hearts according to my father, whose own father had gone broke as the town chemist in nearby Chinchilla during the Depression. The drought is breaking hearts today, though there’s still water in the dams, hence my load of hay, not for the property now farmed by cousin George, but for a couple of his neighbours. They took a trailer each, no mucking about, just got the tractor out and pushed the bales off into rough heaps beside the track.

The second delivery, to TJ – 50ish, dirty blonde hair, ice blue eyes, hard man – was way back off the road, dirt track winding through the scrub for a kilometre maybe, then an old weatherboard house, verandahs all round, surrounded by tired garden, abandoned trucks, tractors, cars, somnolent pig dogs chained to truck bodies I’m sure they could drag behind them if sufficiently aroused. And goats.

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TJ’s father had been a horse breaker and brumby catcher. There was on old Leyland Beaver, just outside the shot above, which had roamed the west of the state, towing a road train of single deck crates, bringing horses in to the property and out to all the rodeos. TJ and I made a few miles, truckin’ in olden days, and then got on to the subject of the dances which country towns in our youth held Saturday nights, for everyone from 12 to decrepitude. I’m still laughing every time I think of a young TJ hugged to a matronly bosom, only the back of his head still visible, feet barely touching the ground as he was whisked around the floor.

George’s brother, a fellow truckie, had seen where I was heading on Facebook, and invited me to stay the weekend. The long weekend, Queens Birthday, as it turned out. So I headed to Toowoomba, left my trailers in the road train assembly, parked my truck in his driveway, well one of them, it’s a big house, and settled down for a couple of days of drinking, TV, and rugby – met more of his neighbours in a couple of hours, watching the League Grand Final in a next-door multi car garage/men’s shed, than I’d met of my own in 50 years.

My cousin’s wife’s from Tara. Knows TJ. Says he’s a manager in a government office in town.

 

Recent audiobooks 

Jacqueline Winspear (F, Eng), Birds of a Feather (2004) – Crime
Kurt Vonnegut (M, USA), Cats Cradle (1963) – SF
David Leavitt (M, Eng), The Indian Clerk (2007)
Lorenzo Marone (M, Ita), The Temptation to be Happy (2015)
Nayomi Munaweera (F, Sri/USA), Island of a Thousand Mirrors (2012)
Amitar Ghosh (M, Ind), Sea of Poppies (2008)
Ruth Rendell (F, Eng), Thirteen Steps Down (2004) – Crime DNF
Karen Robards (F, USA), The Fifth Doctrine (2019) – Thriller
BV Larson (M, USA), Tech World (2014) – SF
Hilary Mantel (F, Eng), Every Day is Mother’s Day (1985)

Currently reading

Peggy Frew, Islands
Claire Coleman, The Big Lie
Elizabeth Jolley, Milk and Honey

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Leyland Beaver road train, Quilpie Qld