Such is Life (10), Joseph Furphy

Such is Life (01)
Such is Life (02)
Such is Life (03)
Such is Life (04)
Such is Life (05)
Such is Life (06)
Such is Life (07)
Such is Life (08)
Such is Life (09)

The fictitious memoir of Tom Collins, a NSW Government official, “of the ninth class” and former bullocky. Being reviewed in 12 parts over the course of 2021.

We are at VI, the penultimate chapter. Tom’s diary, open at Sat., February 9th, 1884, reminds him that he was once again on Runnymede, on whose home paddock the bullockies were camped in Chapter I. It is a standing joke amongst all his acquaintance that the housekeeper of Runnymede, a widow formerly of some social standing (in the bush), is intent on marrying him. And now, due to government business, he has been spending some days within her reach.

No spoilers this month, though the answer to one of the novel’s little underlying mysteries, who is Nosey Alf, is within Tom’s grasp by the end of the chapter if only he realised. In fact, it is only by reading the commentaries that I am aware of just how many mysteries run as undercurrents through the stories Tom relates and listens to. Tom knows his saddle is better than it should be, but from whom was it stolen? Where did his kangaroo dog, Pup, come from? What happened to the swagman he ‘helped’ the night he got naked? Is he still in touch with Jim (Jemima)? and so on.

Tom begins the chapter by philosophising about the minute gradations of class on a station, “The folk-lore of Riverina is rich in variations of a mythus, pointing to the David-and-Goliath combat between a quiet wage-slave and a domineering squatter …” At the homestead, each class has its own quarters, from the house for the boss and his family, to the barracks for narangies, to the men’s hut, to “the nearest pine ridge” or a hut by the woolshed for swaggies. Tom, in his official capacity, “being a little too exalted for the men’s hut, and a great deal too vile for the boss’s house” was quartered with the narrangies.

Social status, apart from all considerations of mind, manners, or even money, is more accurately weighed on a right-thinking Australian station than anywhere else in the world.

Mrs Beaudesert, the housekeeper, had made £25,000 marrying and burying her first husband, only for her second, a refugee from Belgravia, to get through it at £10,000 a year, and so she was reduced to living on the charity of her old school friend, the boss’s wife. Unfortunately for Tom, she had a mistaken belief about his lineage and prospects, and “such was her hypnotic power, or my adaptability, that in the atmosphere of Runnymede I became a Conservative of the good old type.”

Eventually, after adjudicating in an argument between Mrs B and a servant girl, he begins to make his escape. The mail brings a letter from head office, but it is only a love letter and he discards it. As he is mounting, another horseman wishes to discuss ‘Was Hamlet mad?’. There is a contretemps with a bullocky taking a short cut across the best paddocks instead of going back out the front gate and around the long way. But at last Tom makes his own way across the station to Nosey Alf’s hut on the boundary.

Nosey Alf, in fact had no nose, having been kicked in the face by a horse. Tom describes Alf variously as “more beautiful, otherwise, than a man’s face is justified in being”; with “lithe, graceful movements”; and “no scrub to burn off, except a faint moustache”; not to mention “unbecomingly clean for a Saturday”.

They exchange “swapping books” and discuss Zola, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Longfellow. Alf corrects Tom’s characterization of bombazine as “cheap, carpetty-looking fabric” for women’s gowns, leading Tom to assume Alf had been a draper’s assistant in his Sydney days.

Tom gives Alf news, at some length, of their mutual acquaintance, the misanthropic Warrigal Alf.

Alf takes out a violin –

.. he didn’t confine himself to the comfortable vulgarity of popular airs. He played selections from Handel, Mozart, Wagner and I don’t know whom; while the time past unnoticed by both of us. At length he laid the violin across his knees, and, after a pause, his voice rose in one of the sweetest songs ever woven from words.

As he takes his leave in the morning, Tom’s final, grateful thought is that never once did Alf attempt “any witticism respecting Mrs Beaudesert”.


Runnymede. At that time, in a 200 mile stretch along the Murrimbidgee there was only one station, Pevensey, that did not have an Aboriginal name. “Perhaps Pevensey, the site of a king’s victory, suggested Runnymede, the site of a king’s defeat.”

Narangy. A self-appointed boss of doubtful authority. A man who transmitted orders but didn’t formulate them. From similar Aboriginal words recorded in the Sydney region meaning small or junior.

Love letter. Possibly from Jim as her father had Tom’s work address

Was Hamlet mad? A burning question in Melbourne in 1867, following rival performances, and a spate of letters to the Argus.

.

Joseph Furphy, Such is Life, Bulletin, Sydney, 1903

FD Glass, R Eaden, GW Turner, L Hoffman eds, The Annotated Such is Life, by Joseph Furphy, Halstead Classics, Sydney, 1999. 297pp (plus 170pp notes and annotations).

Vance Palmer edited two editions of Such is Life, the second, published by Kate Baker in 1917, and the abridged edition published in England by Jonathon Cape in 1937. The cover above would appear to be of the latter (here). My earlier post, Such is Life Abridged! (here)

Last month one of my brothers (B3) wrote and said that if I was short of covers I could use his, which was a Xmas present from our parents in 1972. I had already set up my covers for the rest of the year but here’s his, as a bonus, a hardback from boutique publisher Lloyd O’Neill. The cover painting is Tom Roberts’ Charcoal Burners (1886), though the colours appear a bit off.

The Cabuliwallah, Rabindranath Tagore

This post is by way of being a thank you to Brona of This Reading Life. A few days ago she put up a review of a book in the Perveen Mistry murder mystery series which is set in 1920s India, and in the discussion which followed she “highly recommended” I read Rabindranath Tagore.

Not a name I’d ever heard before, so who is he? Brona’s consideration for my ignorance extended to linking to Wikipedia. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was an Indian, a Bengali Brahmin from Calcutta, “a poet, writer, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer and painter … Tagore modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms and resisting linguistic strictures. His novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays spoke to topics political and personal.” Ok, enough quoting.

Tagore was well-known world-wide, his works were available in English, and he apparently visited all the world’s (habitable) continents except Australia. In 1913 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first “non-European” to be so honoured. I wonder if that means the first person not resident in Europe or is just a polite way of saying the first non-white.

Brona’s Perveen Mistry novel was set during the royal tour of India by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) in 1921/22 (another blogger has photographs) and in the context of Ghandi’s ‘passive resistance’ movement. Tagore was apparently a supporter of Independence, but was inclined towards world peace rather than nationalism.

