'It is 1839. A young Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, is running through the long wet grass of an island at the end of the world to get help for her dying father, an Aboriginal chieftain. Twenty years later, on an island at the centre of the world, the most famous novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, realises he is about to abandon his wife, risk his name, and forever after be altered because of his inability any longer to control his intense passion.
Connecting the two events are the most celebrated explorer of the age, Sir John Franklin - then governor of Van Diemen's Land - and his wife, Lady Jane, who adopt Mathinna, seen as one of the last of a dying race, as an experiment. Lady Jane believes the distance between savagery and civilisation is the learned capacity to control wanting. The experiment fails, the Franklins throw the child onto the streets and into a life of prostitution and alcoholism. A few years later Mathinna is found dead in a puddle. She is nineteen years old. By then Sir John too is dead, lost in the blue ice of the Arctic seeking the North West Passage. A decade later evidence emerges that in its final agony, Franklin's expedition resorted to the level and practice of savages: cannibalism. Lady Jane enlists Dickens's aid to put an end to such scandalous suggestions.
Dickens becomes ever more entranced in the story of men entombed in ice, recognising in its terrible image his own frozen inner life. He produces and stars in a play inspired by Franklin's fate to give story to his central belief: that discipline and will can conquer desire. And yet the play will bring him to the point where he is finally no longer able to control his own wanting and the consequences it brings.
Based on historic events, Wanting is a novel about art, love, and the way in which life is finally determined never by reason, but only ever by wanting.' (Provided by publisher.)
'‘Dickens’ is a universal, global commodity. Our contemporary cultural memorialisation of the celebrity-author relies less on historical facts and more on the overlay of reductive and selective renditions created in texts such as biographies or biofictions. Harnessing both creative and academic directives of research, and drawing on my insights from my praxis of writing a neo-Victorian biographical novel, this article interrogates three representations of Dickens, placing my own rendition within the field of biographical/biofictional conceptualisations of the Victorian author.' (Publication abstract)
'Whether it be Sir John Franklin confronting a "sense of his own horror" while hallucinating and dying in Flanagan's Wanting (177), Oblivia, mute and with no agency, possessed only of memories that Bella Donna "has chosen to tell her" in Wright's Swan Book (89) and ending her days in a ghost swamp (334), or Aljaz Cosini finding himself in a "gorge of death" because he has ignored the "language" of the landscape in Flanagan's Death of a River Guide (296-97), both authors write of an erosion of being and purpose, often using landscape and the history inscribed on that landscape to describe existential crisis. Magic realism, even its constituent words, has little relation with what Franz Roh proposed in his seminal 1925 essay on a new form of painting: the term has not only shifted its main focus from one artistic endeavor to another but has often features of surrealism or what Roh (dismissively) called "Expressionism," a term he used to explicitly label Marc Chagall's modernist work, characterized as including animals walking in the sky, heads "popped like corks," "chromatic storms," and distortions of perspective (Faris 17). Wright's dream of a common spirituality of reconciliation, also expressed in interview, also has resonances with Fuentes's belief (33) that all Mexicans need to recognize that Indians are intrinsically part of their culture, their identity and heritage, and must therefore work to ensure justice for that population. [...]the invading colonial culture was initially penal, brutalizing, and authoritative and indeed sought to make the entire landscape an unescapable and perfect prison.' (Publication abstract)