'In Tim Winton: Critical Essays, the editors have brought together an international lineup of scholars—new voices and established—to consider the work of Australia’s most celebrated and loved contemporary novelist.
'From Shallows to Eyrie, this book extends beyond Winton’s singular novels and short stories, into thematics identified across his body of work, thinking through his place and reception in Australian and world literature.
'Exploring themes in Winton’s fictional works such as childhood, masculinity, fatherhood, beauty, love, death, water and landscape, the contributors explore, question and debate their contexts in order to understand more fully what is appealing, or unconsciously submerged, or worthy of celebration or interrogation.
'Tim Winton is both a popular and literary success, and this volume has been conceived for a critical audience of professionals and students, as well as for the readers who have made Tim Winton a household name.' (Publication summary)
'The title of the essay refers to three capacious, continuous evolving and contentious subjects. It also initiates an inquiry: why is it that Tim Winton, one of Australia's most popular and literary (let the debates begin) novelists, as received little sustained critical attention? We hope that the existence of this volume, the first collection of critical essays since Reading Tim Winton (1993), will begin to redress the relative dearth of critical debate about the literature of Tim Winton. But this is to pre-empt the inquiry into what might be meant by 'the literary' and by 'literary criticism' (let alone 'Tim Winton'). The title and the subject of this introductory essay are, therefore, genuinely seeking debate.' (Authors introduction 1)
'In Dirt Music, remembering the time before a car crash took the lives of his brother Darkie, Darkie's wife Sal, and their two children, Bird and Bullet, Luther Fox recalls Bird's question : 'Lu, how come water lets you through it?' Bird is the one who saw God, and 'if anyone saw God it would likely be her. Bird's the nearest thing to an angelic being.' Bird's question suggests the function of water in Winton's novels. Water is everywhere in his writing, as people sail on it, dive into it, live on the edge of it. Clearly the sea and the river are vital aspects of the writer's own experience. But water is more than an omnipresent feature of his writing and his life, the oceanscape of his stories. It is something that 'lets you through'. It lets you through because it is the passage to a different state of being, sometimes in dream, sometimes in physical extremity, but always offers itself as the medium of transformation. When it lets you through - whether to escape to a different life, as a rite of passage to adulthood, to see the world in a new way or to discover the holiness of the earth or the wonder of the world, whether it is the baptismal water of redemption to an opening to a world of silence - and it is all these things- you become different.' (Author's introduction 16)
'This essay proposes to investigate in some detail the matter of voice and the related intensity of presence in Tim Winton's critically successful and now securely canonised novel of mid-twentieth-century Australian regional life.' (48)
'First published in 1991, Tim Winton's Cloudstreet is now presented in one of its several Penguin editions as a 'Modern Australian Classic'. Might this detail of the book' marketing reveal something about the novel's metatextual status? It might be seen to imply that Cloudstreet figures a certain Australian modernity. Indeed, this modernity would have to be commensurable with something classic, standard, which is also to say formative. And insofar as it is formative of the present, a classic is also implicitly, at least in part, of the past. Cloudstreet's metatextual status, then, implies that the novel figures Australia's modernity even as it relies on a classicism that is spectral: haunting the present in all its modernity. If the paradoxical canonical status claimed by the novel implies a certain spectrality, in this way then it is perhaps not surprising that in fleeting but essential moments the novel functions not only as a family epic, but also as a ghost story.' (Author's introduction, 75)
'Tim Winton's female characters show a strong tendency towards self-threatening behaviors, transience and ferocity. This is evident in the violent deaths of Jewel in An Open Swimmer, Maureen in Shallows, Ida's murder in In the Winter Dark [...], Tegwyn's self-harm in That Eye, the Sky, Dolly's alcoholism in Cloudstreet, Eva Sanderson's Hutchence-lookalike death in Breath and, obviously, the ephemerality of mothers in Dirt Music...' (96)
'Drawing upon theories and methodologies associated with the field of textual criticism and scholarly editing, as well as those associated with the field of book history, this chapter examines the editing and publishing of Winton's books in the United States. All aspects of the publication process are surveyed, but his chapter devotes its greatest critical attention to the editorial process. In particular, it examines the sorts of editorial accommodations that occur while translating the work of a regional writer from the south-west corner of Western Australia for an American audience, which is to say the largest identifiable market segment in the English-language book-publishing industry.' (123-124)
'This chapter focuses on Winton's depiction of fatherhood and father-son relationships in his first collection of short fiction, Scission.' O'Reilly argues 'that Winton presents non-traditional fathers and complex father-son relationships in order to question and challenge Australian cultural norms regarding fatherhood and masculinity.' (162)
Tanya Dalziell examines 'the complex representations of childhood and storytelling in Winton's work.'
Briget Grogan examines the complexities in Tim Winton's interrelated and thematically interwoven short story collection The Turning.
In this chapter, Sissy Helff seeks 'to show that Winton's rich mnemonic narrative landscapes in his novel Shallows and the short story collection The Turning imagine a multicultural Australia by applying diegetic modes of exchanging memories as well as using reciprocal interactions between the reader ant the texts...' Helff 'sets out to argue that approaching Winton's narratives with a focus on the exchange of memories and the generation of transcultural memories opens fresh avenues in reading and understanding the author's literary oeuvre in general and his envisaged narrative project in particulary'. (222, 223)
In this essay, Brigid Rooney 'takes up the questions of sublimity - an the literary limits of representing it' - in Tim Winton's Breath. (8)
In this essay 'Birns draws us back to why literature (and good literary criticism) is valuable. Literature refuses the linguistically flat, unresonant and purely categorising. It sees links - in the characters and the oetics of language - to what is lost, to what the divineing the human might be if only the 'narcisstistic market-god' could be transcended. Birn's reading of Breath's Australian and American characters and the increasingly shared modern, capitalist wold they inhabit is from the perspective of a North American critic.' (Editors introduction, 11)
In this essay, Hou Fei argues that the interpretation of Winton's novel Breath, 'needs to take into account the context of the Vietnam War, which is not used by Winton merely as a historical event for background colour withing a surfing novel.' (285)
Lyn McCredden's essay focuses on Tim Winton's latest novel, Eyrie 'charting a much darker, less redemptive narrative - the psychic disintegration of an individual and a family - than we have so far seen in Winton's work. The essay argues further that Eyrie is a novel about language and the limits of the linguistic to carry the full burden of meaning which humans often seek to imbue it.' (Editors introduction 9)