The Cabuliwallah is the first short story from Stories from Tagore (1918) which appears to be an English language reader for Indian students.

The present Indian story-book avoids some at least of these impediments [the unfamiliarity of stories set in England]. The surroundings described in it are those of the students’ everyday life; the sentiments and characters are familiar…

Two of the longest stories in this book—”Master Mashai” and “The Son of Rashmani”—are reproduced in English for the first time. The rest of the stories have been taken, with slight revision, from two English volumes entitled “The Hungry Stones” and “Mashi.” A short paragraph has been added from the original Bengali at the end of the story called “The Postmaster.”

Preface

The Cabuliwallah of the title is an Afghani pedlar, working the streets of Calcutta. He attracts the notice of Mini, the author’s 5 year old daughter, and the author must leave the hero and heroine of the adventure novel he is writing swinging from a rope while he goes out into the street to talk to the pedlar. “I made some small purchases, and a conversation began about Abdurrahman, the Russians, the English, and the Frontier Policy.”

Soon Rahmun (the Cabuliwallah) and Mini are firm friends, to be found at some time every day in conversation. They have a little joke about the phrase “father-in-law’s house” which for a strictly brought up girl, which Mini is not, means the home to which her husband will take her; and which when applied to the pedlar is a slang term for jail.

Sadly, one day the pedlar really is taken off to jail, falsely accused by a customer seeking to avoid their debts. For eight years he is out of the author and his daughter’s thoughts. But at the end of that time he returns, to resume the friendship, only to find it is Mini’s wedding day (at 13!).

She is called, and comes, but is too shy to speak.

I remembered the day when the Cabuliwallah and my Mini had first met, and I felt sad. When she had gone, Rahmun heaved a deep sigh, and sat down on the floor. The idea had suddenly come to him that his daughter too must have grown in this long time, and that he would have to make friends with her anew. Assuredly he would not find her as he used to know her. And besides, what might not have happened to her in these eight years?

The marriage-pipes sounded, and the mild autumn sun streamed round us. But Rahmun sat in the little Calcutta lane, and saw before him the barren mountains of Afghanistan.

This being a reader for schools there is at the end a short list of words to be considered (mostly pointing back to their Latin roots, which gives you some idea of what young Indians were taught. But then I suppose at that time they needed Greek and Latin to get into Oxford and Cambridge).

And at the end of the book there are notes, beginning –

“The Cabuliwallah” is one of the most famous of the Poet’s “Short Stories.” It has been often translated. The present translation is by the late Sister Nivedita, and her simple, vivid style should be noticed by the Indian student reader. It is a good example of modern English, with its short sentences, its careful choice of words, and its luminous clearness of meaning.

Cabuliwallah. A man from Cabul or Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

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Rabindranath Tagore, Stories from Tagore, Macmillan, London, 1918. [Project Gutenberg]

Roots, Alex Haley

Over the past month I’ve been engaged with Liz Dexter and Buried in Print in reading Alex Haley’s seminal, important, groundbreaking 1976 novel of the history of a (his) African American slave family. They will I’m sure put up reviews shortly but having a gap in my schedule so to speak, I’ll put up my initial thoughts now while the main elements of the book – which I listened to while they were reading – are still in my head.

I missed Roots when it was on TV, though of course I didn’t miss the hype, so I’m only now realising why it was so important. And that is that Black Americans were for the first time seeing themselves centre stage, taken seriously, with documentable genealogies.

To start at the end, Haley, a relatively middle-class boy from Tennessee, sat at the feet of his great aunts before WWII and heard the oral history of his mother’s family which began with an ‘African’, Kunta Kinte, captured by slavers as a young man in the late 1760s, transported across the Atlantic, and sold for plantation work on arrival at Annapolis, Maryland.

In the final chapters, Haley describes how some of the names of places and objects, indeed the Kinte name itself, which had been passed down for nearly 200 years, could be identified as from the Mandinka nation of The Gambia, a literate, Muslim people. That this history is now, and was almost immediately, challenged does not affect my reading of the novel.

Roots is a long book, a family saga covering the stories of one or two people over four generations, from before the War of Independence to the period following the Civil War. There are 120 chapters, so we read and discussed between ourselves 30 chapters each week. Which suited me as I could listen to my 7-8 hours each weekend while I was driving, then write it up when I got home.

Haley spends a long time, the first quarter of the book, establishing Kunta as a boy and then young man, learning to read and count, memorizing the Koran, being taught his responsibilities, taken on journeys, meeting people from other tribes with other customs (and languages). He is aware that white men, with the assistance of Africans, are taking people away, overseas, possibly to eat them, but he is not particularly cautious and at about age 18 he is captured.

The voyage to America is horrific, chained in pairs, lying damp and stinking on shelves below decks, frequently whipped, badly fed, a thirty percent death rate. Haley I think does a good job not just of telling the story but of imagining what Kunta must have been thinking and feeling.

In the US Kunta is sold onto a plantation, he is a frequent runaway, and just as frequently recaptured until at last he attacks one of his captors and his foot is chopped off. We then have a long period – 20 years – where Kunta comes to terms with being a slave, living with people who have been slaves for some generations already. Finally he marries, a cook, Bell, and they have one child, a daughter Kizzy.

At 18 Kizzy helps her boyfriend escape. He’s recaptured. She’s sold as a field hand to a small plantation further south (we hear no more of Kunta), is raped by the owner and has a son, George. Unfortunately for us, the new owner makes his money cockfighting, George grows to become his principal trainer, and we learn far too much about ‘chickens’ and the sport/industry surrounding them.

George in turn marries Matilda who is a much better woman than he deserves and they have a whole host of kids. No. 3 (I think) is Tom who apprentices as a blacksmith and grows to become a responsible man and father and head of his family.

This brings us up to the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves. The family is largely unaffected by the War but soon afterwards, George who has been away, returns and on his word of a ‘promised land’ in Tennessee, 17 Black families (and one white couple) make their way there in a wagon train, and take up 30 or 40 acre plots on rich soil just opened up for settlement. Tom, despite opposition from the local whites, opens up for business as a blacksmith. And the families settle down to prosper.

That, more or less is the end of the saga. In the space of a chapter or so, Tom’s youngest daughter marries a Haley, who has a lumber business, and so in a couple of generations more we have young Alex.

The prose is undistinguished, just words enough to propel us through the story. We are forever being updated on ‘background’, ie. US history, by slaves telling each other what they had overheard or glimpsed in newspapers, which the other two found less intrusive than I did.

