As Australia Day approaches (January 26), I’ve been thinking of Australian writers and the role they play in providing insights into Australian life and times.
In my memory, Australian authors seemed to hover on the peripheral of English studies in school. I vividly recall being introduced to Patrick White’s Tree of Man, then Voss and The Vivisector, but that was after high school had ended. I think we did study one of his plays, Signal Driver. The preciseness of his language, the razor-sharp descriptions of landscapes and characters remain vivid in my mind.
Another influence in early adulthood was Henry Handel Richardson’s The Fortunes of Richard Mahony. Perhaps this contributed to an enduring interest in a mixture of goldfields and madness, the impact of circumstances and environments on people’s lives.
Landscape is an integral aspect of Tim Winton’s writing, and Dirt Music is a firmly lodged favourite although this might be because I picked up a soundtrack selected for this book and if a bluegrass song plays at random I am right back there, lost in the world of Georgie and Lu Fox.
Australian poets and playwrights were on the high school curriculum, including Judith Wright’s ‘Woman to Child‘ and Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll as well as Michael Gow’s Away. I would struggle to recall any mathematical theorems or biological facts but I can recall with clarity the word picture created by Wright with the lines:
‘You who were the darkness warmed my flesh where out of darkness rose the seed. Then all a world I made in me; all the world you hear and see hung upon my dreaming blood.’
Have any Australian writers left a mark on you this Australia Day?
[Photo: some wattle blooms]