Saturday, April 13, 2013

There is no such thing as an artist

“There is no such thing as an artist: there is only the world, lit or unlit as the light allows. When the candle is burning, who looks at the wick? When the candle is out, who needs it? But the world without light is wasteland and chaos, and a life without sacrifice is abomination.”
- Annie Dillard

As the River Runs is a terrific read, with convincing characters, luminous settings, and authentic Aussie dialogue.   Above all, it has a compelling plot, highly relevant to contemporary Australia.
Ours is the driest continent on Earth and prudent governments around the nation are setting up infrastructure to get us through the next period of extreme dry weather.  Stephen Scourfield’s story is based around the perennial fantasy of damming the Kimberley in the monsoonal north and piping it thousands of kilometres south to Perth.  The tale involves an ambitious politician called Michael Mooney who hatches his plans in secret as part of his private campaign to be the next Premier.  To suss out the likely opposition up north, he despatches his Chief of Staff Kate Kennedy and a sleazy political fixer called Jack Cole, both of whom are ‘in the know’ though their levels of cynicism and self-interest are different. Their guide is Dylan Ward, a former Greenie who acts as a go-between for mining interests, Aborigines, and environmental causes.  Dylan knows nothing about the proposal for a dam; he thinks he’s escorting these two around to spruik a solar energy proposal As the River Runs

Anyone who’s ever been to Tasmania can’t help but contrast the exquisite beauty of the island with the sense of menace that derives from its convict past, the dispossession of the Aborigines, a shocking massacre in recent times and its often hostile weather and environment.  Koch’s story portrays the bushrangers’ hideout as a kind of Eden masquerading as a Utopia.  Martin is beguiled by the peace and solitude of the Nowhere Valley, where he is required to work as a farm labourer until taken up by Lucas Wilson and groomed as a disciple.  Lost Voices

Poor Franz. The irony and complexity of his work have been reduced to one hopelessly inept adjectival cliché: Kafkaesque

A female war photographer writes a memoir, Shutterbabe. She hates the title. It's a best seller. Welcome to a so-called post-feminist literary career Shutterbabe Tash

Rich and poor, rectitude and laxity, sacred and profane: Moscow has always abounded in contrasts. Flowing through the city’s dichotomous terrain: vodka... Water of Mos Cow

"A story with a moral appended is like the bill of a mosquito. It bores you, and then injects a stinging drop to irritate your conscience."
O. Henry, "The Gold that Glittered"