I think Haley’s intention was to do with being Black and proud. The survival of ‘the African’ in his family’s history. What I got out of it was firstly the centrality of the matriarch in each generation, holding the family together, despite the stories mostly revolving around the men; and secondly, once Kunta had been beaten down, the slaves mostly just got on with life, rather as you would with a tedious job you were never able to leave.

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Alex Haley, Roots, first pub. 1976. Audiobook read by Avery Brooks, 2011. 30 hours

see also:
Adventures in reading, running and working from home (Roots review coming)
Buried in Print (Roots review coming)
Buried in Print, Slavery: Past and Present #280898 Reasons (3.5 of 4)
The Australian Legend, Project 2022 – Reading North American Black & Native American Lit.

Beautiful World Where Are You, Sally Rooney

Yes, that’s a very undistinguished cover. Will it affect sales? No, of course not. But look at me! Slips of paper marking passages to quote. Not me at all since uni days.

On Friday I had to buy books for birthdays so I was always going to pick up the new Sally Rooney. Unfortunately, Saturday I had work. A quick trip to Geraldton (440 km), load four pieces of roadworking machinery, home the same day. Good theory! At 6am the truck wouldn’t start, phoned my usual mechanics, no answer; phoned Volvo, they finally picked up at 7.00, long weekend, busy etc., maybe they could come out the week after next; phoned my mate Kevin whose paddock I park in, he got up and came out and offered to swap out the starter motor. 10am I was on my way.

Got to Geraldton where the roadworks were in a residential beachside subdivision, made my way through streets and tiny roundabouts with two trailers (not three, thank goodness); the road crew had all gone home the night before but had left me the keys, they said; two problems, where were the keys, certainly not where they said they would be, and this was machinery I had never driven before in my life. By the time I found the keys it was getting on for dusk. I dropped my trailers, found a motel which wasn’t booked out for the long weekend, settled down in front of a TV and the Grand Final (AFL football); and after, made a start on Rooney.

Next morning, Sunday, I set up my trailers, drove the bobcat and three road rollers very slowly up the ramps, steel rollers slipping and sliding even with rubber mats to provide friction; strapped and chained them all down. Five hours! Too many tourists at the three or four stops on the highway home for me to bother queuing for dried out chips for lunch. Home in the evening, well Millie’s, but she was having meat pasties (smelt lovely) so I made do with toast and cheese.

Today, Monday’s a public holiday. I never have any idea when WA is having a public holiday, let alone what for, I think the Queen has already had her birthday. I should be using the time to do truck stuff. You know, crawl around underneath and look industrious, but I put that off and read Rooney instead.

She is undoubtedly the best writer in English since DH Lawrence.

The story is of a writer, Alice, thirtyish, a brilliant success on the back of her first two novels, living in a big house in Galway after a breakdown; her best friend since college, Eileen, a poorly paid editor with a literary magazine in Dublin; Simon, five or so years older, a back-room, presumably left of centre politician, loving/friends with Eileen since she was 15; and Felix, a thirtyish guy, warehouse worker, who in the first chapter meets Alice on a Tinder date. She takes him home, they don’t hit it off, but as they live in the same small coastal town, they must inevitably meet again.

The story is carried forward by marvellously distant third person prose with no internality at all;

On the platform of a train station, late morning, early June: two women embracing after a separation of several months. Behind them, a tall fair-haired man alighting from the train carrying two suitcases [Alice, Eileen, Simon]. The two women unspeaking, their eyes closed tight … for a second, two seconds, three.

by chapters which are entirely one email from Alice to Elaine or from Elaine to Alice; and by their speech, their (infrequent) phone calls, their texts and the exchange of photographs, just as you might expect in 2019-20, the year before and then, in the final chapters, the year of, the plague.

The emails in particular consisting of the deepest introspection and philosphising, hence the comparison with Lawrence. On sex, for instance –

To me it’s normal to meet people and think of them in a sexual way without actually having sex with them – or, more to the point, without even imagining having sex with them, without even thinking about imagining it. This suggests that sexuality has some ‘other’ content which is not about the act of sex. And maybe even a majority of our sexual experiences are mostly this ‘other’… Our ways of thinking and speaking about sexuality seem so limited, compared to the exhausting and debilitating power of sexuality as we experience it in our real lives.

And also, on God. But no quotes! Simon is both a good person and a Roman Catholic. The others are not. There are discussions on the possibility of Good and Evil without God. Alice comes round to thinking there must be ‘something’. There are hints that the Beautiful World of the title, the possibility of Goodness, is hidden, “concealed beneath the surface of life, not unreality but a hidden reality”.

The plot itself is straightforward and unimportant, perhaps at the end a little trite even. Couples come together, misunderstand each other, step apart etc., etc. Rooney writes feelingly about the burden of success. But the writing, the exploration of character, of what it means to be thirty and on your way or not on your way, of relationships, of ideas, is brilliant.

.

Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You, Faber, London, 2021. 337pp.

Her Last Words, Kim Kelly

Kim Kelly is an Australian author, who grew up in Sydney, found her first vocation as a book editor and her second as a writer of fiction. She doesn’t give us her age and I won’t bother guessing. Over the course of her writing career, she had a publisher, lost her publisher “as interest fell off”, and began self publishing. Now, in her latest (Sept 2021) newsletter she writes, “All of my independently published novels – eleven of them – have been removed from sale in Australia and New Zealand to make way for beautiful new Brio Books editions from Booktopia.”

This spurred me to check out BorrowBox and, as I write, I am up to the last chapter of Her Last Words (Kelly’s tenth, published 2020, but set a few years earlier). And to be clear, I am enjoying it very much.

What I want to discuss is how we define “middlebrow” or “general” fiction, and how we separate out Literary Fiction, which is the general concern of this corner of the blogosphere – though of course we all condescend to dip our toes from time to time in genre fiction which may or may not be Literary. And before Kim starts firing bullets at me across the continent, let me say that while I get the impression that she, maybe for financial reasons, aims at the “general” market, there is absolutely no difference in quality between Her Last Words and say, Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend, let alone other authors mysteriously taken up by the literati – you knew I’d say Jane Harper, Evie Wyld, Peggy Frew and so on.

It is germane to this discussion that the great majority of reviews on the Australian Women Writers Challenge are for works/authors you and I don’t bother reading and which of course sell in quantities that make every literary author green with envy. So what is the distinction?

