'Born on a poor dairy farm in Queensland, Frank Harland's life is centred on his great artistic gift, his passionate love for his father and four brothers and his need to repossess, through a patch of land, his family's past. The story spans Frank's life; from before the First World War, through years as a swaggie in the Great Depression and Brisbane in the forties, to his retirement to a patch of Australian scrub where he at last takes possession of his dream. Solitude and society, possession and dispossession, the obsessive and often violent claims of family life and love, illuminate the imagination of the artist and the larger world of events. This is an ambitious novel, presented simply and poetically; the narrative is absorbing, full of incident, and peopled with characters of formidable humour and power.'
Source: Publisher's blurb (Vintage reprint).
'Story-telling, the pleasure of sitting in close company and listening to a story, allowing oneself to float free in the moment and enter, both in the senses and in imagination, into the story's events so that the story becomes our own, must be one of the oldest and earliest of our pleasures - a function of that uniquely human faculty in us, the capacity to step beyond the actual into the possible.' (Introduction)
Settled by white convicts and often by people with few prospects in the Old World, Australia was sometimes thought of negatively as a dumping ground of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. This paper traces how, post-war, this perception was challenged in the fiction of Patrick White and David Malouf, which depicts local versions of the outcast artist in actual rubbish dumps and the creative, regenerative transformations that can occur there.
'David Malouf is hardly a gay icon. Although he has never kept his homosexuality a secret, neither has he flaunted it, either in his life or in his writings. Where the latter are concerned, there is no doubt that Malouf doesn't want to be pigeonholed, that he rejects restrictive levels that would do an injustice to his wide-ranging preoccupations and his considerable appeal to all manner of readers.' (p. 271)