Holland lived with his only daughter, Ellen, by a khaki river four hours west of Sydney. In spite of their remote location, tales of Ellen's beauty had traveled long distances and in the process inscribed a small legend. But Ellen's desirability was Holland's blindspot and finally he decided that the man who correctly named every eucalypt on his property would win the hand of his daughter. (Source: Trove)
'This essay focuses on my reading of the Australian writer Murray Bail's archived correspondence dating from 1978 to 2001, held in the National Library of Australia. The correspondence is in a set of four mostly mixed boxes, with the exception of one box almost entirely devoted to correspondence about Bail's third novel, Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus is about the seductiveness of storytelling, and it is structurally based on a range of eucalypt species, the iconic Australian gum tree. Bail's main correspondents are other writers, with the majority coming from Australian novelist and poet Rodney Hall, Australian expatriate novelist Shirley Hazzard, American poet Mark Strand, and the general reading public. Some material is restricted for several years. The correspondence of Australian writer Helen Garner, Bail's former wife, with a similarly acclaimed literary reputation, is equally restricted. I have also read some of Bail's letters in the archived correspondence of Australian journalist David Marr, Patrick White's biographer; Australian art writer Bernard Smith; Australian linguist Dymphna Clark; and Hall. The correspondence of some other relevant authors, such as the Australian Robyn Davidson, is not available in Australia.' (Introduction)
Using Murray Bail's Eucalyptus and Nicholas Jose's The Custodians Robert Beardwood shows how Australian writing reflects concerns of claims to place and tensions between longing and belonging, Australian place and Australian identity at the end of the 20th century.
McNeer compares elements of similarity in Murray Bail's Eucalyptus and William Shakespeare's The Tempest. McNeer particularly examines fables, fairy tales and mythic stories that may have been available to Shakespeare and, derivatively, influenced Bail. The characters of Miranda in The Tempest and Ellen in Eucalyptus are compared as are their respective fathers, Prospero and Holland.
McNeer concludes with a quotation from G. Wilson Knight's The Crown of Life: Essays in Interpretation of Shakespeare's Final Plays (1965): 'It is, perhaps, inevitable that Shakespeare, so saturated with the spirit of his land, should, in such a summation of that work in The Tempest, have outlined, among much else, a myth of the national soul' (p.255). This parting comment, says McNeer, 'may provide the most profound connection of all between William Shakespeare and Murray Bail'.