Some of it is clearly class and/or education. Let us say that General fiction is aimed at middle class women for their entertainment; and Literary fiction is aimed at upper (by education rather than wealth or birth) middle class, men and women, for their … improvement.

Literary fiction should be marked by innovation in writing and in subject matter. However, what passes for Literary fiction most of the time, as the Miles Franklin Award demonstrates year after year, is just entertainment for the slightly better educated.

Her Last Words is a Rom.Com/Police Procedural/Medical Drama. At its centre are two characters, Penny, a senior book editor, and John, an actor, friends, both thirtyish; and a Sydney suburb, Bondi, slightly shabby, famously beachside. Having Penny in the industry allows Kelly many opportunities to vent about publishing (in particular, the wankers in corner offices profiting from the labour of tireless senior book editors), and to write about writing.

There are plenty of other characters – Fizz, an aspiring writer, Penny’s best friend and John’s partner; Jane, Fizz’s flatmate and definitely The Villain; Rich, an Irishman who owns a not very successful Bondi bookshop; Viv, a (sixth generation) Chinese-Australian doctor with colourful hair and shoes; a police detective whose name I forget; a failed banker/druggie; a truck driver even, whose truck facilitates a suicide.

As in life, there are interlinking plots. John and Fizz have a falling out; John gets very ill; Penny deals with an unsatisfactory job; Jane passes off someone else’s manuscript as her own and is on the way to becoming the next big thing; there’s an unexpected death; romance blooms, but very slowly.

The characters are well drawn, we love them, or hiss the villian, appropriately. Bondi is a character in its own right. It’s a long time, 25 years maybe, since I’ve been there, and it’s probably been gentrified out of sight. But Kelly evokes it beautifully and lovingly. She doesn’t live there now but surely she must have in the past.

I had hoped to get hold of an ebook so as to write a proper review with quotes (and properly spelt names) and all, but I guess they have been temporarily lost in the transfer of rights to Brio. which is launching all Kim Kelly’s books next month.

You may remember that a couple of years ago Kim won the wadholloway award for blogpost of the year (2019) for a post about the inappropriateness of Holocaust Fiction. She was probably writing Her Last Words at the time. Penny, who puts in a great deal of unpaid and unappreciated overtime dealing with unsatisfactory manuscripts, has ongoing issues with one in particular which features a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany offering sex to a soldier in the SS, what she, appropriately, labels Holocaust Porn.

Between Penny’s job, Jane’s shot at the bigtime with a stolen ms, and the Irish bookseller, there is a lot of bookish, not to say, literary, talk. Which, for me, makes this a Literary work. And there is a meta element to it, an underlying discussion of its own Rom.Com.ness, culminating in the final chapter ‘Semi Traditional Rom.Com. Denoument’. If there is a weakness, it is its length, getting on for 400pp. In the General market big is better, I’m sure, and Her Last Words sags a little around the middle in a way an experienced editor, like Kim Kelly say, might have ruthlessly excised for a different market, ie. us.

I hope Neil@Kallaroo whose tastes I largely share, reads this and gives us his opinion, I hope you all do. With different marketing Her Last Words could easily have been Australia’s Bridget Jones’ Diary, It deserves to be read.

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Kim Kelly, Her Last Words, first pub. 2020. Due out 12 Oct. 2021 from Brio/Booktopia. Available now from Audible.

Such is Life (09), Joseph Furphy

Such is Life (01)
Such is Life (02)
Such is Life (03)
Such is Life (04)
Such is Life (05)
Such is Life (06)
Such is Life (07)
Such is Life (08)

The fictitious memoir of Tom Collins, a NSW Government official, “of the ninth class” and former bullocky. Being reviewed in 12 parts over the course of 2021.

Ok. Spoilers. You would have to be made of stone for the central part of Chapter V not to bring a tear to your eye. We are on Mondunbarra station, and a large number of bullockies, tank sinkers, and other similar contractors, and of course Tom, have settled for the evening in two camps on a rare, well-grassed paddock.

It’s a warm moonlit night and the men begin listlessly swapping stories about the hardships they have encountered and the wrongs done to them by station owners. Gradually it comes round to Tom’s mate, Steve Thompson’s turn.

Thompson told a story well. I verily believe he used to practise the accomplishment mentally, as he sauntered along beside his team. He knew his own superiority here; his acquaintances knew it too, and they also knew that he knew it. Hence they were reluctant to minister occasion to his egotism…

[some filler, Thompson is on Kulkaroo, yarning, when the station manager rushes up]

“‘Child lost in the scrub on Goolumbulla. Dan O’Connell’s little girl – five or six years old. Anybody know where there’s any blackfellows?’ Nobody knew. ‘Well raise your horses wherever you can, and clear at once,’ says he.”

By ‘Dan O’Connell’ they are referring to the Irish shepherd Rory O’Halloran, father of Mary, whom we met in Such is Life (04). Steve goes with the Kulkaroo men and gives a blow by blow description of the search. Which is heart breaking. The search goes on for days, one stockman following Mary’s footprints over soft ground and hard, others following and casting around, finding her discarded boots, finding where she slept, stopping to sleep themselves.

It is not clear why Steve hadn’t told Tom straight away, or for that matter how Tom had not been told the day before up at the homestead. But although it is a central part of the novel, Tom glosses over it, and the men around the fire go on to tell their own tales of children lost in the bush – an enduring theme of Australian storytelling.

One tells of a boy crawling into a hollow log to escape the searchers, bogey men as he thought, calling his name; and another of his young brother missing, never found. “It seems to me the most likely thing … was to get jammed in a log like that other little chap. Then after five years, or ten years, or twenty years, the log gets burned, and nobody notices a few little bones, crumbled among the ashes.”

The other subject this chapter brought up was the presence, or otherwise, of Aborigines. Aborigines on farm country were quite early on herded into reservations. This is not farm country but semi-desert grazing country. In northern Australia graziers seem to have tolerated ‘traditional’ life in camps away from the homesteads as long as the men could be relied on for mustering cattle – and of course as soon as they were obliged to pay them, in the 1970s, the pastoral companies forced all Indigenous people off their stations and into town.

The situation in the southern half of the outback seems to have been different. Those properties all ran sheep, and maybe had not the same need for men. Shepherds, who lived in huts on the outer portions of each property, were by Tom’s account mostly married white men, probably attracted to Australia by the goldrushes of the 1850s. In earlier days shepherds were mostly convicts. How the Aborigines were dispersed I don’t know, but it seems to have happened quite early.

