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For the last two decades, Anthony Macris has been conducting an ambitious intellectual project on two fronts. On the one hand, he has been undertaking a nuanced study of the effects of global capitalism on daily life in the developed world. On the other hand, he has been exploring, in a highly adventurous way, the possibilities of the novel as a way of limning and responding critically to those effects. To date, this project has produced two brilliant, challenging novels – Capital Volume 1 (CV1), first published by Allen & Unwin in 1997 and reissued by University of Western Australia Press in 2013, and Great Western Highway (GWH), also published by UWAP in 2012 – with a third on the way. In CV1, Macris intersperses an obsessively observed account of several crowded moments in a London Tube station with memoir-like reflections on life in Australia between the ’60s and ’80s. In GWH, he asks whether love can be sustained in the same historical soil that produces Thatcherism and the televisual spectacle of the Gulf War.
Sparkling tinsel, along with Till’s collection of holiday tea towels – printed with maps of places she’d been to, with a man who wasn’t you – ruffle along the homemade clothesline.
You’d been proud stringing that twine between candlebarks, just weeks after you moved to the area called, almost comically, Christmas Hills. ‘Heath the handy-man,’ you’d quipped, but Till had only briefly looked up with those pool-blue eyes. She’d spent hours in silence the first few days – bunch-legged on the Kmart banana lounge with her hair the colour of custard powder, her book stained with Lipton.
Even in mid-rapture of his marriage month he had foreseen this possibility; but fate had hitherto rescued him in sudden ways when he was on the brink of self-abandonment, and it was hard to imagine that this culmination of triumphant joy could be a preface to base miseries.
He was the son of a man who had followed many different pursuits, and in none had done much more than earn a livelihood.
Dear Agony Aunt,
I’m really excited to have had a story accepted by a literary journal, but the editor has just sent the story back to me with quite a few changes and I’m not happy with all of them. I didn’t think that my story needed this much work! How do I tell them to put away the red pen without pissing them off?
- Red Pen Wary
The road outside Darren’s was streaked with tire marks from doughies and burnouts leading to stretches of muddied lawn. One set of tracks led to a missing section of fence and a letterbox bent to a right angle. Darren’s pearled blue panel-van was parked so close to the front door that I had to squeeze against the weatherboard pocked with cricket-ball-sized holes.
I’m crying because I can’t find Edward. He is in that box, but a box with a cross on top is not Edward; I simply cannot equate this box and cross with Edward.
Edward is a man with his arm around me tight, guiding me around the garden to eat berries. ‘Here,’ he says, ‘this one tastes good: a raspberry.’ And around the garden we go for an hour or so with his arm firmly around me until the cancer tires him. Inside, we sit on matching leather chairs while he rubs his belly and together we watch television.
Does he love you, or does he love ewe?
My husband is a drover, and his work frequently takes him away from home for months on end, leaving me to look after our four children. Sometimes I get so lonely I don’t know what to do.
Aickman, C. (2008) Life in the bush: A nineteenth century case study. Sydney: HarperCollins.
Califax, J. & Peterson, F. (1997) Shear hell: A pictorial record of drovers and their families in New South Wales 1880–1910. Melbourne: Penguin Books.
Irwin, S. (2002) The lifecycle of the red bellied black snake. New York: Scribners.
1. I know we have discussed this before, but I’m still not sure about the title. How about ‘Snake!’ or ‘A Bush Adventure’?
2. The present tense is a little overused in stories nowadays, with a generation of creative writing students believing it makes a story more ‘immediate’. Would you consider changing to the past?
I felt smaller in Berlin than I ever had before: the Northern Germans are, by and large, a big-boned people, the shanks of their legs are particularly impressive. My language teacher had taken to calling me ‘Fee-ona’, from the German word for fairy, or sprite; I couldn’t reach any of the pots in my billeted kitchen. And I was nervous that evening, as I always am at train stations, faced with the mechanised movement of so many people, so many ways to get swept up and out and along. The station was crawling with football fans headed to a screening of a match somewhere near the Brandenburg Gate and I knew, as it were, that the German trains would run on time.