Australian Wordsmiths

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’sWoman 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]

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4 thoughts on “Australian Wordsmiths

  1. Miles Franklin: My Career Goes Bung. Funny, direct, real, I felt she was talking directly to me despite being written in 1900, 80 years before I read it.
    And ‘yes’ to Patrick White. The glass mandala, aunt’s story, and my favourite, a fringe of leaves. The language!

    • Thanks for your comments, Rowena. I haven’t read My Career Goes Bung as yet. I read My Brilliant Career years ago and will add this to my reading list. And I’m glad that White resonated with you too – he isn’t easy to read with his dense prose and difficult characters but there is no other writer quite like him.

  2. Sometimes on reading a post like this, I feel so uneducated. My schooling was in UK and I left school at 15 to work in an office in the city as a clerk. I know it’s never to late to go back and educate yourself and I have done so over the years. However, I need to catch up on some reading. That is for sure. Thank you for another fantastic post. Reading list has grown substantially today. Regards, Barbara

    • Thank you, Barbara, for your kind words. One of the great things about books is that they will be there when you are ready. There are many that I have read over the years that have barely left a mark but the ones that resonate with you make it so worthwhile. Good luck on your reading journey 😊

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