Speaking of the search for Mary O’Halloran, Steve Thompson says

Did anybody know where to find a blackfellow, now that he was wanted?

Seems there had been about a dozen of them camped near the tank in the cattle-paddock for a month past, but they were just gone, nobody knew where. And there had been an old lubra and a young one camped within a mile of the station, and an old fellow and his lubra near one of the boundary men’s places; but they all happen to have shifted …

Eventually it is the old woman who is brought up and completes the search.


Mondunbarra. Except for Chapter IV which Tom spends naked on the banks of the Murray, the action has mostly been situated on a few stations along the Lachlan River, west of Hillston, NSW. Hillston was established in 1863, so 20-25 years before the events described here, but I don’t recall Tom mentioning it, though it would be closer than Ivanhoe, Hay and Deniliquin which he does mention.

Dan O’Connell. ‘The Liberator’. Politician and fighter for Irish Catholic rights in early-mid 1800s. (here)

Lubra. Australian pidgin word for an Aboriginal woman, possibly Tasmanian in origin. First documented by GA Robinson Protector of Aborigines in Tas. and then Vic. “sometimes derogatory and inherently sexist, since there was no equivalent term for an Aboriginal male.”

Aborigines. Frances Devlin-Glass in the paper I was referencing last month, “Furphy, Race and Anxiety”, devotes a section to Aborigines. She says that in the first decade of white settlement in Victoria the Aboriginal population declined from15,000 to less than 3,000. By their relative absence (in the 1880s) you would imagine the decline in the Riverina was similar. In Furphy’s The Buln Buln and The Brolga, basically short stories excised from the original Such is Life ms, Bob expresses the opinion: “Fact, most tribes is dyin’ out o’ their own accord, even where they ain’t interfered with”.

Furphy generally seems to hold the view of liberal conservatives today, that the Indigenous population should be honoured for it’s skills, that their time is past, and it’s not his fault. “While one finds in [his work] a refusal to objectify the other, there is also an unquestioned ethnocentrism, a fantasy of the progressive Australian (of European origin).”

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Joseph Furphy, Such is Life, Bulletin, Sydney, 1903

FD Glass, R Eaden, GW Turner, L Hoffman eds, The Annotated Such is Life, by Joseph Furphy, Halstead Classics, Sydney, 1999. 297pp (plus 170pp notes and annotations).

By month 9 I’m stretching for new covers. I couldn’t (at first) identify who produced the cover above though Penguin used the same image for an anthology of Australian bush writing. The painting is ‘The Selector’s Hut (Whelan on the log)’ by Arthur Streeton in 1890 (see NGA here). Searches more, finds it on ebay, publisher CreateSpace, more searching, on-demand publisher owned by Amazon.

The Remake, Clive James

This is a remake of an essay I wrote 17 years ago, which I’m putting it up now not because I like Clive James, I don’t, but because it is my one essay which directly addresses postmodernism which, theoretically anyway, forms the underpinning of the novels of AWW Gen 4 (and maybe because I’m working and haven’t prepared anything else).

If I’d found it on my inadequately alphabeticised shelves I might have re-read it, but I remember it well enough. Briefly, the protagonist Joel is a ‘brilliant’ fortyish astronomer who gets kicked out by his wife, goes to stay with his friend Chance who has a fashionable apartment in the Barbican (London), and when Chance goes to Rio on a filming assignment, finds himself sharing the apartment with a clever and attractive 18 year old (female) student called Mole.

James’ writing is made ridiculous by his injokes and this may well be the first – all Australians are quite clear about what it means to call a woman a Moll (or Mole. When I was a kid that o was always long).

Clive James (1939-2019) was a well-known London-resident Australian who wrote memoir, criticism, poetry and some fiction and who prostituted his considerable talents on popular television. The Remake (1987), the second of his four novels, was intended as a satire on the postmodern noveau roman.

My essay originally began: It is central to the Post-Structuralist theory which gives Postmodernism at least a veneer of intellectual rigour that the work belongs to the reader not to the author. “It is a very familiar thesis that the task of criticism is not to bring out the work’s relationship with the author, nor to reconstruct through the text a thought or experience, but rather, to analyze the work through its structure, its architecture, its intrinsic form, and the play of its internal relationships.” (Foucalt, 1969)

But it is my thesis that the fact that The Remake is written by Clive James is central to any reading of it.

The relation between James and Joel, between author and protagonist, becomes part of what must be dealt with by the reader, or at least by any reader in the milieu of 1980’s English/Australian popular culture. We initially pick up the book because we are familiar with James; he then pops up as a subsidiary character “… an old drinking pal of Chance’s who had evidently been kept on out of pity … a flaky writer of some kind called Clive James.”; and Joel, the protagonist, looks like James (middle aged, fat, know-it-all, TV presenter). 

Clive James, the author, is conscious that we know him all too well, but he also needs us to acknowledge that he could have been a Writer – so his opening sentence is necessarily polished in its first-sentence-ness, “Lauren was within her rights, but letting me do it to her on the night she threw me out was one below the belt”. And throughout the book we continue to feel him pushing himself at us, crying “look at me, look at me”, Kath & Kim style, dissing the Post-Structuralists, displaying his famous intellect, chatting directly to the reader in an intrusive style that takes ages to develop any narrative flow, but not without slipping in “God save me from any novel in which the author gets a mention.”

The novel is clearly intended to be read ironically, as a novel written in the postmodern style to show up postmodernism; although that ignores that the principal aim of all James’ writing is to establish James’ overwhelming cleverness: “My [IQ] score should have gone off the clock ..”; “In childhood I had put in my years as a flute prodigy”; “I employed my trick memory for a devastating quotation”; reads Le Monde, Die Zeit; and so on.

David Lodge writes “No book .. has any meaning on its own, in a vacuum. The meaning of a book is in large part a product of its differences from and similarities to other books.” (1981) and it is just such “similarities to other books” – intrusion of the author, placing doubt on the author’s version of the narrative, etc. – which place The Remake firmly within the conventions of the late twentieth century (literary) novel.

Remake as Mid-life Crisis?

Structurally, The Remake is quite conservative. Joel gets kicked out by his wife, goes up to London to stay with his friend Chance, meets girl, falls in love, persuades girl to sleep with him, and after a suitable interval, gets taken back by his wife; but the twist in the ending reveals that we have not been reading Joel’s diary after all, but rather Joel’s diary rewritten (remade) by Chance to conceal inter alia Joel’s and Chance’s ‘real’ identities.

