The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.
'I think making comparisons between Lisa Gorton’s The Life of Houses and other writers is somewhat distracting of the novel’s achievement. If there was another novelist who came to mind during my reading of this novel it was actually Virginia Woolf, though this was in a distant modernist way, and echoed my reading of To the Lighthouse of almost thirty years ago. (As I write, my partner Tracy Ryan, calls out from her study and reads a piece to me saying Lisa Gorton herself draws this link to Woolf – which I didn’t know when I read the book and thought it.) No, what came to mind was actually the ‘tension’ between ‘technical drawing’, representational painting and a late expressionism. My markers were visual, which might be assumed, with Anna running a gallery and the subtext of the novel being representations of the actual world as aesthetic, and how much they don’t translate. Scott’s drawing of Kit is wrong and he knows it, and so does Kit, but in telling a lie about her it also tells her a lie she needs to hear. In that liminal dubious way he interacts with her, giving a snowball effect (in a hot climate) to rumours of impropriety with the teenager Hugh he’d also sketched in school uniform, board shorts, and various states of ‘naturalism’; though the subjects were dressed, in the sketches the capturing of skin, hair and flesh is more exposing than the naked body – juxtapose to the ‘life drawing’ classes and the indifference of the model, and Kit’s fascination with the colour of her breasts). Patrick’s being something of a forger who taints the family name in odd and abstracted ways is also a disclaimer that affects the way the reader interprets and absorbs the visual in the book.' (Author's introduction)