'On a family sheep station in western New South Wales, a brother and sister work the property while their reclusive brother, Wesley Antill, spends years toiling away in one of the sheds, writing his philosophy.
'Now he has died. Erica, a philosopher, is sent from Sydney to appraise his life's work. Accompanying her is Sophie, who needs distracting from a string of failed relationships. Her field is psychoanalysis.
'The pages Wesley wrote lie untouched in the shed, just as he left them. What will they reveal? Was he a genius? These turn out to be only a couple of the questions in the air. How will the visit change the lives of Erica and Sophie?' (Publisher's blurb)
'[...]it is a conversation about Australia that exposes the sense of cultural superiority of the "ridiculously over-confident" (53) "Bertolt Brecht lookalike" (48; see also 94) and opposes it to Delage's own lack of self-confidence (exemplified, in the first place, by "his surprise" at being asked about his native countr y; 92). [...]the critic is more interested in Australia's natural stereotypes than in its architectural icons, which implies that, in his view, nature easily outweighs culture on the antipodean continent: "he only wanted to know about the dangerous spiders and sharks that infested Australia, and the snakes, how lethal were they really" (92); for him, the Sydney Opera House, which Delage's personal complex of secondarity leads him to consider "provincial" (70), is simply "typical of the New World['s]" preference for "appearance over substance" (92), while Delage is, for his part, tempted to think that it is precisely his piano's "appearance . . . [that] had shifted attention from the technical improvements hidden beneath the lid" (148). According to Eileen Battersby, Bail's "concise in scale" but "vastly thought-provoking novel" contains "some inspired nods to the great Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard's final [sic] novel, Woodcutters" (1984), which offers an über-critical portrayal of a "cannibalistic city" seemingly graced with a propensity for dragging the higher reaches of its "ap- palling society" (Bernhard 34) into what Bernhard describes as an insufferable "social hell" (4)-thereby subverting the values of this cultural elite from within since he8 was, up to a certain point, part of the same "artistic coterie" (Bernhard 84). [...]the Australian creator's own ongoing subservience to Western standards (despite Europe's enduringly paternalistic and misplaced assumptions of cultural superiority) is presented as his or her predicament.' (Publication abstract)
'This essay will discuss both what the Australian-American cultural relationship has been built upon, and why that transpacific architecture has not been more foregrounded. It begins by focusing on Americans who had transient relationships with Australia, but ones that yet impacted on their careers and were emblematic of patterns in the transpacific relationship. The traffic between the US and Australia these individuals represent indicates that beneath formal notice there exists a patchwork of encounters ramified in such a way as to provide a base for later criss-crossings. Yet, in each case, fissures are also revealed - 'missed appointments' - that suggest why the potential transpacific 'rendezvous with destiny' was never actualised in the era where that above phrase had recent resonance.
Three of these Americans—Arlin Turner, John Hope Franklin, and Constance Helmericks--were from the West or South, and the fourth, James Michener, though from the East, early evinced an interest in parts of his country and the world beyond the Eurocentric orientation imposed on privileged Americans. The paper will also look at Margaret Mead and the entire idea of "Australasia" with which she was associated to diagnose patterns of racial and cultural images conveyed, or misconveyed, in the trans-Pacific process.' (Author's abstract).