More, we discover both Joel and Chance have ‘remade’ themselves to suit the dominant, anglo ethnicity of Australian society, Joel changing his surname from Korth to Court and Chance from “Janilowitz or something like that” to Jenolan, but as cute names predominate throughout, this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the plot.

The usage of ‘remake’ which implies mid-life crisis is difficult to sustain despite the author’s claim that “my crise a quarante ans became a story”. James makes no attempt to gild the lily and describes Joel as he would himself, TV presenter – fat, balding, middle-aged and verbose. That a slender, beautiful, bi-sexual 18 yo girl would be attracted to Joel, even on the limited terms he describes, is unbelievable and his pursuit of her verges on paedophilia.

In the end Joel returns to his wife without making any attempt to understand why she dumped him in the first place. He has the crisis but it fails to ‘remake’ him.

Conventions of fiction-story-telling

James makes some genuflections in the direction of postmodern theory, or at least in the direction of some of the conventions of 1980s literary fiction. The Author intrudes, then his authorship is cast into doubt; he decries “well-researched novels” then parades his research; decries the use of letters, “novels with a lot of letters in them are a real cop-out” (p.41), but Chance’s letters to Mole which Joel surreptitiously reads are vital to the progression of the plot, for example the letter written from Rio (p.75) describing the Copocabana beach is necessary to an understanding of the problematic nature of Chance’s final disappearance.

The Remake is most authentically postmodern in that is in some ways a work of meta-fiction. That is, its major theme apart from Joel’s ‘progress’ is itself, the modern novel. Mole reports to Joel that her classmate Amanda struggles with Alain Robbe-Grillet with the implication The Remake is a (mock) nouveau roman.

On the other hand, “Her bottles and boxes and sprays, which would be named in detail if this were any American novella influenced by Franny and Zooey” (p.28) has no seeming purpose at all. Salinger’s loving, closely detailed descriptions of his family are not referred to again, not by emulation nor by any intentional omissions. Unless this connects up with Lodge’s description of ” … the novels of Alain Robbe-Grillet, whose immensely detailed, scientifically exact and metaphor-free descriptions of objects actually prevent us from visualizing them. By presenting the reader with more data than he can synthesize, the discourse affirms the resistance of the world to interpretation.”

In one place, during a discussion with, or as she sees it, a lecture to, Mole, Joel puts a cogent case for his main theme that postmodernist theory lacks intellectual rigour (pp. 58-63), ending with “the real reason  why any form of structural approach, up to and including deconstruction … is not and can’t be science is that you can’t go wrong [because] nothing anyone says, using those methods, can be disproved.” Perhaps, in the end, James wrote The Remake because it was less effort than writing a closely argued essay, and less subject to critical scrutiny.

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Clive James, The Remake, Jonathon Cape, London, 1987. 225pp (free to read here)

I don’t know what edition that cover is from, but it is apparently another from Perry Middlemiss’s Matilda blog.

Child of the Hurricane, KS Prichard

There are no covers of this book on the web, that I could find, so I had to photograph my own, which as you can see has plastic over the dustjacket, courtesy of my father I guess who gave it to me 10 years ago. First edition, very good condition, I hope the kids look after it.

Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969) was born in Levuka, Fiji during a tropical storm. ‘..natives gazed in awe at the baby the hurricane had left in its wake, “Na Luve ni Cava,” they exclaimed. “She is a child of the hurricane.”‘ This sets the tone for this autobiography, which for all that KSP is a competent writer, reads like a journalistic colour piece.

Thirty years earlier, Prichard’s father’s family had migrated to Australia on the same ship, the Eldorado, as her mother’s family, the Frasers. My mum’s family, the Nixons, came to Melbourne the same year, 1852, on the Castle Eden (Out of Plymouth. The Eldorado sailed from Liverpool). Both the Prichards and the Frasers stayed in Melbourne (the Nixons went up to the gold fields at Maldon) and began inter-marrying.

KSP never asked her father about his young years. He said that he was “apprenticed to a saddler and ran away when the job didn’t suit him.” In any case he read widely and began writing. Around 1868 – and Prichard is infuriating in not dating much of what happens in this book – Tom “went adventuring to the South Seas, and returned to Melbourne after many years”, perhaps 15, during which time he had owned and wrecked a schooner and “become a person of some importance” on Fiji as editor of the Fiji Times.

KSP’s mother, Edith Isabel Fraser was born in Melbourne and was brought up in the Fraser family home, a rambling. colonial style house in ‘North Road’ (probably East Brighton). She would have been in her teens, maybe 15, when Tom left and approaching 30 when he returned to marry her. They lived on Fiji for another three or four years, during which time Edith bore three children, Katharine, Alan and Nigel, and then returned to Melbourne, initially to the welcoming Fraser house, and had more kid(s).

I’m not interested in all the cute things young Kat did as a child, just the influences that made her a writer, and her father’s restlessness which spoiled her education. In the late 1880s (I’m guessing) Tom Prichard was editor and feature writer for the Sun, the family lived near grandmother’s, and KSP began school. Tom’s next job was in Launceston, Tasmania. The family lived well, and happily – illustrated by excerpts from The Wild Oats of Han (1928), clearly the story of her childhood, and I think, her first novel, though not the first published. When that job failed, the Prichards were sold up and returned to Melbourne, again, to live on the charity of the family, until eventually Tom found work again.

KSP’s first short story had already “appeared in the children’s page of a Melbourne newspaper” and on her return to Melbourne, another, That Brown Boy, won a prize.

Although Father did not take my efforts at story writing at all seriously, Mother began to give me books to read which, no doubt, she thought would develop any literary talent I might have.

She gave me Tennyson’s Idylly’s of the King, Keat’s Endymion and other poems, Longfellow’s Evangeline, Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh, Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies, Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, some of Scott’s and Dicken’s novels, Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot.

There is no mention of her reading let alone being influenced by the generation of Australian women writers who preceded her, although by the 1890s Tasma for instance was very well known with Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill (1889); Ada Cambridge was also writing in Melbourne; as were Catherine Martin and Mary Gaunt; Rosa Praed was well known, at least in England; and you’d think the wonderful Clara Morrison (1854) by Catherine Helen Spence was still around.

And with the turn of the century we have Barbara Baynton and Miles Franklin. But only minor novelist and poet Mary Fullerton gets a mention, later on, when they meet in connection with the suffrage movement.

