No Road comprises nine chapters or sections, which are in turn subdivided into individually titled shorter pieces. The title of each chapter is sometimes (but not always) taken from the title of one of the pieces which appear in that chapter. Some of the chapters that appear in No Road are revised versions of works that were published previously in various journals and anthologies.
'Contemporary Australian cultural studies has seen a move towards a multimodal awareness of space and place in writing – a speculative turn in both critical and creative work confronting the subject/object dichotomy as a limitation in place-making. Theorists such as Ross Gibson, Stephen Muecke and Michael Farrell offer beautiful conceptualisations of written spaces, drawing from several philosophical traditions, which might give context to contemporary creative practices. This writing regularly draws from movement as an integral feature of the practice discussed, with walking emerging in several approaches to re-envision the poet wanderer. But it is also possible to trace in this writing an act of selfmanifestation, a desire for the ‘doing-making’ of self to be inscribed within the multimodal spaces created. This paper will argue that this layering of self and space in the act of writing is both akin to and actively opposing the tradition of Romantic thought. While several features of the practices invoked might seem to draw from similar acts of immersion in landscape, the underlying trope of the Romantic poet’s divine communion is inverted in the speculative drive towards multimodal relation.
'In this essay, I explore three texts written by white Australians that either attempt to explore Indigenous relationships to land or address the legacies of white settler violence. All of them might be considered as texts of reconciliation growing out of concerns generated by the Bringing Them Home Report (1996) on the separation of mixed-race children from their families and the 199os Decade of Reconciliation.3 All three texts seek new ways of belonging to country and new connections with peoples and landscapes. The narratives include Steven Muecke's No Road (Bitumen All the Way) (1997), Margaret Somerville's Body/Landscape Journals (1999), and Katrina Schlunke's Bluff Rock (2004). These hybrid, provisional texts exceed disciplinary and generic classifications. They self-consciously reflect upon the complex attachments and messy entanglements involved in white settler belonging, challenging what Aileen Moreton—Robinson calls the "possessive logic of white patriarchal sovereignty."5 Weaving together autobiographical material with post-colonial and postmodern theory, ethnography, spatial history, cultural geography, ecological ethics, and decolonizing critique, their narrators speak across cultures, attempting to negotiate a contested ground of knowledges, cosmologies, and modes of being; to forge an ethics of being together.'
'Stephen Muecke’s No Road (bitumen all the way) is an ambitious work that blends travel, ethnography and cultural theory. Using the Aboriginal nexus between space, story and wandering (an area Bruce Chatwin explored in The Songlines), Muecke heads into the vast area of north-western Australia to document a personal journey, with no particular destination. He writes about this region and its Aboriginal communities without resorting to representing both landscape and people as a picturesque other (Chatwin’s weakness, according to Muecke, is his European, imperial aesthetic sense): “Communities lie on the tracks and byways of experience (the No Road of his title), not on the national highways of myth and ideology (the bitumen).” Muecke, in the tradition of Deleuze, conceives of writing as an endless journey, always keeping ideas…' (Introduction)