After a spell at home helping Mother with a new baby (Bee/Beatrice) KSP wins a scholarship to South Melbourne College, for two or three years up to matriculation (Miles Franklin was angry about her schooling). She was happy at school and did well, editing the school magazine in her final year (following on from ‘Elsie Cole‘ whom I had to look up). The following year, instead of preparing for university, she again stayed home, with her mother who was ill, and then at age 19 “I went off … to be governess to a doctor’s children in South Gippsland [at Yarram, east of Melbourne]. It was an adventure into life, away from books.” This was to be the location for her first published novel, The Pioneers (1915).

My next governessing took me to a station in the back country of New South Wales. The story of this was told in Letters from the back of Beyond, written on the station … the New Idea paid £20 for them. A fabulous sum it seemed in those days…

The Letters are nothing if not a revelation of how young and foolish I was. They even referred to the aborigines* as “niggers”, unforgivable to my way of thinking later, and showed no understanding of the rights of working people, merely reflecting a station-owner’s attitude towards strikers..

You get the impression that KSP, much as did Nathan Hobby half a century later, thought her ‘life’ was worth three volumes, and so we make our way easily through becoming a journalist, travelling, working in London, the onset of the War, meeting Hugo Throssell VC and then, all of a sudden, the second and third volumes, marriage, Perth, novels, communism, Hugo’s death, must be be packed into a final chapter.

An entertaining read, informative about her early years in a chatty way but which left me wishing she’d at least written the second volume, about her middle years and the literary and political theory which informed her writing.


I know you all want to know. I checked in with Nathan Hobby and he wrote back: “The Red Witch: A Biography of Katharine Susannah Prichard due out April [2022]. Currently in proofs, takes many months to print a hardcover .. I must have read CotH more times than any other book in my life”

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Katharine Susannah Prichard, Child of the Hurricane, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1964. 266pp.

see also:
Nathan Hobby’s review (here)
Other KSP reviews, AWW Gen 3 page (here)
That Brown Boy (here). The Federalist, Launceston, Sat 15 April 1899, by ‘Katharine Tudor’


*Aborigines – should be capitalized. See Blak, Black, Blackfulla, Jack Latimore, the Age, 30 Aug, 2021

An I-Novel, Minae Mizumura

Why did I pick up/purchase – with my birthday gift voucher – this book? Because it was shelved next to Murakami? Well, that is how I came to see it; because it looked exotic, maybe; because I responded to the advertising on the back cover –

Minae Mizumura is one of Japan’s most respected novelists, acclaimed for her audacious experimentation and skillful storytelling

probably; because it brought to mind Jessica Gaitán Johannesson’s How We Are Translated, which I very much enjoyed, definitely.

An I-Novel was originally published in 1995 under the title Shishōsetsu from left to right. The word shishōsetsu designates a confessional autobiographical genre – the I-novel – that has played a key role in modern Japanese literature. The original, based on the author’s experiences growing up in the United States and Japan, freely mixes natural American English with Japanese.

Translator’s note

According to Wikipedia “the first I-novels are believed to be The Broken Commandment, written in 1906 by Tōson Shimazaki, and Futon (The Quilt) written by Katai Tayama in 1907.”

At the time the novel is set, the 1990s, Minae, in her thirties, and her sister Nanae, two years older, have been living in the US, in and around New York and various university towns, since they were 10 and 12, when their father’s work as a manager for a Japanese company took him there and he subsequently transitioned to “local hire”. Much of the novel consists of Minae and Nanae talking, on the phone, in Japanese, but quite often using American expressions, which are rendered in a different typeface.

“Right? Mother could dress up all she liked to go to the Metropolitan Opera, and for all we knew the whole time people were looking at her and thinking, Oh dear, here’s another Oriental, ruining the atmosphere.” I opened my mouth to speak, but Nanae went on, “How would that woman know the first thing about opera? …”

Mizumura collaborated on the translation, but it is necessarily different from the original as we have much less Japanese than the Japanese have English. If you look at the page from the Japanese edition below, you’ll see that the original was more or less 50/50.. What I haven’t shown is that every now and then there is a black and white illustration, full page, with a cryptic caption – ‘University campus’, ‘Suburban house’, and so on. A Japanese thing?

Page from the original Japanese edition. You can see that the Japanese ideographs are a mixture of kanji (dense) and hiragana which apparently is phonetic. (Minae is speaking to Big Mac, an American who lectures in Japanese).

… other times I wrote a mixture of kanji and hiragana. [gives examples] The rounded soft loveliness of hiragana was like the shape of a beautiful woman now reaching up, now bending down as she went about her work in the home.

My experience of Japanese in literature is limited to early William Gibson, Murakami and Sayaka Murata (Convenience Store Woman, Earthlings), all of whom have a certain edginess. Minae Mizumura on the other hand, for all the experimentation in her writing, is decidedly middle class, in her life, in her attitudes. So at one level this is the story of a studious, relatively lonely girl at school; never fully engaging with life in the US, reading all the Japanese classics at home; always planning to return to a Japan which seems less familiar each time she visits; moving on to college and then to grad school and working in a less than motivated fashion towards a PhD in … French!

She has various, mostly Japanese boyfriends, but even the most recent and most constant has returned to begin ascending the corporate ladder back home; and she is left with university life (she’s at an unnamed Ivy League university outside New York) which she avoids; her sister on the end of a telephone, at a time when long distance calls cost money, from her artist’s loft in SoHo; her mother run off with a younger man to Singapore; and her father in a home on Long Island, declining into senility.

And she finds that she, the youngest, has ended up head of the family.

Nanae is superficially more rebellious, wearing bright clothes, short skirts, coloured hair, becoming promiscuous, taking up sculpture. But as they talk and talk and talk Minae becomes aware that Nanae is, like her, both unhappy and dreaming of a return to life in Japan.

However, it is the other side of this work which makes it especially interesting – the discussions of writing in Japanese and English; Minae’s life-long engagement with the Japanese canon; elements of Japanese writing that an outsider can only suspect: the conflict between duty and feeling (giri and ninjō) – she references (Japanese author) Sōseki; the traditions of the I-novel, which in English may be considered autofiction, but which may also contain elements of “aspects of society”.

Aspects of society indeed. Minae and Nanae work their way down to what it is that makes America so uncomfortable for them, and the answer is, as it always is, race. The Japanese see themselves as special, but Americans are unable to distinguish them from Koreans or Chinese, they are ‘Oriental’ and in the end, they are ‘colored’.

Shouldn’t Japanese people at least be aware of what the West thought of us historically – as much as the West had ever bothered to think of us in return? Wouldn’t we then no longer be so self-deluded, telling ourselves that we, unlike other Asians, were essentially Western?

It is an interesting aspect of this book that it was written when Japan was at the height of its economic power – as were the William Gibson cyberpunk novels – and that Minae is conscious of this and discusses it. With China now so prominent it is becoming increasingly difficult to recall that there ever was such a time.

Both as a coming of age in a strange land, and as writing about writing, this is a striking work; and yes I enjoyed it and recommend it.

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Minae Mizumura, An I-Novel, Columbia University Press, New York, 2021 (first pub. in Japanese, 1995). Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. 325 pp.


August is being is being celebrated by some lit.bloggers as Women in Translation Month. I did a search and came up with this from Scribe (here).

Lovesong, Elizabeth Jolley

The edition I actually read was not the paperback pictured above but a Viking hardback with the most luxurious-feeling semi gloss paper and a little woven bookmark. Which means I couldn’t cart it around with me, for fear of damage, but I’ve had some time off and so got it finished.

Elizabeth Jolley (1923-2007) as we all know, was born in Birmingham, England where she worked as a nurse, had a complicated married life, came to Western Australia, where she bought a little farm in the hills outside Perth, and quite late, began to teach creative writing and publish novels. This is important to keep in mind because it usually forms the basis of what she writes about. But not this time.

Lovesong (1997), one of her later works, is a difficult work to come to grips with, set in an unnamed (Australian) city with a male protagonist who appears to have been released into the community from an institution for the criminally insane (that is, for people who commit a crime and plead mental illness, or sometimes for people who are at risk of committing a crime, usually sexual). I found it very slow to get into, though I gradually became engrossed, and I think Jolley may have been concentrating on imagining/reproducing the thought processes of someone who was a bit bewildered to find himself where he was. That is, the problem she set herself was not ‘how do I tell this story?’, but ‘how can I best write what/how this man is thinking?’.

I still haven’t read Brian Dibble’s biography of Jolley, Doing Life, but I thought I should at least look up what he has to say about Lovesong. Jolley said, in an interview with Ramona Koval, “she was inspired to write the book by work she had done with women inmates at Perth’s Bandyup Prison and male prisoners in Fremantles’s maximum security jail; she was moved when she thought of the loneliness such men faced when they returned to the community.”

Dibble writes: “While some readers might regard Jolley’s last three books [Lovesong, An Accommodating Spouse, An Innocent Gentleman] as chaotic, lacking structure and control and more, what is remarkable about them is how they recapitulate Jolley’s entire oeuvre from three different points of view, the first focusing on the sexual outsider and the other two on the family.”

Dalton Foster, still lingering in his doorway, straightens his tie and wondering why his mother and aunt Dalton should come, all at once, into his mind, goes downstairs in search of the dining room and breakfast. He has not thought of his mother or aunt Dalton for some time. Perhaps the memories are a part of the experience of coming back into the community after working meticulously for half his life through a sentence and a cure in various special institutions.

This is not quite the beginning of the book. We have already spent some time, half a dozen pages, in Foster’s mind as he idly considers music, his mother and his aunt, and his new lodgings. And this is how we continue – we meet Mrs Porter, the landlady, and her lodgers; we meet another family, do-gooders who take in Foster one night a week; a young girl, in rags, in the park where he walks, who Foster follows -yes, that’s as creepy as it sounds – dreaming of befriending, helping. But all along Foster’s mind returns to his childhood, his ineffectual father, his mother, his father’s sister, aunt Dalton, who form a strange menage mostly ganged up on Foster senior; and to his years in Cambridge, studying, singing; circling round to/lightly touching on the choirboy whose approach seemingly leads to his imprisonment.

It bugs me that the novel has no definite location. It could be Perth – the lodging house backing on to the rail line in the relatively poor inner suburb of North Perth; his walks through parks and to the consul’s house in a better suburb, maybe Subiaco; the homeless sleeping under the bridges where a major roadway crosses from the north bank, to an island and then to the south bank of the river, which sounds like the Swan and Herrison Island. But Jolley doesn’t say, and she has “mile long” grain trains thundering behind the house, which is nice image but the suburban Fremantle line has probably not been used by freight trains for more than 50 years*.

Foster’s father was a consul for trade – his wife and sister, who formed a couple, with Foster’s father a distant third, were very contemptuous of “trade” – so they moved constantly, though never apparently to the most interesting European cities, and for a while were in Australia, in this city, and living in the same house as the do-gooder family, not that he tells them, or barely anything else either. Just sits quietly in the company of the teenage children, staying over sometimes on a bed made up on a sofa.

There is no plot, just a short chain of events – the two men in the room next to his introduce themselves, and may follow him when he walks in the park in the dark; Mrs Porter attempts to set him up with the ever hopeful Miss Vale; he makes a number of attempts to follow the little girl, eventually successfully, which leads to him being beaten up by the homeless community under the bridge; the teenage boy of the do-gooder family stands before him naked, apparently in invitation, and he flees; things come to a head with Miss Vale.

He is deeply sorry now. Sorry for Miss Vales because he is silently irritated with her the whole time. He is sorry that he has no qualities fit for a bridegroom. His dealings with women have always been mainly by accident.

Elizabeth Jolley is a stunning writer, and she slowly immerses us in the mind of this unlikeable person who nevertheless engages our interest and sometimes our sympathy. Your heart is constantly in your mouth in fear that he will do something grotesque, which thank goodness, he eventually does not.

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Elizabeth Jolley, Lovesong, Viking/Penguin, Melbourne, 1997. 240pp. ex libris J. Terry

see also:
All our E. Jolley reviews at ANZLitLovers’ Elizabeth Jolley page (here)


*Railway stuff: A dual gauge rail line for freight was constructed through Perth’s outer southern suburbs in the 1960s to connect the ports at Fremantle and Kwinana (south-west of the city), via the freight terminal at Kewdale, to Midland Junction (east of the city) for all the narrow gauge wheatbelt lines, and on to Kalgoorlie to meet the standard gauge Trans Australia line. It is possible that prior to that, freight from the country came to the wharves at Fremantle via the city. I can think of a couple of earlier literary mentions of Perth’s rail system. One in Xavier Herbert’s memoir Disturbing Element when their furniture was brought from a country town to Fremantle by train (Herbert’s father worked on the railways); and when DH Lawrence travelled up from Fremantle to the city in a wood-fired steam train). And of course there’s the Dorothy Hewett poem In Midland Where the Trains go by.